Core Strength vs. Abs


The elusive six-pack abs are arguably some of the most sought-after glamour muscles in the fitness world. However, having abs to show is not the peak of fitness nor does it accurately represent your overall health and well-being. It is time we reframe this idea and truly embrace core strength and stability as the pinnacle of power in and out of the gym.

Your entire core consists of the abdominal muscles (transverse and rectus abdominis), spine, pelvic girdle, and glutes. These muscles, referred to as the ‘internal weight belt’ of the body, provide strength and stability for you throughout the day. Whether you are standing up, walking, carrying groceries, or challenging yourself at the gym, these muscles provide the overall balance that enables you to produce force of varying degrees. As you can probably guess then, the more powerful your core or midline is, the stronger, and less injury prone you will be.

CrossFit stresses the importance of “core to extremity” movement, meaning that most movements start from your core and penetrate outwards.

  • The strength of your squat can be traced to your core stability

  • Hip mobility (or lack of mobility) can be traced to your core stability

  • Shoulder strength or frequency of injuries, can be traced to core stability

  • Lower back problems can be representative of core strength.

Sensing a pattern? One thing to analyze if you have a recurring problem like the ones listed above, is… you guessed it, your core strength.

How to strengthen your core: The obvious answer of “do more sit-ups” does not apply. Because your core is made up of far more muscles than just the abdominals, it is important to challenge all parts in multiple ways.

Taking part in the Alioth #SummerShred will help you find new ways to exercise your midline outside of regular sit-ups and ‘abs only’ exercises.

Luckily, fitness regimens like CrossFit utilize core strength through every movement. Powerlifting and olympic lifting all help build your overall core stability. Additionally any sort of carry- overhead, front rack, and side carries, help engage the midline. Adding some sort of forward walking or lunges to either of those carries will fire up your core even more.

Use it, don’t lose it: But core activation is always something to be conscious of while training. When coaches say “squeeze your stomach” or “press your belly-button to your spine,” etc. it is a way of stressing midline engagement. If lost or disengaged, your position in the movement and overall safety could be compromised.

If this happens frequently for you, some of the problems listed above may have already happened. Unless you have experienced a back injury unrelated to fitness, if you always ‘belt up’ during light weight training of any sort; it is time to address any imbalances you may have in your core.

So the next time you are at the gym, take note of how much you are working your midline. Take note of your posture while sitting in your next meeting. You may find that there are opportunities to take your core stability to the next level even outside of the gym. Instead of wanting a six-pack for summer, remember that having a powerful midline is the main goal, everything else that comes with it is a bonus! 


And if you’re interested in more science behind your core, make sure to check out this study.


- Rebecca

Rebecca Koch