Core strength and stability has received a great deal of attention from fitness professionals and the general public. Often times, the definition of the core and its role is misunderstood. These misunderstandings can lead to training that does not functionally train the core, thus inhibiting potential benefits.
The “core” refers to 29 pairs of muscles that help to stabilize the spine, pelvis, and kinetic chain during functional movement. Further, it can be regarded as a box, with the paraspinal and gluteal muscles in the back, the abdominals in the front, the diaphragm as the roof, and the pelvic floor and hip girdle musculature as the bottom. Optimalefficiency of the “core” can result in appropriate force distribution, proper absorption of ground-impact forces, and reductions in compressive, translational, and shear forces of the kinetic chain. Moreover, this efficiency requires the integration of the myofascial, articular, and neural systems. This in turn requires optimal coordination, motor control, and neuromodulation to ensure adequate joint compression through the articular structures.
The role and function of the core is well defined. Although core strength and stability is important, many programs do not optimally facilitate such adaptations. Exercises that focus specifically on the core may be necessary in deconditioned individuals or those who possess minimal core strength; however, functional training programs can be used to promote core strength and stability while using other muscles. The core should be used, instead, to create proximal stability for distal segment mobility. For example, exercises such as loaded carries, half-kneeling low to high lifts, single arm rows, and single arm presses can all be used to promote proper functioning of the “core” while simultaneously training the extremities.
In addition, exercises can be performed to maximize strength and appearance of the more superficial core musculature, such as the abdominal and the gluteal muscles. For example, exercises that target the abdominal muscles include supine or hanging leg raises, pendulums, roll-outs, and body saws; while exercises that target the gluteal muscles include deep squats, hip thrusts, high-box step ups, Bulgarian split-squats, and good mornings. A good fitness program will include a combination of all of these exercises to maximize functional ability and core stability.
Fredericson, M., & Moore, T. (2005). Muscular balance, core stability, and injury prevention for middle- and long-distance runners.Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am,16, 669-689.