| Article written on February 23rd, 2013 at 09:00am | Follow Garrett on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram |
What drives me crazy on a daily basis is when people, including the general population and athletes, think of their abdominals as the only part of their core. The core, which it is commonly called, is more accurately called the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex, is comprised of 29 muscles. By calling it the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex it clearly demonstrates that the “core” is more than just abdominals, and ranges from all the muscles that attach to the hip, pelvis and lumbar spine.
Doctors often recommend core strengthening or core stability exercises to help combat acute and chronic injuries such as: disc pathology, sacroiliac dysfunction, chronic low back pain, and low back strains. Yes, it is important to strengthen the core but we need to know the difference between strength and stability before choosing which type is best for each case. Core stability is creating and maintaining a neutral spine position with or without the presence of movement in the extremities (see hip bridge).
In contrast, core strengthening is moving the core through it’s range of motion concentrically and eccentrically to improve strength in the surrounding musculature (see abdominal crunch).
In most athletic clubs, where I work included, there are selectorized machines such as the resisted abdominal crunch, lower back extension, and torso twist, which fit into the core strengthening category. Are these exercises beneficial? Of course, but remember repeated flexion-extension movement of the lumbar spine has been proven to increase risk of injury, especially disc pathology according to Stuart McGill in his book Low Back Disorders.
I myself am a believer that before we focus strictly on improving strength of these global muscles such as the rectus abdominis (main ab muscle), obliques (rotational ab muscles), and quadratus lumborum (low back muscles), we must improve core stability while maintaining a neutral spine.
Some of my favorite core stability exercises include: dead bug, hip bridge, quadruped hip extension, and plank variations. Below you will find videos to demonstrate each of these exercises. Focus on using the core to keep the lumbar spine supported in a neutral alignment.
If you have been focusing strictly on a machine to work your core, then try to add these exercises into your program. To improve core stability, we address muscles such as the transversospinales group, erector spinae group, and transverse abdominis; which help maintain a neutral and stabilized spinal column.
By: Garrett McLaughlin, MS, ATC, CSCS, ART