abdominals, back, Core stability, Feet, Gymn Dangers, Physiotherapy, Pilates, Shoulder

What is Core Stability?

Power and Strength are useless without Stability and Control

muscles

Big flashy muscles might be attractive but as any physio will tell you, they are next to useless without core stability.

Thankfully the health and fitness industry has now started to embrace the need for core stability, but still few people really understand the concept and what it means.

Essentially our bodies have hundreds of different muscles that all perform important tasks and the very conspicuous Abs, Glutes, Pecs, Delts and Biceps (amongst others) are there to provide strength but they are supported by a plethora of smaller, less conspicuous muscles that provide stability.

shock absorbersThese are generically referred to as the ‘Core Muscles’ and the best comparison we can think of is with automotive suspension systems.

If the ‘Strength’ muscles are the springs then the ‘Core’ muscles would be the shock absorbers.  They are usually less conspicuous, sometimes even hidden within the springs but without them your car would fall apart in no time.

The same goes for humans.  Good strength muscles alone won’t keep you running smoothly. Without good core stability you’ll be in for lube and servicing (physio) all too often and eventually you’ll be off to the scrap yard before your time!

inner_core_musclesWhen it comes to spinal stability, the most important muscles are the multifidus, pelvic floor and transversus abdominis. As shown in the image to the right, these muscles form a supportive cylinder around the spine. The transversus abdominis is like a corset around your abdomen and it sits deep underneath all the “six-pack” muscles.  It attaches the lower ribs, diaphragm and lumbar spine to the pelvis.

This ‘core’ stabilises the spine and allows the load of movement to be evenly distributed between all the intricate joints of the spine. Just like a car suspension system, it reduces the shock through the joints and thus reduces wear and tear which would, over time, lead to conditions such as arthritis or bulging discs.

personaltrainerDoing exercises like sit ups is useful to strengthen the big “six-pack” muscles, but doing this exercise without good core stability will lead to excessive load through the joints of the spine and can lead to injury of the spine.

So in that respect it is important to activate and strengthen the core before you start on a regime of strength building.

 

Muscles of the posterior shoulderAnother example is the shoulder. The “delts”, “lats”, “pecs” and “biceps” look fabulous but they are not the stabilisers of the shoulder.

Over training of these without attention to the deeper, core stabilisers of the shoulder can result in injury as a result of an increased load being put through the system without the appropriate “suspension”, so to speak.

See our blog on ‘Shoulder Stability’ for a series of simple exercises to build core shoulder stability.

Each area of the body  has a “core” component.

Feet have intrinsic muscles that operate in balancing.

Ankles rely on hip and foot stabilisers for control.

Knees similarly need good hips and feet to be protected.

and even Necks have a deep system of muscles that control movement.

In essence, the core muscles play a crucial a role in overall well being and strength. Without the stability and control provided by the deeper core muscles, the power and strength gained from training is useless!!

Stay tuned as our series of CORE STABILITY blogs will introduce the specifics of core training for different parts of the body and the common areas of overloading we see in fitness regimes!

Post by Catherine Stephens (B.App.Sc Physio) and Angus Tadman (B.App.Sc Physio Hons I)

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abdominals, Gymn Dangers, Physiotherapy, Pilates, Shoulder, Stability

Strong is the new SEXY

Strong is the new sexy but you have to be stable to be strong

Fit Woman

The media image of gorgeous and sexy has changed in recent years. It seems the willowy overly thin or the voluptuous curvy image of attractive woman has been surpassed with healthy strong and muscular women like Michelle Bridges or Anglina Jolie as Lara Croft. Men with muscles and great posture have always been the most admired and now the girls are aiming for the same.

In endeavouring to achieve this end it is essential to increase core strength and stability as we build power. A failure to address the “stability” part of “strong” will leave the body at risk of injury. Building muscle bulk is quite possible without core strength but pain might build to and there is nothing sexy about being injured or in pain!

We see increasing episodes at the clinic of back pain, tendon injuries and knee injuries in the strong but unstable individual who has been focusing purely on developing power and a good looking pysique.

Cross TrainerSome gym machines provide so much control of movement there is no challenge to stability, resulting in increasing strength but without the protection offered by the co-activation of stabilising muscle systems throughout the body.

Holding onto the handles of the cross trainer has the machine providing control of movement direction, minimising how much stability you have to provide from within.   Using the cross trainer not holding the handles ensures YOU have to provide the stability and control to maintain smooth movement.

Try it and feel the difference…. carefully at first!!  It is a much harder workout – and thats the acid test.  If its easy its not doing you as much good.

BOSU

Incorporating free weights and weight bearing exercise on unstable platforms like a BOSU will have you protecting the joints while building strength.

We know that good control and correct activation of the deeper abdominals flatten the tummy. Without this the rectus abdominus  (the six pack muscle) can strengthen but the abdomen can remain distended.  We often see very strong men with big bellys… a result of poor training technique.

Strengthening the deeper muscles around the shoulder girdle gives improved contours through the back and will stop the winging of scapular (Chicken wings). Strong shoulders look great!!

So ..if you are aiming for Strong and Sexy remember to train for stability too. Power in useless without control!!

Post by Catherine Stephens B. App Sc (Physio) MAPA.

Feet, Physiotherapy, Stability

The foot – an amazing piece of machinery !

Happy feetWe stand, run, jump, hop & dance, all on our feet and rarely give them any thought until we feel pain or feel unsteady!

Our feet are the basis of our posture and give us most of the feedback we need to balance!

Bones of the footSo as upright animals we rely totally upon our feet, yet there they are, down there, out of sight, out of mind while many, many small muscles do their stabilising jobs.

But have you ever thought what’s involved in simply standing on your feet?

Here’s a simple exercise to highlight just one of the stabilising muscles.  Give this a try.

Stand with feet hip width apart.

Two feetTry to stretch you toes out straight and lean slightly forward so the tips of your toes have a small amount of weight on them but you haven’t lifted the heel.

Can you feel the muscles in the sole working? These are the muscles designed to support our arches and I bet this is the first time you’ve been aware of them !

But then our world is mostly flat and safe and we have no need to be in a position of preparation for change and as a result our feet get really lazy.

I like to think of our feet having a TRIPOD OF STABILITY.

  • The tip of the big toe
  • The base of the little toe and
  • The heel

Try standing with weight evenly distributed between these three points and you will unwittingly turn on a whole range of muscles in your foot, thigh, buttock and back.

Bare feet in grassStrong feet – the basis of good posture – a basis of good health.

Post by Catherine Stephens B. App Sc (Physio) MAPA.

Improving Movement, Physiotherapy, Stability

5 exercises to keep your shoulder stable and healthy

The key to a healthy, pain free and strong shoulder is a stable scapula (or shoulder blade) which is the base from which all shoulder movement occurs. It is the bone where the “socket” of your shoulder is found and to which the “ball” of your upper arm (humerus) connects.

Losing scapula stability is often the first step toward developing painful injuries such as rotator cuff tears, subacromial bursitis and arthritis.

The following exercises are very effective for improving scapula stability and therefore improving shoulder function. Please keep in mind that you should never have pain during or after doing these exercises. If you do, please consult a physiotherapist before continuing.

scapulaScapula Clock#1.Scapula clock: Stand close to a wall with your elbow bent. Place your hand on a small ball on the wall just below shoulder height. Roll your shoulder blade back and down and hold it set in this position.

Make circles alternating from clockwise to counterclockwise with your hand on the ball while maintaining your shoulder set. Repeat 10 times each way.

Pull Downs#2. Pull downs: Using a cable or theratube secured above you.

Pull down with straight arms to the side of body and simultaneously draw your shoulder blades back and down to feel muscular squeeze in the middle part of your back just below the shoulder blades.

Repeat 10-20 times.

Wall Push Ups#3. Wall push ups: Place hands on wall below shoulder height and slightly wider than shoulder width.

Stand with feet together and away from wall so you are weight bearing through your arms and hands.

Do slow push ups on the wall being mindful to keep the shoulders back and down as you press toward wall.

As you press away from the wall roll the shoulder blades around the ribcage to arch the upper spine.  Repeat 10 times.

4 Point Kneeling#4. Four point kneeling: Assume four point kneeling position.

Take weight forward so your nose is in front of your fingertips. Bend elbows and take shoulders down away from your ears.

Keep shoulders back and down and maintain stability on one arm as you lift the other out in front.  Repeat on the other side and do 5-10 repetitions.

Ball Roll#5. Roll out on ball: Assume start position as pictured.

Ensure shoulders, hips and knees are aligned and support weight on hands.

Slowly roll the ball out in front of you, keeping your body aligned and extend the arms away from the body to allow the elbows and forearms to rest on the ball.

Maintain shoulder blades down and back. Repeat 10 times.

Post by Angus Tadman

Improving Movement, Physiotherapy, Stretching

4 Tips for Effective Calf Stretching

Stretching the calf muscleImportant after any extended walking, running, golf or weight bearing sport!

1)    Ensure the foot is directly in line with the leg. Toes not turned out as is often the case.

2)    To get an effective stretch you need more pressure than just stepping backwards so press into a wall or bench with hands or forearms.

3)    Roll the heel backwards so the very back of the heel is on the ground and lift the toes just a little.

4)    Straighten the knee completely feeling tightness in the muscles above the knee, lifting the knee cap.

Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds to get effective lengthening through the entire length of the calf muscles.

Note : in the case of Achilles tendonitis this is not suggested as it tends to aggravate the tendon.