Recently, everyone in the exercise and fitness industry seems to be talking about core strengthening. Your body’s core–the area around your trunk and pelvis–is where your center of gravity is located. It is the nexus of all your body’s movements. A strong core gives you:

oIncreased protection and bracing for your back.

oControlled movements, especially when reacting to changes in direction.

oA solid base for all bodily movements.

oBetter posture.

The main muscles involved in core stability are the deep muscles of your abdomen and lower back, your buttocks, and the muscles around your hips and pelvis. Core stabilization helps you learn to use these inner muscles before you start any other movement, so that your spine is braced and your subsequent movements are smoother and more coordinated.
Why is Core Stability so Important?

As chiropractors, we tell our patients over and over again that all parts of their bodies are connected, either directly or indirectly. This connection is called the kinetic chain. Your trunk (core) is where the kinetic chains come together. A weak link in one part of the kinetic chain can lead to pain or injury in another part. Strengthening your core gives greater stability and power to the whole kinetic chain as you move. This leads to a decrease in, or prevention of, lower back pain; decreased chance of injury; greater strength and power for all activities; and increased confidence form greater strength and better balance.
How Can I Increase My Core Strength?

Core stabilization exercises are easy to do, and can be done almost anywhere with little to no equipment. It is more important that core strengthening exercises are done well than that a lot of them are done. It’s a good idea to have a trained professional (chiropractor, physical therapist, strength and conditioning specialist, or personal trainer) check to be sure you are using the right muscles during each exercise.

Here are a few simple exercises:

Transversus Abdominis Contraction:
Contract your belly, imagining that you are pulling your belly button in toward your spine. Hold for 5-10 seconds, and then relax. Repeat until you muscles are fatigued, and then add one additional repetition each day. You can do this exercise at work, while driving, or while in line at the grocery store, and no one will even know.

Bridging:

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Bring your belly button toward your spine, then raise you hips off the floor until they are in line with your knees. Hold for 5-10 seconds, and then lower your hips. Repeat until you are fatigued, and then add one repetition each day.

Prone Plank:

Lie face down, and then balance yourself on your toes and elbows. Keep your body in a flat line. Try to hold this position for 30-60 seconds.

Quadruped:

Start on your hands and knees. Left one arm out straight, and extend the opposite leg behind you at the same time. Hold for 2 seconds, and then repeat on the other side. Repeat until fatigued, and then add one repetition per day.

Stability Balls:

Core exercises can be enhanced by performing them on large exercise balls. The challenge of remaining balanced on the ball makes your body use the deep muscles attached to the spine more effectively. It also makes the exercises more fun and lends variety to your workout. Other core workout-enhancing tools include: BOSU (Both Sides Up) platforms; wobble and rocker boards; foam rollers; dyna-discs; and foam mats. Try taking your regular weight lifting routine and doing it on one of these apparatuses–you are guaranteed to notice a difference!

Core strengthening should be the most important part of your workout. It should be done at least three times per week. You should focus on replicating the activities you do on a daily basis. Remember, just as a house is only as strong as the foundation it is built on, your body is only as strong as its core.

References:

Berg, Kris, EdD.”Comprehensive Training for Sport: Implications for the Strength and Conditioning
Professional.” Strength and Conditioning Journal, Oct. 2006: 10-18.

Brown, Todd D.”Getting to the Core of the Matter.” Strength and Conditioning Journal, Feb. 2006:50-53.

Hanson, Holly.”On a Roll: Balls are Becoming Popular Additions to Jazz up Workout.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Aug. 25, 2002:8L.

Kelly, Lance, MPT, ATC.”Strengthening Your Core.” Hughston Health Alert. Available at: