“Core stability” describes the ability to control the position and movement of the central portion of the body. Core stability training targets the muscles deep within the abdomen which connect to the spine, pelvis and shoulders, which assist in the maintaining good posture and provide the foundation for all arm and leg movements.
Good core stability can help maintain postural stability, aid performance and prevent injury. Power is generated from the trunk region of the body and a well-conditioned core helps to control that power, allowing for smoother, more efficient and better co-ordinated movement in the limbs. Good core muscle control reduces the risk of injury from bad posture. The ability to maintain good posture while exercising protects the spine from excessive ranges of movement and from abnormal forces acting on the body.
The muscles which make up the core work very differently from other muscle groups that we usually train at gym e.g. Biceps, quadriceps, hamstrings. When doing traditional strength training, specific muscle groups are contracted using resistance/ weights. Contractions are usually only a couple of seconds each and the muscle being trained contract under high load.
Core muscles/ posture muscles on the other hand are made up completely different. They are designed to contract under low load and for very long periods at a time.
The “core” is made up of 4 muscle groups and it essential that all 4 areas are active/ contracting for the core to be active.
The Transversus Abdominis is the deepest abdominal muscle. It is the “corset muscle” of the spine and pelvis. In the normal situation, it contracts in anticipation of body motion to guard the spinal joints, ligaments, discs and nerves. It is contracts differently to some of the other abdominal muscles e.g. the rectus abdominals “6-pack muscles”. When the 6-pack muscles contract, they bulge out. When the transversus abdominis contracts, it tensions inwards and stabilises the spine.
Multifidus muscles are very short muscles running from the sides of one vertebra up to the middle of the vertebra above. The main function of the Multifidus is to provide back stability. They do not produce a large range of movement, but work to produce small, “fine-tuning” postural movements, for long periods of time.
The Diaphragm functions in breathing. During inhalation, the diaphragm contracts and moves in the inferior direction, thus enlarging the volume of the thoracic cavity. Correct breathing is essential for proper functioning of the core. People often hold their breath when concentrating to contract their core. This is one of the mistakes I see very often. It is essential to breathe when doing core exercises. If someone is holding their breath, it will result in the diaphragm being deactivated.
The Transversus Abdominis and Multifidus work together with the pelvic floor and diaphragm to create a flexible but stable region around your lumbar spine. If the lumbar spine is stabilised while in various positions e.g. lifting, bending, sitting, it will prevent excessive forces on the lumbar joints and disc. This will reduce the chance of posture related or movement related injuries.
The best way of thinking of the core is like a box or a cylinder, where the:
…. All components need to be active at the same time to maintain intra-abdominal pressure. If one component is not active e.g. you are not breathing properly, the pressure would be dropped and intra-abdominal pressure/ stability lost.
Some popular core exercises include: