Monday, August 29, 2011

Re-introducing Core Stabilization

Technological advancement in this era has turned us into gadget slaves. The human body is created to engage in physical activity that activates the body to work as a single unit. However, in our sedentary lifestyle our body remains in a constant position depending on the kind of activity or the profession that we are involved in. We do a number of activities in a seated position from sitting in a café to working in front of the computer that compresses the spine. This constant position invariably activates certain muscles for a longer period resulting in postural imbalances. There are plenty of body conditioning techniques that correct or elongate the body and help in postural correction. However, as promised we are going to talk about core stabilization.

What constitutes the Core & Core stability?
The core of the body includes the spine, hips, pelvis and the abdominal structures. They help in the transfer of energy or force generation that is needed in human movement [1]. In simpler terms, it helps in transferring of energy from large body parts to smaller body parts. The movement required while doing any kind of daily activities will require the immediate participation of the core, depending on the intensity of that particular activity.
Core stability
“It can be defined as the ability to control the position and motion of the trunk over the pelvis to allow optimum production, transfer and control of force and motion to the terminal segment in integrated activities” – pg. 189 [1], if we look into the muscles that normally acts as the prime movers in our day to day activities. We will notice that they attach to the core (Pectoralis major, Latissmus dorsi, glutes etc.) [1]. The generation of any movement by these large muscles will require a certain amount of activation from the core muscles.  Now to increase the inter-abdominal pressure will require simultaneous contraction of the diaphragm, abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor muscles (Figure – 1). These muscles are connected by the hip and the pelvis that form the base of the core. These muscles on the lower extremity helps in stabilising as well generating powerful movement like the squats, running and jumping.

Figure - 1
Advantages of Core stability
Now if the core muscle activates in a pre-programmed pattern or in a functional pattern. The given power generation will happen from the centre and this optimum generation of power will help in less energy wasted by the distal limbs. Additionally, the power generation will help in less correction by the distal extremities and optimal motor control precision by the limbs in a given movement. In simpler terms, the body functions as a unit and the core acts as an engine for movement production. For example, if we need to do a complex activity like running we need to have a stable core that will enable us to run and produce the necessary amount of optimal power [1].

Disadvantages of Core stability
If there is an amount of imbalance among the hip this will result in improper activation of the core. This normally happens when the pelvis is tilted from neutral either to an anterior or a posterior pelvic tilt. Hip flexors either tend to be weak or overly dominating in the pelvis region resulting in improper transmission of power to the lower extremities. Research has posited that these imbalances invariably affect the distal joints of the body leading to injuries [1].  There is evidence that lack of core stability will invariably affect the lower back, the knee and even the shoulder [1].

 Core stability training
Core stability training helps in correcting the neutral spine and improving the core’s function. These stability based exercises can be implemented with flexibility exercises to improve the function of the powerhouse – ‘The Core’. For a sedentary person this correction while training helps to improve posture and create some amount of hypertrophy in the core muscles. Hypertrophy in the core muscles will help in creating a strong cylindrical base for the trunk and improving the overall posture of an individual [2]. Hence, it is important to do core stability based exercises in your exercise program.  

[1] W.B.Kibler; J.Press & A. Sciascia. (2006). The Role of Core Stability in Athletic Function. Sports Medicine, 36, 189-198.
[2] I.Jeffrey. (2002). Developing a Progressive Core Stability Program. National Strength & Conditioning Association, 24, 65-66.

Frank Mapranny, 
HOD Fitness, 
Your Fitness Club

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