Engaging Your Core

Transform Your Body by Engaging Your Core

Engaging your core is a phrase commonly heard in fitness and exercise circles but what does it really mean? Your core muscles are essential for providing stability to your trunk supporting your spine and allowing for a wide range of movements. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the various core muscles how to engage them effectively and the importance of core stability in everyday activities and exercise routines.

Understanding Your Core Muscles

Before we delve into the ways to engaging your core, let’s first understand the muscles that make up your core.

Rectus Abdominis

The rectus abdominis commonly known as the “six-pack muscle” is located in the front of your abdomen.

  • The function of rectus abdominis is to activate the spine such as when you perform sit-ups or crunches.

Internal and External Obliques

The internal and external obliques are located on the sides of your trunk and play a crucial role in trunk rotation and side bending.

  • They provide stability to the front and sides of your trunk.

Transversus Abdominis

The transversus abdominis is the deepest abdominal muscle and it wraps around your abdomen like a corset.

Its primary function is

  • To provide support and stability to the spine and pelvis.
  • Plays a crucial role in stabilizing the thorax and pelvis by compressing the ribs and viscera.
  • It is an important component of the core.

Pelvic Floor

The pelvic floor muscles are located at the bottom of the pelvis and act as a hammock or slings.

  • Controls bowel and bladder function
  • Firmness to the spine and pelvis


The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle located beneath your ribcage.

  • It is the primary muscle responsible for breathing.
  • Plays a role in spinal stability
  • Control posture.

Back Extensors

The back extensors include muscles such as the erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, and multifidus. These muscles are responsible for

  • Extending the spine
  • Postural support
  • Assists in movements bending


The iliopsoas is a group of muscles that includes the iliacus and psoas major. These muscles are hip flexors.

  • Give core stability due to their connection to the spine.

Engaging Your Core

Engaging your core involves contracting the muscles of your abdominal wall and other core muscles to provide support and stability to your spine and pelvis.

It has main features

  1. Improved Posture
  2. Enhanced Stability
  3. Injury Prevention
  4. Better Balance

There are different ways to engage your core depending on the specific movement or activity.

Concentric Contraction of the Abs or Back

When performing exercises like crunches or Superman, Engaging your core by contracting the abdominal or back muscles concentrically.

Concentric contractions involve the shortening of the muscle fibers and are used to generate movement or accelerate the body.

Aspect Details
Concentric Contractions of the Abs ·         Shortening of abdominal muscles

·         Important for core strength and stability

·         Emphasizes the need for proper form and control

Concentric Contractions of the Back Muscles ·         Shortening of back muscles

·         Supports an extended spine and improved posture

·         Common during exercises like rows

Balanced Workout Routine ·         Combines concentric, eccentric and isometric contractions for overall strength and stability

Eccentric Contraction of the Abs or Back

Eccentric contractions occur when the muscles lengthen while controlling the movement or decelerating the body. For example, when you straighten and lift your spine from a slouched position, your abdominal muscles undergo eccentric contractions.

  • Lengthening of these muscles
  • Essential for muscle growth

Abdominal Bracing

Abdominal bracing involves isometric contractions of the abdominal muscles without any movement or change in spinal, rib or pelvic position.

It is commonly used to provide stability and protect the spine during heavy lifting or other activities that put stress on the core.

Abdominal Draw-In or Hollowing

The abdominal draw-in maneuver, also known as abdominal hollowing, involves pulling your navel toward your spine. This contraction is used for stability and is effective in engaging your core in the deep spinal stabilizers and transversus abdominis.

Exercises for Core Stability

To effectively engaging your core and improve core stability incorporating specific exercises into your workout regimen is essential.

Here are some basic abdominal stability exercises that target different core muscles:

The Abdominal Draw

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent.
  • Inhale deeply and then exhale while pulling your belly button toward your spine.
  • Hold the contraction for a few seconds then relax and repeat.

The Plank

Start in a push-up position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your toes on the floor.

Engage your core by drawing your belly button toward your spine and keeping your body in a straight line from head to heels.

Hold this position for a specific duration starting with shorter times and gradually increasing as you build strength.

The Side Plank

Lie on your side with your elbow directly beneath your shoulder and your legs extended.

Lift your hips off the ground, creating a straight line from your head to your heels.

Engaging your core by drawing your belly button toward your spine and holding the position for a specific duration.

Repeat on the other side.

The Bird Dog

  • Start on your hands and knees with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips.
  • Extend one arm forward while simultaneously extending the opposite leg backward keep engaging your core.
  • Hold this position for a few seconds then return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

The Dead Bug

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.

Raise your arms straight above your shoulders.

Slowly lower one arm and the opposite leg toward the floor, maintaining a stable core and avoiding any arching or twisting of the spine.

Return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite arm and leg.

The Bridge

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet hip-distance apart.

Engaging your core and squeeze your glutes as you lift your hips off the ground forming a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.

Hold this position for a few seconds, then lower your hips back to the ground and repeat.

Functions of the Core Muscles

Now that you understand how to engage your core muscles, let’s explore their functions in more detail.

Spinal Mobility

While core muscles are often associated with stability, they are also responsible for the mobility of your spine. The coordinated actions of these muscles allow for flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation of the spine. It helps in engaging your core.

Trunk Stability

During activities that involve lifting, pushing, pulling or any forceful movement your core muscles contract to provide trunk stability and support to your spine. This stability is crucial for reducing the risk of injury and maintaining proper form in weightlifting and athletic pursuits.


Your core muscles play a significant role in maintaining balance. They contribute to static balance when you’re standing still and dynamic balance when your balance is challenged, such as when someone bumps into you. Core stability is particularly important in activities like Olympic weightlifting where trunk stability is essential during changes in weight distribution.

Breathing and Trunk Stability

The diaphragm a major muscle involved in breathing, also contributes to trunk stability. It contracts and relaxes to facilitate breathing and plays a role in maintaining spinal stability during activities like heavy lifting.

Bowel and Bladder Control

The pelvic floor muscles, part of the core are responsible for controlling bowel and bladder function. Strengthening these muscles can help prevent or manage conditions like incontinence. The pelvic floor muscles work in conjunction with other core muscles to maintain spinal stability.

Scenarios That Engaging Your Core

Engaging your core is not limited to exercise routines. There are various scenarios in which you naturally engage your core muscles.

  • Sitting
  • Breathing
  • Weightlifting
  • Cardio
  • Yoga
  • Pilates


Engaging your core is essential for maintaining stability, supporting your spine, and improving overall movement and posture. By incorporating exercises that target the core muscles and practicing core engagement in various scenarios, you can build a strong and functional core. Remember to consult with a healthcare professional or fitness instructor before starting any exercise program, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or injuries. Engage your core, and enjoy the benefits of a stable and powerful center!

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