| Article written on September 21st, 2016 at 01:49pm | Follow Garrett on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram |
Over the years, my thoughts on core training has changed. I dabbled with core strengthening and also at one point removed all flexion/extension movements altogether. The amount of over dramatization out there is huge! The body is meant to move in multiple planes of motion and also prevent motion, that is why having the proper balance is essential.
One area that has always been a staple in many exercise and rehabilitation programs is core stability. It’s really easy to promote the benefits as a joint needs to have the necessary amount of stiffness and reactiveness to prevent unwanted positions. This is important not only to prevent injury but to function optimally and transfer energy throughout the kinetic chain. If a joint is not stabilizing, energy is lost and more stress is placed on passive structures (ligaments, capsule, etc.).
A major problem I often see is that people don’t have a good classification system when putting core exercises together into a routine. This is almost done with reckless abandon based upon what exercises they like to do or where they feel needs the most attention.
Instead, let’s look at core stability from the viewpoint of what motions need to be prevented in order to perform at a higher level with less susceptibility to injury. If we utilize this simplistic but beneficial approach, preventing flexion, rotation, and lateral flexion are at the top of the list.
The anterior core musculature creates flexion movement at the spine. When these muscles fire and no motion occurs, this is called flexion moment. Essentially the muscles are maintaining the position of the spine while preventing any extraneous movement. Anti-extension is essential to reduce stress through the lumbar spine and maintain a neutral alignment. Below is a video explanation of anti-extension and a recommended exercise progression.
Rotation is another common motion often carried out at the trunk. Many sports consist of high velocity, rotational movements which is why teaching the body how to disperse and decelerate these forces is important. Anti-rotation exercises can consist of the pallof press and it’s variations. Below is a video explanation of anti-rotation and a recommended exercise progression.
Last, but definitely not least, is anti-lateral flexion. The lateral flexors consist of the obliques, quadratus lumborum, and other core muscles. These muscles can be targeted with hip abduction leg lifts, lateral walks, and other strengthening exercises. But, to improve stability we must teach the body how to fire these muscles to maintain joint position. Below is a video explanation of anti-lateral flexion and a recommended exercise progression.
In summary, core stability is very different from core strength. Instead of firing the core musculature to create movement, these muscles must react and adjust to maintain healthy joint positions. Over the years, I have increased emphasis on core stability before strength. Teaching the body how to control, decelerate, and absorb forces may be a more advantageous starting point before creating motion at an unstable joint.
By; Garrett McLaughlin, MS, ATC, CSCS, ART