In a gym setting, the words ‘abdominal’ and ‘core’ are often used interchangeably and considered one of the same. In reality, the core refers to a collection of muscles within a particular region, of which the abdominals are just one of them. Other muscular regions include your lower back, gluteals and to a lesser extent the hip complex.

When all of the muscles within the core are at an optimal length and strength and all firing correctly, the strength of the core is maintained and considered effective. However, when one or more of these muscles begins to fail and demonstrates a significant weakness in their main functioning, this can bring about a number of potentially problematic signs and symptoms for an individual.

Symptoms Of Core Muscle Weakness

These signs and symptoms can commonly include – but are by no means limited to – poor posture, lower back pain, wide spread weakness. This article aims to consider each of these main three signs and symptoms in further detail, starting with the former:

  • Poor posture: The muscles in your abdomen and lower back work as a couple to maintain good posture, mainly by exerting their effects over the pelvis and spine. If there is a weakness in either of these muscle groups, then the overall stability and neutral positioning is brought into question. This can result in your upper back and shoulders becoming mal-aligned, causing a slumped forward, slouching posture to be naturally adopted.
  • Lower back pain: Following on, to some extent, from poor posture, when the strength between your abdominals and lower back are not at an optimal it can result in significant changes to the positioning of your pelvis. The pelvis can be pulled forwards or backwards, resulting in a change to the curvature of your lower back and pressure changes to the vertebrae, disks and surrounding joints. Ultimately this can create a pain response both locally and distally.
  • Wide spread weakness: A weakness in the core muscles can cause wide spread muscular weakness to your limbs, including your arms and legs. Each and every time you move, regardless of whether it is your upper or lower body, your core is activated and acts as a rigid platform for the transfer of force. If you have a general weakness in your core, this rigid base is reduced and simple activities such as weight lifting may experience performance decrements.
Test Your Core

One way in which to test your core and determine whether you have an inherent weakness is through a task known as hollowing, in which an inability to hollow your stomach is a positive indicator of core weakness.

To test, take a natural breath in and then exhale, whilst simultaneously pulling your belly button towards your spine. Hold for a count of ten seconds before releasing. If you are unable to sustain the hold for the full ten seconds, then this is a positive indicator of a weakened core.

If you’ve never experienced any of the above signs and symptoms and can pass the hollowing test with flying colours then it’s a good indication that you have a good core foundation. If however, one or more symptoms ring true and the hollowing test caused some difficultly, then it might be that you have identified a core muscle weakness.

This is by no means the end of the world and shouldn’t cause any undue worry. As with all identified muscular weaknesses, it simply needs addressing and may require you to complete a series of core exercises to alleviate.