Core Stability: What's It All About?

The concept of core stability was first introduced in the 1990s with regards to lower back pain (1); it’s now considered an important component of performance exercise, injury rehabilitation and general fitness.(2)


But what does core stability actually mean?

There appears to be no consistent definition regarding what makes up your core, or the exercises involved in training it.


The term ‘core stability training’ is often used with regards to the muscles of the lower trunk and pelvis, with the theory being that stabilisation of these areas allows greater control and movement efficiency - thus reducing the incidence of injury and increasing power output.


But what about the upper limbs? Just as the legs are attached to the trunk via the pelvis, the arms attach to the upper trunk via the scapular-thoracic girdle. If we follow the general theory of core stability, these areas are also part of your ‘core’.


And what about the deep muscles attached to our whole skeleton? These work constantly at a low level to support and control all movement, whether that’s in static posture or dynamic motion.



Core training often concentrates on static exercises, but too much stabilisation can lead to increased compression of the spine and decreased range of motion (3). If the concept is to enable efficient, pain-free movement, then the training should progress to include movement.


The control of this movement then has to be appropriate to the task you’re doing or want to do. So, do these exercises progress further to simulate your goal activity? Is your goal to be pain-free whilst carrying heavy bags or to have increased power output whilst cycling? Is it motion efficiency in running or muscle recruitment in golf? Do you want explosive power or endurance strength whilst climbing? Or do you want to avoid headaches and neck pain whilst working on your computer?


Whether in every-day activities, physical exercise or performance sport, movement involves the whole body, not fragmented muscles working in isolation (3). This requires ligament control, neural activation and muscle recruitment timing. Consideration of muscular action, whether as prime movers, stabilisers or synergists, as well as co-contraction/reciprocal innervation of the muscular network, depends on the movement performed and the required outcome.


Isolating specific muscles may be necessary for initial injury rehabilitation or neural activation, but exercises should progress to more functional and complex movements to simulate the goal activity.


To find out more about core stability training and how it can be used effectively, join me in my Core Stability Masterclass


References:


1. S. Bras et al. (N.D.) Core Stability [online]. Available at: https://www.physio-pedia.com/Core_stability#

2. T. Majewski-Schrage, T.A. Evans, B. Ragan (2014). Development of a Core Stability Model: a Delphi Approach, Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, 23, pp.95-106 http://dx.doi.org/10.1123/JSR.2013-0001

3. E. Lederman, 2010. The Myth of Core Stability [online]. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/40684089