In today’s world of health and fitness, “core” is certainly a buzz word thrown around a lot. “You gotta engage your core”, “strengthen your core”, “the best exercises are core exercises”! But what does that actually mean? Most of us, admittedly, picture 6-pack abs when we hear “core” but few truly understand its deeper meaning and, more importantly, its critical function in stabilization. The goal of this blog is to define core stability and its role in how we as humans move.
In kinesiology, core stability refers to a person’s ability to control the joint or joint complex, especially during movement, through the activation of certain muscles. Stability, in this context, should be considered as being capable of controlling the position of the joint and movement of the body. Core muscles, therefore, are any muscles that flex around a joint in order to stabilize that joint complex, especially during movement.
So yes, we do have core in our abdominals that help the lumbopelvic complex stay in a neutral position (such as during a squat or deadlift) but we also have core stabilizers around other parts of our body, like the spine, shoulders and neck, that activate in order to “lock in” a certain position.
Why is core activation important?
A strong core is essential for maintaining good posture, balance, and stability. It also plays a crucial role in preventing injuries and improving athletic performance. It aims to effectively recruit muscles that can control position and resist excessive movement.
The core muscles have two main functions 1) to spare the joints (mainly spine) from excessive load/movement and 2) to transfer force from the lower body to the upper body and vice versa. This allows us to perform simple tasks like getting up from a seat or walking, as well as complex movements like clean and presses. Having a strong, stable core helps us to prevent injuries and allows us to perform at our best.
True core activation involves not only the physical muscles but also the central nervous system and proprioception. This is what we refer to as dynamic stability. Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS) is a system that we at Integrated Health Solutions employ to assist our patients in recovering from injuries. According to DNS – the nervous system establishes programs that control human posture, movement and gait. This “motor control” is largely established during the first critical years of life. Therefore, DNS emphasizes neurodevelopmental aspects of motor control in order to assess and restore dysfunction of the locomotor system and associated syndromes. At Integrated Health Solutions, we understand that the central nervous system plays a crucial role in core activation as it sends signals to the muscles to contract and stabilize the spine. This is how we approach our dynamic rehab with patients.
When a baby first learns how to roll over, that is a prime example of dynamic motor control – they are using core muscles to drive movement. When a boxer throws a combination of a left jab followed by a hook, they too are using their core to deliver a powerful punch but also maintain balance.
Injuries, therefore, are often due to the absence of core activation and motor control. It is important to understand that an injury is not necessarily due to your core being “weak” or “turned off”, it’s simply stating that your demand (i.e. that exercise or activity being performed) has exceeded your threshold for tolerating the demand (i.e. ability to maintain motor control).
The goal of dynamic rehab, therefore, is to decrease compensation of the external muscles that are over-active and improve motor control function that can be applied to a patient’s functional needs including, but not limited to, walking up the stairs, running, weightlifting, and carrying heavy objects. At Integrated Health Solutions, we help patients at all fitness levels! Whether it’s a competitive cross fitter performing heavy complex lifts or a silver sneaker doing chair yoga, susceptibility to injury can occur whenever the core stabilizers are unable to provide the control necessary to complete a movement safely and effectively.
Content provided by Dr. Drew Hunt
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