“Tighten your core”, “brace your core”, “turn on your core” – these are variations of what I hear in Pilates classes, gym classes and from personal trainers. But what the hell is the core – and why should you “turn it on”?

The “core” is made up of several muscles of the abdomen and neck, and are often known as the deep intrinsic muscles of the spine – muscles that attach directly to the spine and can span over several vertabraes.

The function of the core muscles can be summarised below;

  1. To ensure a stable area within the spine to allow efficiency of movement of the arms and limbs
  2. To ensure a stable area within the spine to allow for proper movement patterns to be attained
  3. To increase intra-abdominal pressure
  4. To help transfer force from the upper and lower body

Optimal core stability is not achieved by purely strength of the core muscles, but rather the timing and sequencing of contraction of these muscles. Many studies demonstrate that when healthy, the core muscles activate even before movement of our limbs begin – timing and sequencing is key when training with the core.