Centering on the Core Stretches for Your Middle

In This Chapter

^ Getting familiar with the muscles of your core ^ Discovering what core muscles do ^ Creating some functional stretches for your core ^ Discovering the best static and dynamic stretches for your core

■X our core is made up of the muscles of your back, abs, hips, and even your chest (see Figure 5-1). Because these core muscles all work together to support your spine, they're the foundation of all movement in your body for not only sports but also for daily life. Whether you play tennis or just reach for something on the top shelf in your kitchen, the movement actually begins with your core muscles, not with your arms. All your muscles are connected to each other, so it seems logical that they have an effect on each other. In other words, being tight in one area or muscle can limit your movement and cause you to overcompensate with other muscles. (Remember that old song: "Your foot bone's connected to your ankle bone; your ankle bone's connected to your shin bone . . . "? That's the principle here.) This whole process can be the start of improper movement patterns, which may lead to injuries and painful complications. It's because of this threat of injury that core training has become so popular. But it's not enough just to strengthen these muscles; you need to lengthen them as well to maintain a healthy range of motion.

All the stretches in this chapter are what I call integrated stretches, meaning you stretch several muscles at the same time. The first series of stretches are functional stretches, which mimic normal activities. These exercises are also known as dynamic, active stretches (discussed in more detail in Chapter 1). The second series of stretches are called static stretches and target the abdominals, back, and waist to help improve range of motion. The combination of these stretches helps create a strong and flexible core.

Figure 5-1:

Full frontal body anatomy drawing with core highlighted.

Rectus abdominis

Rectus abdominis

Latissimus dorsi Gluteus maximus
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