How important is core stability?
Simple answer: Extremely important
Core stability ensures that our spine and surrounding musculature is protected from injury, both in static and dynamic movements. Whether we are performing Olympic lifts, running a marathon, or lifting shopping out of the car, our core stability is vital in effectively producing and transferring force through the body, while maintaining safe and stable postures.
So what exactly is core stability?
It’s a good question to ask since it’s often assumed that core musculature starts and stops at the superficial muscles we see forming our 6 packs. This is not the case! These muscles are built for mobility, not stability. Our core is made up of many muscles, and many of which are hidden beneath the exterior musculature that people typically train. These include the transverse abdominis, multifidus, pelvic floor, and believe it or not… our diaphragms too. These muscles are built for stability, not mobility – meaning when they contract, they do not move our body parts, but instead create an important pressure system within our abdomens to stabilise our trunks throughout movements that our mobilising muscles take care of.
The easiest way that I like to explain this function is imagining that you have a soft drink can. You have the lid (diaphragm), the bottom (pelvic floor), the main body that you hold (transverse abdominis), and somewhere around that can will be a joining line of the metal (multifidus). And when that can is sealed and intact, the soft drink cannot spill – ‘the pressure system is stable.’ If any one of those structures were either damaged or not working properly, the soft drink would spill and ‘the pressure system would fail.’ This is exactly the case with our core stabilising muscles.
If any one of those key muscles (transverse abdominis, multifidus, pelvic floor, and diaphragm) are weak, inactive, or ‘lazy’, the pressure system within the trunk fails, meaning that our core is not stabilised. The problem can often be due to poor muscle activation patterns, poor muscle endurance, or simply not knowing how to correctly activate them. And remember, we can’t strengthen a muscle that we can’t activate!
It’s a good idea to practice activating and holding these muscles on during static postures, and then progress to dynamic movements. Eventually, you will be able to stabilise your trunk through all movements, including gym exercises, which will assist in strengthening these muscles further.