Teaching Our Students About Core


Back Pain affects 80% of the US adult population either temporarily, or chronically. They come to us for help!

So here are a few of my favorite tips for helping people strengthen their back by focusing on their core.

Spend a little time in each class educating your students about what you mean by core.  I’m surprised by how many people still view core as just the rectus abdominis, or “six pack”. That’s just the part of core we can see in the mirror, right?

So maybe each class you can bring in a picture or anatomy book, and talk about one of the key muscles that make up the core:

  • Rectus abdominis aka Six-Pack
  • Transverse abdominis-the band of muscle that wraps around the body like a tight, wide belt
  • Obliques-the criss-crossing muscles on the sides of our torso that give us lateral support and help us twist and side bend
  • Erector Spinae-the strong, often tight muscles of the lower back
  • Pelvic Floor-the perineum and other muscles that form the foundation of the core


  • When I am confident that my students know what I mean by core, I use the phrase “Engage Your Core” over and over again to remind them. This is a four-part movement:
  • Bring your navel toward your spine
  • Lengthen your spine, like a string is pulling you up from the top of your head
  • Draw your Obliques and Transverse Abs in, like a wide belt ightening around you
  • Lift the muscles of the pelvic floor

The trick is keeping all of these actions in mind while moving through various exercises or postures. Once we are operating from a strong and stable core, we can begin to isolate muscles, and then teach our students how they all work together.

What they learn in your class is what they take out into their lives. Teach core strength in squatting as it relates to how they garden, or how they put an infant seat into their car. Teach core strength in lunging as it relates to how they hike, or go upstairs.

The more we can tie in the benefits in ‘real life’ to what they are doing in class, the greater our chances of them retaining the information.

Good Old Crunches
We can encourage them to continue working on core strength in and out of class. The most common core exercise is good old fashioned ab crunches. It’s what our students go to if we ask them to work on core on their own. So make sure to teach them how to do crunches that not only work the rectus abdomis, but that use the transverse abdominis, and keep the back safe.

Here’s an example

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