So you have probably heard trainers, fitness professionals and other gym users using the words ‘core stability’, ‘core strength’ and engaging the abs, but do we really understand or know what is meant by this?
In my final year at University I decided to look a little deeper into this and establish what we really mean by ‘the core’ and how to functionally train this to achieve the most from our training/sport. I reviewed a large amount of current evidence and research and have condensed this down into an easy read as possible for you.
So to kick start here are the definitions I found to describe the core, strength and stability:
The core – everything involved i.e. joints muscles and bones connecting the upper to the lower limbs of the body. The core extends from the pelvic region right up to the shoulder. In effect the core is what holds us together and where transfer of energy can come from our lower extremities to our upper and vice versa, the middle man.
Core strength – when we think of strength we think of increase in muscle size/mass within the muscles – often using traditional muscle isolation exercises such as the sit-up/crunch, etc. To get this response from the muscles we need to perform at high intensities, so lots of sit-ups and crunches which as you will have possibly found out or heard often causes problems for our lower backs. Crunches and sit-ups cause us to round our spine and shorten the hip flexor muscles, placing increase stress on our spine just to try and achieve that 6 pack abs. If we think about this from a standing position are we really surprised after performing endless sit-ups/crunches that we end up with hunched shoulders from pulling on the neck muscles and excessive arch in the lower back due to tight hip flexors? (Figure 1)
So whats the solution?
Core stability is the use of the muscles as a whole, working all together to provide a stable base and support the spine in neutral throughout a range of exercises and movements. This type of training uses more functional training such as the squat and deadlift techniques (when done correctly) to improve the core in ways in which we should be moving, correctly activating the muscles in a stabilising role to support and keep our spine healthy.
The idea of this training is to move our bodies in ways we are designed to move, correcting postural issues and reducing chance of knee, back, shoulder, hip injuries, etc.! Remember are core is our base – if we create a strong base for our limbs to attach to, likelihood is we will not only move and perform better but feel better too!
Lastly, just want to say a huge thank you to Sam at Team Vaughan-Fit for helping me get back in touch with the real foundations of training and what it means to deliver a great PT session, achieve results and help the client function and move correctly. I believe in creating the best possible programmes for my clients and appreciate the knowledge from more experienced PT’s to help me achieve this. We can all learn something from each other, it’s moving ego out the way and accepting none of us know everything- little life tip!
For more information on training for core stability or anything you are unsure about, please do drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading guys and feel free to share and leave your comments 🙂