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The Truth About Core Stability

The phrase “core stability” is one that gets thrown around A LOT by athletes, doctors, personal trainers and manual therapists. Because of this, the average active person probably knows that they need good core stability but may not be able to understand why.

What is the ‘core’ made up of?

  • Spine

  • Ribcage

  • Pelvis

  • Diaphragm

  • Transverse abdominis

  • Internal and external obliques

  • Pelvic floor

Why is core stability so important?

Existing research provides a robust database of information regarding core stability and its relevance to low back pain. In people with low back pain, the activation of many core muscles is significantly delayed. When this delay occurs, the spine and other muscle groups get loaded poorly and become overworked which leaves you more susceptible to injury. We also know that after pain resolves, this delayed activation of the core does not just automatically go away, it remains the underlying cause of future episodes of pain. Think about how many times in a day you lift a child or a bag of groceries, step on an unstable surface or pick weeds in the garden. A core that is stable will endure these activities of daily life optimally and will not result in pain.

Core stability is also important for athletic performance. Any time you move your arms or legs, your core stabilizers are the first to fire. This creates a solid foundation for movement. If you lack core stability, you compensate elsewhere, creating improper movement patterns. This means that you will be less efficient and weaker in any coordinated arm or leg movements.

How can I make my core more stable?

Let’s start with things you should stop doing: SIT-UPS! Each repetition puts 700 pounds of compressive forces on the spine. If you do 100 a day for a week, you’re loading almost 500,000 pounds! Secondly, it’s important to know that improving range of motion or “flexibility” does NOT equate with improved stability.

So what SHOULD I do?

  • Choose the right exercises for your body!

    • Dead-bugs, Bear hold variations, and kneeling side bridges are a great starting place!

  • Focus on breathing and form!

    • Inhale to prepare for movement, exhale and generate subtle pressure down into the pelvic floor to move

    • Strive to achieve a “flat back” or “neutral spine” during activity

    • Learn the difference between a pelvic tuck and a neutral spine

  • Quality over quantity applies

    • If you have the right exercises but don’t take the time to perform them CORRECTLY, you are setting yourself up for failure and injury.

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