Core stability is probably one of the most underrated aspects of fitness and injury prevention. Your core muscle group is made up of your rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, and external and internal obliques. Your core provides stability for your entire body and having a weak core can have significant consequences on overall health. The core muscle group is a stabilizer for the lower back and pelvic regions. When performing lifts or any form of exercise it is important to have your core engaged as often as possible in order to prevent a loss of form that could result in injury.
A weak core can lead to many different issues and one of the most common is low back pain. When the core muscle group is weak, your back muscles begin to take over the work for the weak core. Your lower back muscle groups aren't meant to handle heavy loads and often the result is muscle spasms that cause great discomfort. A weak core can also lead to much worse ailments such as disc herniations of the spine. When the core isn't engaged properly while performing exercises your spine can move and the pressure put on your back can cause an intervertebral disc to move out of place and become impinged between the vertebras.
So now let's talk about how you can strengthen and engage your core. Strengthening your core should always come before trying to engage it in heavy lifting activities. This is important because strengthening your core will help educate you on how to engage it more effectively. One of my favorite exercises for core strengthening is the plank because it engages all of your core muscles without any flexion or extension of the spine. This is most realistic to how you should be activating your core when performing lifts. I like to perform both normal and side planks to make sure I'm focusing on all of my core muscles as much as possible. Another great exercise for core stability is bird-dogs. This exercise is great for teaching you to engage your core throughout an entire body movement. The third exercise I regularly perform to help focus on my core strength is pelvic tilts. The pelvic tilt exercise works the transverse abdominus more than anything else and this muscle group is the most overlooked of the entire core.