The Core of our Body
They are the links between our upper and lower extremities. They give us stability in our everyday life. The core muscles. Despite their importance, they are often forgotten although low back pain is a common health problem in all developed countries (3). So, core strengthening, which means to train each specific muscle around the lumbar spine and so maintain functional stability, is without any alternative (1). But before we can train the core muscles balanced, we must define the core and see which muscles are part of it.
Most publications describe the “core” as a box with the abdominal muscles in the front, paraspinal and gluteal muscles in the back, the diaphragm as the roof, and the pelvic floor and hip girdle musculature as the bottom (1). So, the core serves like a muscular corset that works as a unit to stabilize the body, especially the spine (1, 2). In Figure 1 you will see a first overview about the muscles, which are part of the core and therefore need to be trained.
Figure 1 Core Muscles (Source: https://sites.google.com/site/bodytrainingandexercise/_/rsrc/1424059163258/core-muscle-groups/core-muscles.jpg, Retrieved from 19 April 2021)
Next, the core muscles can be divided into local and global muscles. This distinction can be very helpful because it shows how you can train the individual muscles. The local muscles on the one hand are stabilizers which means that these lie in the deeper layers. So, the primary function is eccentrically to control movements and maintain static stabilization (2). The global muscles on the other hand are mobilizers that lie in the upper layers. Therefore, the function is concentrically to produce large torques for movements and power (2). The local and global system of muscles engaged in the equilibrium of the lumbar spine (3). You will see the subdivision of the core muscles in global and local muscles more detailed in Table 1.
Table 1 Muscles of the Lumbar Spine (Source: Akuthota & Nadler, 2004)
So, now we know what the core actually is, and which different muscles are involved. But what are the different benefits of a Core Training:
Core Training prevent and rehabilitate various lumbar spine and musculoskeletal disorders and can so enhance athletic performance (1)
Enhance core stability are related to injury prevention and rehabilitation (2)
Deficiencies in core stabilization and load transfer muscles may be related to lower extremity function and injury (2)
Core muscle strengthening exercise along with lumbar flexibility and gluteus maximus strengthening is an effective rehabilitation technique for all chronic low back pain patients irrespective of duration (chronicity) of their pain (3)
You see, core training can have a lot of benefits, especially for people with low back pain or for people who want to enhance their athletic performance.
In the last section of this article, we want to analyse a good core training. First, as you already know, a good core training consists of a training of the global and local muscles (2). So. it is very important to train the core holistically (2): On the one side the mover muscles. Muscles which realize the movements through their contraction. On the other side the stabilizer muscles. Therefore, static contractions or interference tasks like perturbation tasks are necessary. Perturbation task can be some exercises on labile surfaces which than may improve balance and proprioception (1). Futhermore, another important stage of core training must be the functional progression (1). You need to trigger your muscles always a little more from time to time. Finally, components of a core training can include joint stability exercises, balance training, perturbation training, plyometric (jump) exercises, and sports-specific skill training (1). You will get a whole core training plan with the five most important exercises on Friday.
Summarized, core training can have positive benefits, but it needs to be done correct (2). It also has a theoretical basis in treatment and prevention of various musculoskeletal conditions (1). But you also must consider that there is a lack of evidence. The topic core training is pretty new and thus, not yet fully researched. If you are more interested in the topic core training, than you will find two more additional sources below.
We see us on Friday. Till than have a nice week!
(1) Akuthota, V., & Nadler, S. F. (2004). Core strengthening. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation, 85, 86-92.
(2) Huxel Bliven, K. C., & Anderson, B. E. (2013). Core stability training for injury prevention. Sports health, 5(6), 514-522.
(3) Kumar, T., Kumar, S., Nezamuddin, M., & Sharma, V. P. (2015). Efficacy of core muscle strengthening exercise in chronic low back pain patients. Journal of back and musculoskeletal rehabilitation, 28(4), 699-707.
Akuthota, V., Ferreiro, A., Moore, T., & Fredericson, M. (2008). Core stability exercise principles. Current sports medicine reports, 7(1), 39-44.
Stephenson, J., & Swank, A. M. (2004). Core training: designing a program for anyone. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 26(6), 34.