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Good article by Gretchen Reynolds of the New York Times on the difference between strengthening your abs and strengthening your core — and why it’s important:
“There’s so much mythology out there about the core,” maintains Stuart McGill, a highly regarded professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Canada and a back-pain clinician who has been crusading against ab exercises that require hollowing your belly. “The idea has reached trainers and through them the public that the core means only the abs. There’s no science behind that idea.”
I explored some similar territory in a Jockology column last summer:
Whether it’s yoga, Pilates, exercise balls or myriad other fitness programs and gadgets, there’s no greater selling point than a promise to improve your core stability. And researchers now agree – for the most part – that weak core muscles can indeed be a key culprit in everything from lower back pain to sports injuries. But here’s where it gets sticky.
“What people don’t agree on,” University of Calgary kinesiology professor Reed Ferber cautions, “is what the core is.” In particular, he says, there is a tendency to focus too much on the abdominal and lower back muscles and neglect the pelvic and hip muscles, which also play a crucial role in stabilizing the body during activity.
This is important stuff, and well worth a read.