Core Stability

In the last 12 years I have been a trainer, I have seen many changes in the way we train for core stability. A few years back if you walked into any gym you would see people sitting, standing, crunching and lifting weights on stability balls, BOSU balls and wobble boards. The idea was by being off balance your core would work harder to stop you falling over. This isn’t exactly how the core works, standing stability for instance comes from the feet, calfs, hamstrings and glutes. You can have the strongest abs in the world but if you have weak glutes and ankle structure you will not be able to stand stable on one leg.

Now I hear there is no need to train your core if you are performing deadlifts, squats and kettlebell swings as these movements provide all the core training you will need. Although there is some truth here that there is a huge work load on the core during a heavy deadlift there are other aspects to be addressed. For instance the deadlift is classed as an anti-flexion core exercise, as you pick the weight up your core musculature are working to maintain a straight back and not allow your lumbar spine to flex and round over. 2 main problems I have with using the deadlift as the primary anti-flexion core exercise for most exercisers is firstly you need a level of strength and activation to maintain a straight spine as you try to lift a load, how many times have you looked over at someone deadlifting and thought their spine was going to pop out of their back due to a horrific lumbar curve? So your deadlift will always be held back by the amount of force your core can develop. Secondly if your lifting with a belt then your taking away half the job of the core so you can no longer claim the lift is a core exercise. Yes some contraction still occurs if you’re using the belt properly but nothing like lifting beltless… thats why its harder!!

Lastly you have the exercisers who just do hundreds upon hundreds of “sit-up” or tell me they have a strong core because they can hold a prone bridge or plank for 2/3 or even 5 min. Just remember its not what you do it’s how you do it, If you can hold the bridge for 5min but in a terrible position relying on your hip flexors and lumbar erectors to do the work your doing more harm than good. Its scary how many strong people cannot hold a correct bridge for more than 30 seconds.

Where does this leave us…

I like to look at core training at 3 levels:

Level 1 is focusing on isometric holds in anti-flexion, anti-extension and anti-rotation patterns alongside correct breathing patterns. The diaphragm is the roof and anchor point for most core muscles, relaxed parasympathetic breathing is required during core training to allow the muscles to function properly and not allow other bigger muscles to take over.

Level 2 is focusing on bringing movement to those isometric patterns for instance going from a hollow hold to a dead bug as an anti-extension progression.

Level 3 then moves into full body involvement now that a high level of stability has been created, this might be exercises like levers and such as you would see gymnasts perform.

So the take away here, The Core is a complex and very important area of the body and must be trained. This will benefit all other fitness related goals but the training of the core like any other area must be specific to the level of the individual and be progressive.

If you follow my Instagram I will post some videos over the coming weeks giving examples of the exercises I have talked about in this article.

Adam