abdominals, back, Core stability, Daily Exercises, Gymn Dangers, Hips, Improving Movement, Injuries, Physio's Personal Tips, Physiotherapy, Pilates, Stability

How stable is your core?? Here’s how to check!

personaltrainerOften, people spend hours doing “core training” in the gym such as sit-ups, planks and the like only to find that they still experience symptoms of instability such as low back pain during training or, they get injured regularly doing exercise. The problem? This kind of “core training” addresses the strength of your abdominal and oblique muscles which are responsible for providing movement but does not train the deeper, stabilising muscles that are responsible for maintaining good alignment of the spine.

Here is a little exercise to introduce the feeling and the essence of stability in you torso. The true “core”:

1. Lie on your back, knees up, feet flat on the ground.

2. Breath, and feel how your ribs move and the shape of your spine changes.

3. Place your index fingers on the bones at the top of your pelvis at the front.

4. Feel what happens when you lift one foot from the floor REALLY SLOWLY!!! No jumping it up!!!

5. Try again and try to not allow any movement in your pelvis or lumbar spine.

Did you hold your breath? Did your pelvis roll toward the side you lifted? Did your back arch away from the floor? Did you get a “ping” of back  pain?

If YES was an answer to any of these questions you have room for improvement in you core stabilisation.

Practicing this exercise is actually a great way to begin the reactivation of your deeper, stabilising muscles.  Breathing as you move and load the spine is essential to prevent rigidity. Our bodies are designed to be fluid and coordinated when moving and breath holding can stifle this and cause us to become to stiff when moving! If you don’t breath while you do anything you won’t do it for very long!!

Mullumbimby-Pilates

For detailed explanation of core stability refer to our previous blog “What is core stability?”. You can find it here: https://northernbeachesphysio.com/2014/03/28/what-is-core-stability/.

Also, watch this video of one of physiotherapists, Angus, walking through the above exercise and explaining how to activate your core!

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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)

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.

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.