Balance is the aim of life
As you walk down the staircase, if the electricity suddenly went off leaving you in the dark, and you begin to stumble, the first response to that loss of balance from your body will be a quick deep sucked in breath that refuses to be exhaled. That is the body’s way of telling you that when stability is threatened your body will even forget to breathe. That is how important stability is to your very survival.
In exercise parlance we use the term ‘core stability’ to refer to the muscular control used to maintain stability around the lumbar spine and pelvis. The core serves as a muscular corset that works as a unit to stabilize the body and spine with and without the limb movement. It serves as the centre of the functional kinetic chain and all movements are generated from the core and translated to the extremities.
We use the term ‘stability’ rather than ‘strength’ because strength is just one component of the dynamic stability required. Dynamic stabilization refers to the ability to utilize strength and endurance in a functional manner through all planes of motion and action despite changes in the centre of gravity. A comprehensive strengthening or facilitation of these core muscles has been advocated as a preventive, rehabilitative and performance-enhancing program for various lumbar spine and musculoskeletal injuries.
There are two types of muscle used when stabilizing the lumbar spine and pelvis – the local postural muscles traditionally known as the core muscles (Multifidus, T.A, Diaphragm, Pelvic floor) that attach directly to the lumbar vertebrae and surrounding thoracolumbar fascia tensing and relaxing to provide stability to the area; and the Global dynamic muscles (Rectus Abdominus, Internal & external Obliques, Erector Spinae) which link the pelvis to the thoracic cage and provide a more general stabilization to the area along with trunk movement. Overuse of these global muscles can decrease the function of the local postural muscles.
Strength is not the only, nor indeed the most important, quality of the muscle. Muscle activation and endurance are probably more important than strength. Exercise of the core musculature is more than trunk strengthening. In fact, motor relearning of inhibited muscles is more important than strengthening in patients with low back pain. In athletic endeavors, muscle endurance appears to be more important than pure muscle strength. It is essential to be able to properly activate the deep core muscles (Multifidus, Transversus Abdominus, Diaphragm, Pelvic Floor) before any progression is attempted. Otherwise the global stabilizers will be used to compensate. It is wise to attend a suitably qualified practitioner to demonstrate and check that your properly activate the deep core muscles.
By Gita Krishna Raj
CEO Maverick, Holistic Lifestyle coach C.H.E.K Institute USA, Metabolic Typing Advisor, Health excel UK