Stability Balance

Using Core Stability Exercises to Increase Core Stabilization

Core Training is a very popular philosophy sweeping over fitness programs.  At a quick glance core training appears to be simply abdominal exercises and lower back exercises, but core training is so much more.  Core training is all about good alignment, joint stability, and efficient movement, and your core includes your entire spine, shoulder girdle, and hip girdle.

When you perform core exercises you can focus on 3 things: stability, strength, or power.  Although stability, strength, and power are all related you can emphasize a certain benefit by choosing specific exercises and performing them in a specific way.  Stability refers to the ability of your muscles to maintain a joint’s position, posture, and alignment.  Strength refers to the ability of your muscles to move a certain amount of resistance through the full range of motion.  And power refers to the ability of your muscles to move your body with speed.

In this article, I want to focus on developing core stability.  One possible cause of lower back pain is a lack of stability in the pelvis and lower back.  When your back is unstable, there is more pressure on the joints of your back.  In addition, when your back is unstable your sports performance is decreased.  So, developing core stability is important for everyone from people with desk jobs to elite athletes.

Let me ask you a question that speaks to the importance of core stability.  Is it easier to run on sand or grass?  Most people will say that it is easier to run on grass.  Since the grass is more stable than the sand it’s easier for your muscles to push you forward as you run.  Because the sand in unstable, your muscles have a harder time pushing your forward as you run.

You should think of your spine in the same way that you think about your running surface.  When your spine is stable, your muscles work more efficiently.  When your muscles work more efficiently, you have a lower risk of injury and perform at a higher level.

Well, you may be asking which type of exercises is best for core stabilization.  Some of the best core exercises for stabilization are isometric exercises.  Isometric simply means same length or no movement, so during isometric exercises the position of your spine does not change.  Two of the first core stabilization exercises that I teach my clients are the drawing in maneuver and the plank.

The drawing in maneuver is the best exercise for the transversus abdominus.  In movement studies, physiotherapists found that the transversus abdominus is the first abdominal muscle to fire when you move your arms are legs.  They also found that it lags behind in people with lower back pain.  To re-educate your transverse abdominus (your natural girdle) you must practice pulling your belly button in towards your spine.

You can practice the drawing in maneuver from many positions, but the key is to keep your spine in a neutral or balanced position when you pull in.  You can perform the drawing in maneuver while lying on your back, so gravity can assist you.  Then, you can progress to seated or standing where gravity is more neutral, and the most challenging position is lying face down or on your hands and knees where gravity pulls down against you.  No matter which position you choose, pull in your belly button and hold for 5-10 seconds and repeat for 10 repetitions.  When personal trainers or physical therapists say pull in your abs, they are referring to the drawing in maneuver.

Another great core exercise for stabilization is the plank.  The plank is a popular yoga pose that has crossed over into many other areas of fitness.  It involves balancing face down on your elbows and your toes.  There are two main keys when performing the plank.  First, you should keep good alignment through your spine and entire body.  And, second, you should pull in your belly button and use the drawing in maneuver throughout the entire set.

Attempt to hold the plank for 10 seconds to 60 seconds.  Repeat the exercise 2-3 times.  If you shake when you first try the plank, don’t worry about it.  As your coordination and strength improve you will shake less.  Also, if the full plank from your toes and elbows is too challenging, you can build up your strength using the half plank which is done from the knees and the elbows.

Once you have increased your core stabilization, move on to focus more on core strength.  Core strength is best improved by using exercises that move your spine through a large range of motion against resistance, but that is a topic for another article.

Check below for links to my website to learn more core training tips and view pictures of core exercises.

About the Author

Charles A. Inniss, Jr. has a Doctorate Degree in Physical Therapy and is a Certified Personal Trainer. He is dedicated to helping people to live healthier happier lives.

Visit his website for Free Pictures of 100 Core Exercises and Free Core Workout Tips

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