If someone asked you to point to your core—where would you point? Probably your belly where your abs are. But it turns out, core muscles actually run band to band (AKA from the tip-top of your ribs to the top of your hips) and all the way around all the way around. Yep, core got back.
“Your core technically includes your pelvic floor muscles, your internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis (and all the other superficial layers you think of when someone says six-pack, the erector spinae and multifidus (which are in the back), and all the deeper, smaller muscles in your trunk,” says Alena Luciani, MS, CSCS and founder of Training2xl. To put it one way: The core is more complex and complicated that my relationship with my ex, but unlike my ex, it’s a total #powerhouse.
Not only does the core protect the body and stabilize the spine and pelvis, powers your movement, and is the cornerstone of boss-babing the sh*t out of your workouts. So yeah, your core has to show up for you at all times. And if it doesn’t…or if it’s too weak? “The rest of your body and muscles have to compensate for it, which can cause a giant (and bad!) chain reaction,” explains Bethany Lyons, founder and CEO at Lyons Den Power Yoga.
It can be hard to know if your core is weak, because even visible six-pack-abs are not a sign that your core is strong. Lyons suggests two quick at-home tests to determine whether or not your core is weak. “You should be able to hold a hollow hold—your low back is pressed into floor, legs and arms hovering in the air, and core ignited—for at least 10 seconds. And you should be able to hold a plank for at least 50 seconds,” she says.
Beyond a decreased ability to do these OG ab-sculpting moves, having a weak core can result in a host of not-so-pleasant everyday symptoms. Keeping reading for five more signs your body is compensating for a weak core, plus how to deal.