Power and Strength are useless without Stability and Control
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.
These 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!
When 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.
Doing 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.
Another 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)