the importance of Core Stability and best exercises for core

What is core of the body?

The core is the center of our body and it functions to stabilize the trunk while the arms and legs move during functional movements. It can also be described as action whereby muscles stabilise the spine statically or dynamically while other muscles carry out a movement involving other joints

What muscles make up the core?

Due to the demands of these endurance-type tasks, stabilisers are predominantly made up of type I slow-twitch fibres. In normal function, while the role of stabilisation is being undertaken, muscles known as mobilisers are able to carry out their role of locomotion or movement of the body. These muscles are usually required to provide a short-term or phasic role, and are therefore not classed as endurance muscles. Mobiliser muscles are often found to be predominantly made up of fast-twitch fibres and are more superficial (closer to the surface) than stabiliser muscles. There is however research that supports the use of CS training in relation to performance. A recent Systematic review of CS training programmes concluded that CS training can elicit marginal improvements to athletic performance but suggests that further research is needed to determine if there is an optimal CS training method (Reed et al, 2012).

  • Muscles that stabilize shoulders and hips.

  • The system of muscles that make up the torso (on the front, the sides, and the back of the body).

For proper movement and to perform a wide spectrum of functions and activities “stability” is required, it is provided in a co-ordinated manner by the active structures (eg muscles), passive structures (eg lumbar spine), and control by neurological systems. For many years people have relied on the ‘sit-up’ as the main exercise for the core yet it has been demonstrated that the psoas (hip flexors active in sit-ups) is only a feeble flexor of the lumbar spine and exerts massive compressive forces on the lumbar disks during such activities (Bogduk 1997, Siff 2004).

Why Is the Core so Important?

The core muscles have two main functions:

1) to spare the spine from excessive load

2) to transfer force from the lower body to the upper body and vice versa.

Having a strong, stable core helps us to prevent injuries and allows us to perform at our best.

Injuries to the spine tend to come from a combination of bending forward, side to side or rotating excessively. Back injuries are not usually linked to one specific incident (lifting something heavy), but rather to a history or excessive load with bad mechanics. In order to protect the back, ideally we want to create 360 degrees of stiffness around the spine as we move, run, jump, throw, lift objects and transfer force throughout our body. We do this when all of the muscles in our hips, torso and shoulders work together. 

Exercises for core stability

Although there are literally hundreds of exercises for core stability, we are going to give you seven examples and tell you how to properly do them.

BOSU Bird Dog

Focus: Core stability
How to Perform: Set your right knee on the center of the dome and place both hands on the floor underneath the shoulders. Extend the left leg behind you to hip height; keep the foot flexed. Raise the right arm to shoulder height with your thumb facing the ceiling. Hold for 20 seconds and switch sides.
Regression: Perform the exercise on the floor.

Supine Toe Taps

Focus: Core stability
How to Perform: Lie on your back and place your arms by your sides. Engage the abdominals and draw the navel toward your spine. Lift the knees to 90 degrees. On a two-count, lower your right foot to touch the floor, and on a two-count, return it back to 90 degrees. Perform the same movement with your left leg and continue to alternate tapping the right and then the left foot onto the floor. Perform 10 reps on each leg.
Regression: Keep your feet on the floor, and slide your heel on the mat, alternating legs.

Marching Hip Bridge

Focus: Lumbo-pelvic stability
How to Perform: Lie on your back and place your hands by your sides. Lift the hips and hold a hip bridge. Lift the right foot off the floor to 90 degrees at the hip and knee. Return the foot onto the floor and then lift the left foot to 90 degrees; return to center. Keep the hips lifted and maintain a neutral pelvis as you alternate leg lifts for 20 repetitions.
Regression: Hold a static hip bridge, keeping both feet on the floor for 30 or more seconds.

Stability Ball Deadbugs

Focus: Core stability
How to Perform: Lie on your back and lift your knees to 90 degrees. Place a stability ball between your lower legs (near the knees) and press your hands and legs into the stability ball. Engage the core and draw the navel toward the spine. Extend the arms and legs—the straighter the limbs, the more challenging the pose. Make sure the knees stay at 90-degrees when returning back to center (the calves touching the hamstrings makes the exercise easier). Complete 10 reps on each side.
Regression: Perform the exercise without a stability ball, and keep your knees at 90 degrees as you lower. It’s similar to toe taps, but with the addition of the arms.

Forearm Plank With Toe Taps

Focus: Core stability and hip strength
How to Perform: Position the body into a forearm plank with the feet touching. Begin alternating lateral toe taps, where the right foot pushes away from the body, touches the floor and then returns to center. Repeat with the left leg. Complete a set of 10 reps on each leg. Use a BOSU to make the exercise more challenging.
Regression: Perform a static forearm plank with feet hip-distance apart.

Side Plank With Torso Rotation

Focus: Core strength and shoulder stability
How to Perform: Position the body into a forearm side plank. Both legs should be extended. Lift the top arm over the chest and then rotate with your rib cage to draw the hand underneath the ribs. Repeat this motion for 10 to 12 repetitions and then perform on the other side.
Regression: Perform the exercise in modified side plank with your bottom shin on the floor.

Single-Legged Deadlift

Focus: Posterior strength
How to Perform: Hold a set a dumbbells and stand tall with feet hip-distance apart. Lift the right foot off the floor; hinge the pelvis to glide over the top of the left leg. The head and the foot should counterbalance each other. The lowest hinging point should be when the body is parallel to the floor. Keep the pelvis as neutral as possible. Complete 12 repetitions on each leg.
Regression: Perform the exercise without dumbbells or complete a deadlift with both feet on the floor.