by Drew Singleton (BPhty MScMedPainManagement)
We all know core exercise is desirable when thinking about Spinal Health. (Brumagne et al 2000) (Hodges & Richardson, 1996)
Ever wonder why planking, crunches and squats in fact cause you back pain, when you thought these were perfect for building your Core?
Early conceptions associated “Core strength” with global muscle strength of the external abdominal muscles – Rectus Abdominus, and the Obliques pair. This has since been proven inaccurate many times over. (Arokosi et al, 1999) (Hodges & Richardson 1996) (Hodges et all 2006)
For decades Yoga has been associated with flexibility and improving our Core; In the early 2000’s Clinical Pilates was seen as a more advanced method again for improving same in a clinical and class setting.
These days there are so many hybrids and exercise rig modifications, its difficult to believe what actually helps as opposed to hinders our “Core”?
From my own clinical and personal experience, I can tell you it doesn’t have to be this difficult!
At a clinical level, Core Stability is associated with slow twitch postural muscles that work together harmoniously to provide bracing around our body’s many joint complexes!
The most common one known is Transverse Adbominus, and is also most often mistaken for being strengthened through inappropriate exercises which target other global abdominal muscle as mentioned.
Other examples of Core muscle include Pelvic Floor, Inner quadriceps and gluteal muscles, scapular stability muscles between our shoulder blades, deep neck muscles under our chin, supinator muscles around our elbow; and intrinsic wrist and foot muscles. Even our body’s breathing muscle our Diaphragm has core stability functions. (Richardson et al, 2010)
Whats fascinating about these muscles is that they only have to work at a very low levels to provide effective core stability to their joint structures, and in the process allowing them to work all the time.
The best way I have found to think of them is to liken them to our body’s heart and lung muscle – i.e. muscles which work at very low rates but all the time. Core muscles are not like our larger Pectoralis and Hamstrings which are more readily used for explosive movement and power! i.e. Squats and Presses.
The best practice way to get these muscles working after injury is to isolate them in very easy, non-weight bearing positions to essentially “wake them up”, before training their resilience against more difficult postures and combined body movements. (Kuriyama & Ito, 2005)
Often the degree of difficulty for these types of exercises requires far more mental concentration, as opposed to cardio-vascular fatigue and muscles soreness.
If you haven’t gone through the appropriate rationale to recruit these muscles in their infancy, then attempting to strengthening their tolerance in more challenging and more difficult exercise regimes will only magnify your postural problems over time – eventually leading you to inferior performance, and greater susceptibility to injury. (Brumagne et al 2000) (Cholewicki et al 2002) (Jones & Knapcik 1999) (Kaufman et al, 2000)
If you are finding you are still weak in one area of your body even long after overcoming a painful injury, or you still suffer pain through these areas then consult with your Physio at Core or email me directly for advice regarding our Spine Physio & Exercise program – a comprehensive, tailored initiative to get these muscles re-firing on all cylinders, and get you improving your function with daily activities to live pain free!
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