stability’, but few people actually truly know what it is and how to correctly engage it.
The ‘core’ is a group of muscles that surrounds the back and abdomen and is best described as a cylinder of muscles. The main function of the core is to stabilize and protect the spine and pelvis when the rest of the body is in motion. There are 4 main muscle groups that make up the inner core: Transversus Abdominus (TA), Multifidus (MF), Pelvic Floor muscles (PFM), and the diaphragm. TA is the deepest abdominal muscle that wraps around your abdomen like a corset, and is connected to tissue surrounding the spine. When TA contracts, it is similar to the corset being tightened, therefore assisting in increasing the pressure inside the abdomen which provides increased stability to the spine. MF is a deep lower back muscle which makes up the back part of the core. It is an important postural muscle that helps keep the spine erect. The PFM’s are the bottom part of the ‘cylinder’ or core. The diaphragm makes up the top part of the cylinder. When all of these muscles contract simultaneously, they help to maintain the pressure in the abdomen which then provides the stability to the spine and pelvis. It is important to note that the timing of these muscles is mandatory for effective core stability. For optimal core stabilization, all the muscles will activate together and just prior to any body movements and are ideally maintained throughout all movement, all day!
A common misconception is that "strong abdominals protect the spine". In fact, as described above, the abdominal muscles make up only one part of the core. Furthermore, only the deep abdominal muscle, TA, is involved in protecting the spine. The famous "6-pack" or Rectus Abdominus muscle that many fitness fanatics train actually plays no role in protecting the spine. Additionally, you may already be performing ‘core stability’ exercises, but instead of activating your TA correctly, you may be using the Rectus Abdominus (as evident by the abdominals ‘tensing’ and popping out and up) to compensate for the TA that you
aren’t quite sure how to find. This is a very common mistake and can lead to back pain. So please ensure you are performing your core exercises correctly!
Adequate core stability not only reduces strain on the spine, but also helps maintain optimal postural alignment which will help reduce risk of injuries whether you are playing sports, doing housework, or sitting and driving. Core stability is also an important part of any rehabilitation program. Not only back or pelvis injuries, but even injuries such as hamstring or shoulder strains should incorporate core stability as part of the rehab process. A strong core means a strong foundation from which our limbs can move more safely, with more power and efficiency, and with less risk of injury.
Core stability is also an essential part of any regular workout routine. Whether you enjoy recreational sports, competitive sports, or simply enjoy working out at the gym, addressing your core can improve your abilities and enhance your overall performance.
To ensure you are correctly engaging your core and to incorporate safe and appropriate core exercises to suit your needs, it is wise to invest your time with a qualified specialist for a few sessions first. If you experience low back pain or are dealing with specific spinal dysfunctions, then a visit to your physiotherapist or other trained health care professional is essential to ensure the most safe and effective core exercises are prescribed for you!