‘Core Stability’ is a term that I hear fairly often, both from concerned clients and ‘out there’ in the world of Physiotherapy, health and fitness. If you’ve never heard it before then lucky you, bear with me, all will be revealed…
What is core stability? Do you need to know and do you need it? Let’s take a look…
Google defines it as:
the capacity of the muscles of the torso to assist in the maintenance of good posture, balance, etc., especially during movement.
It’s far from all about having solid abs and it’s definitely not all about “stability”. It’s about the muscles, bones and nerve network of your back, stomach, pelvis and shoulders – your core – being strong enough, flexible enough and able to work in a co-ordinated and controlled way to allow you to comfortably do the things that you need to do. I think a better term would be:
i.e. how ABLE is our core to work effectively for us?
If you can do all of the things that you want to do in pain-free and relatively comfortable fashion, then your core is likely working just fine for you thank you!
…your core is likely to need to up its game. For example, if you want to be able to do 10 pull-ups and you currently can’t do any, if you’re a road biker who wants to get into mountain-biking, or if you’re a lapsed gardener who wants to get back to comfortably spending a few hours digging and weeding, you’re going to have to improve some aspect of your core ability.
…on certain movements and activities – particularly in the back, pelvis or shoulder area – then it’s possible that your core is not working as effectively as it needs to. This also applies to those ‘accidental’ movements that we have to do – a sudden, unwanted sprint for a bus, slipping and needing to stop our fall, suddenly having to move or do something in a way that we’re not used to that brings on an injury. If our bodies can’t rise to the occasion when needs must then improving core ability may be worth considering.
…you’ll need to pay close attention to your core stability and eat a LOT less!!!
…and think that some element of your core stability (ability) is the issue then you can start with some of the small and simple ‘1st stage’ exercises below, ably demonstrated by my stick-men, that don’t aggravate your problem. Pace yourself, start small and build up gradually (more on not over-cooking it here!) And remember that if you want some specific guidance then (plug) contact a Physiotherapist, who can tailor exercises to suit you and your problems.
Lie on your back with your back fairly flat to the floor; keep it there while you slide one heel away from you and then back, repeat both sides
Lie on your back with knees bent and hip width apart; squeeze your bottom muscles to lift your hips towards the ceiling then slowly return to the floor
Lie on your front and push into the floor with your arms to raise yourself up to a comfortable propped up position – keep bottom and back relaxed; pause for a few secs then return steadily
Lie as shown with back flat to floor – keep it there – then, keeping one leg super straight, raise this leg as high as you can before a steady return to floor
…then lucky you! If you want to improve your core stability, below are a few 2nd stage suggestions:
From a hands and knees position, squeeze your bottom to straighten one leg behind you and, if you can (skip if not) raise the opposite arm in front of you at the same time – wobbling is permitted!
Keeping back flat to the floor throughout, curl your head and shoulders up off floor, push hands down towards feet, raise legs to a manageable 30sec hold position (knees closer to / further from chest as necessary) and… hold!
Adopt the position (elbow under shoulder, feet stacked, body in a beautiful straight line) and… hold!
Stand in a wide forward-back stance then bend at both hips and knees to lower upper body vertically downwards – make sure your front knee doesn’t go past your toes (very important!) Pause at a manageable low point then squeeze bum and legs to return
Does my stickman need an explanation?! It’s pull-ups whilst standing on a box or similar. They’re an amazing exercise but not one that most can manage, so ‘assist’ your pull-up by pushing with your legs – just as much as is necessary!
Doing specific exercises, like those above, to enable easy and comfortable movement is important, as is staying regularly active throughout the day, week and year. The evidence suggesting that we should avoid being too sedentary is mounting up and it’s our health and therefore our enjoyment that is at risk if we don’t find ways to move enough. We need to think beyond wanting to move more – there’s usually insufficient motivation in life for this – and recognise that moving more is simply essential, imperative and critical. Perhaps this need is worth more than a passing thought…?