Core stability is possibly the most popular training topic across the world of health & fitness. And rightly so, research has proven the importance of efficient core stability during multi-directional human movement.
Core stability forms a cornerstone to optimal performance & injury prevention. A perfect quote I heard from a good friend and a great physio to sum up the importance of optimising core function is:
“You can’t shoot a cannon from a canoe”.
Nothing sums up the importance of central stability to allow peripheral power and performance better!
Think how the canoe would rock, wobble and probably tip over as the cannon is fired.
Your body is always searching for stability. If your core lacks stability this can have an impact on your performance and injury risk. The musculature of your peripheral limbs will have to compensate to provide additional stability to your core. This will lead to a reduction in mobility, a reduction in the ability of these tissues to generate force and an increase in the amount of stress/load placed on these tissues – meaning performance reduction and an increase in the potential for injury.
In my opinion there are 5 key elements to optimising your core function to limit injury & optimise performance. Below I have presented you with a 5-step example programme that will provide you with the skills and knowledge to optimise your own & your client’s core training.
Breathing (& Position)
Understanding and applying these principles is a game changing skill in the health & fitness profession. Think of this as not only improving your postural position but also downregulating your central nervous system’s level of stress. This alone can improve you whole body’s mobility & stability.
Being able to resist extension is vitally important to optimise core function. An overly extended posture is associated with a stress response – think of the position you’d go into to avoid a punch thrown at you. You’d lean back and extend. An overly extended posture also places the anterior core musculature on length, limiting it’s function. Being able to resist extension whilst moving your limbs (for example: reaching overhead) maintains core function & optimises performance.
As with anti-extension above. The inability to maintain core position whilst your peripheries move to complete sporting and everyday tasks vastly limits your core’s function. Anti-rotation is perhaps even more important than anti-extension due to the complex 3-Dimensional, multi-directional nature of human movement.
In my opinion, core stability is an out dated term to describe the true role of the thorax. I believe the core should be optimised integrated with the shoulders & hips. These 3 anatomical points are constantly working in synergy to maintain your body’s cornerstone to human movement. Integrating your limbs into core stability exercises is another game changer for anybody working in the health & fitness world.
Transfer of Force
Research shows that the core musculature activates just prior to limb movement to provide central stability. Another role of the core is to transfer forces across via the Anatomy Trains Lines. In the most basic form this represents efficient walking and running. In a performance setting this represents hitting a golf ball 300+ yards, or serving in tennis over 100mph.
This is an example of a pillar programme I would use with a client or athlete to build resilience and performance! Don’t just use these exercises but learn from them to implement these principles into the great work you are already doing.
About the Author
Alex Morrell (MSc, BSc (Hons), MCSP) is a Sports Physiotherapist working in international and professional rugby alongside private practice. He has a keen interest in all things training & performance from his sports science/S&C background. (@theonlinephysiocoach)