What’s the difference between core and abs?

Here we’re going to talk about the difference between the abs and core. I decided to dedicate a post to this topic since I see that most of the people confuse the two. But you will see that there is a big contrast!

What will we talk about?

  • What kind of muscle do they include?
  • Example workouts for both.
  • Why a strong core is more critical.
  • Related workout advice.

What are the ab muscles?

The word “abs” comes from the muscle called rectus abdominis, which is located at the front of the abdominal wall. That is the muscle that gives the six-pack look that is desired by so many people. It’s a sign of fitness, but you will see that it doesn’t always mean functional strength.

The job of this muscle is to lift the upper or the lower body, for example, when we sit up from the bed.

What kinds of exercises target the rectus abdominis? Typically, movements when we lift the upper or the lower body such as reverse crunch, sit-up, leg raises, etc. Of course, other muscles are involved, but the abdominals are engaged the most.

Here is a sample workout with typical ab exercises.

Credit: darebee.com

To sum up, it’s a single muscle at the front of the abdomen with limited functions.


What are the core muscles?

The core means multiply muscle groups that are somewhat between your upper and lower body, and among them, there is the previously mentioned rectus abdominus. So, the core isn’t a single muscle, but a big group of stabilizers. They surround the midsection like a corset or a belt.

These are:

  • Rectus and transverse abdominus.
  • Internal and external obliques.
  • Gluteus maximimus, medius and minimus.
  • Multifidus.
  • Erector spinae.
  • Psoas.
  • Pectineus.
  • Iliacus.
  • Adductors.
  • Back, lats, hips

The core muscles are usually neglected by trainees since they like focusing on more visual muscles. That is a huge mistake. The core is the connection between the lower and upper body. Therefore, it has several functions.

A healthy core leads to:

  • Better posture, coordination, stability, and balance.
  • Improved body control.
  • More powerful power output.
  • Decreased risk of injuries while working out or everyday life.
  • Better performance in all fields of physical activities.
  • More proper execution of exercises.
  • More effective breathing.
  • Better digestion.
  • Lower risk of spine and lower back pain.

Can you see how many “jobs” the core has? It takes place almost every movement you make and responsible for so many healthy functions. Thus, core conditioning is critical for a healthy physique.

Here is an example plan for core stabilization. Can you see the variety compared to the previous ab workout? The torso is worked from multiply angles that put the body into an unstable state so that the core actives. (That is why stability ball exercises are so practical.)

Credit: darebee.com

What’s the difference between six packs abs and functional core?

Firstly, who has a six-pack?

Someone has a low-fat level, so they have only a thin layer of fat on their tummy. Plus, their abdominal muscles are thickened, so they pop out from the abdomen.

Does such a perfect looking belly mean core strength?

Not necessarily.

What if the guy is such a lucky person who is ectomorph and with a few crunches per week has that look. Does he have a strong midsection? Preferably not!

A strong core doesn’t always mean perfectly looking midsection. Even a relatively fat guy, who has been wisely doing strength training, can have a far stronger core than a bodybuilder with a six-pack. For example, I’d rather have the core strength of an Olympic wrestler than a bodybuilder.

Big wrestlers but their core is extremely solid

The problem is that within the media, we are bombarded with photos on which “perfect” girls and men show their spotless form. And, that’s what we want, too. Instead of focusing on real strength and a healthy body, we just want to look better. I don’t blame anybody since we’re different, though.

Abs vs. core?

I certainly put my vote on core training rather than merely focusing on my abdominals. It has a lot of benefits in physical performance, and that’s what I want. Yes, looking good is something I want as well, but strength and performance is my priority.

A related question is:

Does core workout get you abs?

Getting abdominals is mainly about having a low body fat level, so the muscles of the abdomen get visible. If you have belly fat, you should focus on your diet and do cardio training to burn it. Since the rectus abdominis is the part of the core, if you do core training, it shapes the abs as well. So, the answer is yes.


To conclude

The next time you search for an exercise program, you will know the difference between the core and abs. I suggest you doing core exercises instead of focusing only on your abs. Such training is far more beneficial than merely looking good.

What is more important for you? Being attractive or physically healthy and strong? Please, share your opinion below.

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Written by Imre

Imre has been working out for over 20 years. He likes all sorts of strength training and boxing. Since he's a busy father he works out only at home.

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