Importance of a Strong Core

The core has most often been thought of as “abdominal” muscles. However, recent scientific research has caused a shift in that perspective of thinking to include several stabilizing muscles surrounding the torso known as the lumbo-pelvic hip complex or simply, the “core” complex. This complex comprised of; abdominal, spinal, pelvic, gluteal and hip girdle muscle groups, act as a corset around the mid-section to stabilize the spine, hip and pelvis and act as an integral link in the kinetic chain during body movements.

Research conducted by Hodges & Richardson in the journal, Physcial Therapy in 1997, examined the sequence of muscle activation during whole-body movements discovered that specific core complex muscles were consistently activated prior to any limb movements. All movements incorporate the transfer of energy from one segment to the next in the kinetic chain. Force generation and distribution, movement control, stability and initiation of the kinetic chain, began in the core complex before progression to the extremities.

When the core complex muscles operate efficiently, the result is maximum force generation and proper force distribution, optimal movement and energy control, with minimal compressive, translational or shearing forces of the joints involved in the kinetic chain of the movement performed. This can translate to improved athletic and sport performance, enhanced daily activities; create better overall balance, stability and posture and prevent injuries, strain and compensatory movement patterns that lead to muscular imbalances.

Athletic movements require a strong core complex for postural control in order to transfer optimal energy to the limbs. A more efficient transfer can mean injury prevention because no compensations are made in attempt to make up for the lack of force production. Although core stability is essential to athletics, this can also directly translate to daily living by improving more functional actions such as walking, climbing or lifting etc. When the core complex muscles operate in a unified fashion, the strength combined can provide the spine, pelvis and other extremities with more balance, stability and a correct natural posture. With an improved posture and movement awareness; injuries, strains, lower back pain and other compensations are less likely to occur.

Core complex efficiency requires coordination and integration of the essential muscles, joints and neurological systems for order for optimal functioning. Although muscular strengthening may be required, reawakening of inhibited muscles may be the primary step to develop the core complex. When developing a training program, it is recommended to progress in gradual stages. First, it may be necessary to restore initial core muscle contraction and mobility, followed by activation of the integral core muscles through specific exercises. Once mastered, more advanced exercises can be added. Eventually, a transition to more functional movements that promote balance, coordination, precision and skill are to be achieved. Ultimately, the goal of a good core complex program is to train movements and positions rather than isolated muscles.

For further information on the core complex, please feel free to contact personal trainer Kendra Kainz. Resourced from the American College of Sports Medicine, p 39-44. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America, p 669-689. Physical Therapy, p 132-142.

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