Updated: Sep 9
Your core serves as the bedrock for all your movements, offering a stable foundation for actions involving your arms, legs, and neck. Good posture is also heavily reliant on robust core stability.
A strong, balanced, and resilient core enables seamless energy transfer from your body's center to your extremities. This process of accumulating and releasing energy is akin to a spring mechanism. When a spring compresses, it stores energy; upon release, it expands and disperses the stored energy for movement. Similarly, your core muscles function like a spring, contracting to store energy and relaxing to release it for use in motion.
The capacity to store and release energy from your core is crucial for injury prevention, recovery, and enhancing athletic performance. Regardless of your current fitness level, age, or health status, you can always enhance your core's quality. By understanding the science behind core stability, you can unlock the potential for optimal movement and performance in your daily life and athletic pursuits.
Core Engagement in Action: The Art of Bracing for Enhanced Stability and Performance
Nearly every exercise demands activation, bracing, and engagement of your core muscles. Transforming standard exercises into core exercises can be achieved through the technique of bracing, a concept introduced by Dr. Stuart McGill, Head of the Spine Biomechanics Laboratory at the University of Waterloo.
Bracing is defined as "contracting all the muscles in the abdominal wall without drawing or pushing in," which differs significantly from the traditional advice of hollowing out your abdominals or contracting your Transversus Abdominis muscle (TVA). Dr. McGill's research demonstrates that pulling in the TVA can actually deactivate the paraspinal muscles, leading to increased instability and reinforcing abnormal neuromuscular patterns (1).
In essence, bracing involves a gentle outward push while contracting all abdominal muscles. This action simultaneously tightens your paraspinal muscles. Bracing forms a stabilizing belt or corset around your core, providing a solid base for energy transfer from your core to your extremities, enhancing overall performance and stability.
Mastering Core Bracing: Techniques for Strengthening Your Abdominal Wall
Achieving core bracing involves gently "stiffening" your abdominal wall. To practice, place your fingertips about 2 to 5 inches away from your belly button. As you tense your abdominal muscles, feel your fingers being pushed outward. Ensure that you're only contracting these muscles, not sucking them in or pushing them out.
Another fun and effective way to learn core bracing is by using a hula-hoop, particularly a weighted one. Hula-hooping requires you to simultaneously brace or stiffen your abdominal and back muscles, promoting core strength.
Many adults may find hula-hooping challenging at first, while children often seem to have an easier time. This difference is attributed to children generally having better core strength than adults. Incorporating just five to ten minutes of hula-hooping into your daily routine can significantly improve core stability. So, grab a hoop and have some fun while strengthening your core!
Core Stability Workouts: Progressing from Basic to Advanced Exercises
The exercises listed below exemplify a range of core stability workouts. Keep in mind that the suitability of each exercise will depend on individual needs and abilities. We'll begin with some simpler options and gradually transition to more challenging exercises.
Dead Bug Exercise Beginner
This exercise is highly effective in strengthening and stabilizing the core, spine, and back muscles, making it a crucial exercise for individuals looking to improve their musculoskeletal health. The dead bug exercise involves lying on your back and raising your legs and arms while maintaining a stable and neutral spine position.
Bird Dog Exercise - Beginner and Standard
The bird dog exercise is a highly effective exercise that facilitates neural grooving and can be particularly beneficial for patients with low back pain or recent injuries. This exercise involves a four-point kneeling position, which enables the transfer of energy from the lower extremity through the core to the upper extremity. This transfer of energy is critical in promoting optimal biomechanics and efficient movement patterns.
The 3 Minute Plank Routine
Beginner Level" is a great way to start working on your core. Each set only lasts for just over a minute so repeat the sequence 3 to 5 times with one minute in between. When beginning a plank exercise routine, it is recommended to initiate the exercise from a kneeling position and limit the hold time to ten seconds. This approach helps to cultivate slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are integral in postural control and fatigue resistance.
The 6 Minute Plank Routine
Intermediate Level" is a great way to move on from the beginner level plank routine. We would recommend practicing them routine for several weeks before attempting the advances plank routine.
7 Minute Plank Routine – Advanced Level
In the 7 Minute Plank Routine each set lasts for about 2 minutes and 20seconds, you should repeat this sequence 3 times with 15 to 30 seconds between sets. Before doing this advanced Core Plank Stabilization I would recommending doing both the beginner and intermediate 4 Point Core Plank Stabilization protocols for a few weeks. After the intermediate routine become easy (able to do 3-4 sets) then you can attempt the advanced routine. Once this becomes easy increase the number of sets you are performing.
15-Minute Butt and Thigh Workout: Strengthen and Tone Your Glutes Fast
When it comes to toning, sculpting, and strengthening your buttocks, thighs, and legs, incorporating this exercise program into your fitness routine can yield impressive results. Doing this program every other day for 4-6 weeks with consistency and commitment can lead to substantial gains to your total lower body strength and look.
Improve Your Balance - Exercises for Beginners
Balancing exercises are essential components of both Rehabilitation and Sports Performance training. These exercises should not be overlooked, as they can enhance one's ability to stabilize the body during functional movements. Incorporating simple balance exercises into a progressive training program can improve balance and prevent injuries.
Improve Your Balance - Advanced Exercise
Balance exercises can be of great benefit to people of any age. Balance exercises improve your ability to control and stabilize your body's position. Balance exercises are great at reducing injury risk, rehabilitating current injuries, or increasing your sports performance.
In conclusion, understanding the importance of core stability and incorporating effective bracing techniques into your workout routine can significantly improve your overall movement, performance, and posture. By starting with simpler exercises and progressively moving to more challenging ones, you can enhance your core strength and stability at a pace that suits your individual needs. Whether you're new to exercise or a seasoned athlete, investing time in building a strong core will not only benefit your athletic performance but also contribute to a healthier, more functional daily life. Embrace the power of a solid core foundation and unlock your full movement potential.
DR. BRIAN ABELSON DC.
Dr. Abelson is committed to running an evidence-based practice (EBP) incorporating the most up-to-date research evidence. He combines his clinical expertise with each patient's specific values and needs to deliver effective, patient-centred, personalized care.
As the Motion Specific Release (MSR) Treatment Systems developer, Dr. Abelson operates a clinical practice in Calgary, Alberta, under Kinetic Health. He has authored ten publications and continues offering online courses and his live programs to healthcare professionals seeking to expand their knowledge and skills in treating musculoskeletal conditions. By staying current with the latest research and offering innovative treatment options, Dr. Abelson is dedicated to helping his patients achieve optimal health and wellness.
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