Updated: May 2
Your core is the foundation and source of all your movements, providing a stable base for all arm, leg, and neck motions. Your ability to maintain good posture is also greatly dependent upon your core stability!
When you have a stable, balanced, elastic core, then you can easily transfer energy from the centre of your body to all your extremities! This process of first storing energy, and then releasing it, is very similar to how a spring mechanism works. A compressed spring contains stored energy. When the spring releases, the stored energy is released to allow the spring to expand. The muscles of your core act like a spring, compressing or tightening to store energy, and expanding to release the stored energy for use in movement!
Having the ability to store and release energy from your core is a fundamental aspect of injury resolution and athletic performance. It does not matter how fit you currently are, what your age is, or what your current health status is you can always improve the quality of your core.
BRACING YOUR CORE
Almost all of our exercises require you to activate, brace, and otherwise involve your core! One of the key ways that almost all exercises can be converted into core exercises is through the process of bracing. I first learned about this process from Dr. Stuart McGill, Department Chair of the Spine Biomechanics Laboratory at the University of Waterloo.
Bracing refers to the process of “contracting all the muscles in the abdominal wall without drawing or pushing in”. This is very different from the common advice given by some trainers to suck in (or hollow-out) your abdominals or to contract (pull in) your Transversus Abdominis muscle (TVA). In fact, Dr. McGill’s research has shown that the action of pulling in your TVA actually de-activates your paraspinal muscles causing increased instability by creating or reinforcing abnormal neuromuscular patterns. (1)
Basically, bracing is the process of gently pushing out while contracting all of your abdominal muscles. This process also forces your paraspinal muscles to tighten at the same time. The process of bracing creates a belt or corset around the core of your body which gives you a base of stabilization. This base of stability allows you to direct energy from your core to your extremities.
HOW TO BRACE YOUR CORE!
Bracing is accomplished by gently “stiffening” your abdominal wall. Put the tips of your fingers 2 to 5 inches lateral to your belly button. Stiffen your abdominal muscles and feel you fingers being pushed out. Make sure you are just contracting (stiffening) these muscles, don’t suck them in or push them out.
Another way to quickly learn how to brace is by using a hula-hoop. That’s right...your childhood toy can help you brace properly, especially when you use a weighted hula-hoop. Hula-hooping forces you to brace or stiffen your abdominal and back muscles at the same time.
Many adults are surprised to discover just how difficult hooping can be initially, especially when their children find it to be so easy. This is because children generally have better core strength than their parents. Just five to ten minutes of hula-hooping a day can substantially increase your core stability. So pick up that hoop and start having some fun!
7 - CORE STABILITY EXERCISES
The following 7 exercises are examples of core stability exercises. What exercises are appropriate for the individual will vary greatly depending on each specific case. These are all common exercises that we prescribe to our patients, not a prescription for a specific case. When doing these exercises remember to brace you core!
4-Point Kneeling Exercise - The Bird Dog: This is great exercise for grooving your nervous system. An important exercise if you have low back pain, and can even be performed shortly after an injury. Four-point kneeling teaches your body to transfer energy from your lower extremity through your core to the upper extremity.
Core Exercise - Front Plank: In this video, we show you how to perform both the Beginner and the Standard plank. Both are great core exercises that work to stabilize the shoulder and strengthen the muscles of your core. Ensure that you only do this exercise within your pain-free zone.
The Side Plank - Core Exercise: The side plank targetS the glutes, obliques, quadriceps, hamstrings, abductors and adductors. This exercise strengthens your lower back and spine, and protects you from injury.
Pelvic Raises - Beginner to Advanced: Pelvic raises are a great way to activate the muscles of your hips and pelvic floor. This exercise tones and strengthens the muscles of your lower back, abdominals, glutes, and hamstring. This video demonstrates three versions: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. DO NOT attempt the advanced version until you can successfully perform the beginner and intermediate versions with good form.
Stirring The Pot - Great Core Exercise: Dr. Stuart M. McGill a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo says "Stirring The Pot" is one of best core exercises you can do!
Core Training - High Plank Spider Crawl: In this video we show you how to perform both the "High Plank Spider Crawl" and the "Spider Crawl Pushup". Both are great core exercises, but they are more advanced exercises.
Mountain Climbers (2 versions) - Great Core Exercise: This is a great core stability exercise. You can also perform this exercise on a Swiss-Ball to make it more challenging.
DR. BRIAN ABELSON DC.
Dr. Abelson believes in running an Evidence Based Practice (EBP). EBP's strive to adhere to the best research evidence available, while combining their clinical expertise with the specific values of each patient.