Recently, everyone in the exercise and fitness industry seems to be talking about core strengthening. The core of your body, the area around your trunk and pelvis, is where your center of gravity is. It is the nexus of all the movements of your body. A strong core gives you:
oGreater protection and reinforcement for the back.
o Controlled movements, especially when reacting to changes in direction.
oA solid foundation for all body movements.
o Better posture.
The main muscles involved in core stability are the deep muscles of the abdomen and lower back, the glutes, and the muscles around the hips and pelvis. Core stabilization helps you learn to use these inner muscles before you start any other movement, so your spine is tight and your subsequent movements are smoother and more coordinated.
Why is kernel stability so important?
As chiropractors, we tell our patients over and over again that all parts of your body are connected, either directly or indirectly. This connection is called the kinetic chain. Its trunk (nucleus) is where the kinetic chains join. A weak link in one part of the kinetic chain can cause pain or injury in another part. Strengthening your core gives your entire kinetic chain greater stability and power as you move. This leads to a decrease or prevention of low back pain; decreased chance of injury; increased strength and power for all activities; and greater confidence form greater strength and better balance.
How can I increase my core strength?
Core stabilization exercises are easy to do and can be done almost anywhere with little to no equipment. It’s more important that core-strengthening exercises be done well than that many of them are done. It’s a good idea to have a trained professional (chiropractor, physical therapist, strength and conditioning specialist, or personal trainer) check that he’s using the correct muscles during each exercise.
Here are some simple exercises:
Transverse contraction of the abdomen:
Contract your belly, imagining that you are pulling your navel in toward your spine. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds and then relax. Repeat until your muscles are fatigued, and then add an additional repetition each day. You can do this exercise at work, while driving, or while standing in line at the grocery store, and no one will know.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Draw your navel toward your spine, then lift your hips off the floor until they’re in line with your knees. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds, then lower your hips. Repeat until tired and then add one repetition each day.
Lie on your stomach and then balance on your toes and elbows. Keep your body in a flat line. Try to hold this position for 30-60 seconds.
Start on your hands and knees. Keep one arm straight and extend the opposite leg behind you at the same time. Hold for 2 seconds and then repeat on the other side. Repeat until tired and then add one repetition per day.
Basic exercises can be improved by performing them on large exercise balls. The challenge of balancing on the ball makes your body use the deep muscles attached to the spine more effectively. It also makes exercises more fun and adds variety to your workout. Other basic tools to improve training include: BOSU (Both Sides Up) platforms; oscillating and tilting boards; foam rollers; dyne discs; and foam mats. Try taking your usual weight lifting routine and doing it on one of these machines. You will surely notice the difference!
Core strengthening should be the most important part of your workout. It should be done at least three times a week. You should focus on replicating the activities you do on a daily basis. Remember, just as a house is only as strong as the foundation it is built on, your body is only as strong as its core.
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Hanson, Holly. “On a Roll: Balls are becoming popular additions to liven up training.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August. 25, 2002: 8L.
Kelly, Lance, MPT, ATC. “Strengthening your core.” Hughston Health Alert. Available at: http://www.hughston.com/hha/a_15_2_3.htm