The muscles of the trunk and torso act to stabilize the spine, pelvis and shoulder girdle. From this solid, balanced base the limbs can be moved powerfully and under control. In fact before rapid movements of the extremities can take place, the central nervous system stabilizes the spine in anticipation. The rate at which the core muscles stabilize the spine may have a direct effect on the power of limb movement.
Core strength training differs from many traditional weight training routines by working both the lower back and abdominals in unison. The same is true for the upper and lower body. All athletic movements incorporate the core in some way. Very few muscle groups are isolated. Instead the whole body works as a unit and core strength training endeavors to replicate this.
What are the benefits of core strength training?
- Greater efficiency of movement
- Improved body control and balance
- Increased power output from both the core musculature and peripheral muscles such as the shoulders, arms and legs
- Reduced risk of injury (the core muscles act as shock absorbers for jumps and rebounds etc.)
- Improved balance and stability
- Improved athletic performance
Core Strength Training For Reducing Back Problems & Injuries
Weak or poorly controlled core muscles have been associated with low back pain (3,4). The back muscles are responsible for movements such as extension and flexion of the spine and rotation of the trunk.
Excessive or uneven shock on the spine may lead to back problems. This may be exaggerated because weak core muscles lead to improper positioning or a forward tilt. In many exercises that use the back muscles, the abdominal muscles contract isometrically stabilizing the body.
The stronger and more correctly balanced the core muscles are, the less the uneven strain on the spine.
Equipment Used For Core Strength Training
While there are no doubt countless gimmicks on the market purporting to strengthen the core region most are useless to the athlete.
There are however, several pieces of exercise equipment that are genuinely useful for strengthening the core region. They include...
- Medicine Balls
- Stability Balls
- Balance Boards
These simple pieces of equipment allow the coach or athlete to devise resisted sport-specific movements. Medicine balls are particular helpful for mimicking rotation movements for example that would be unpractical with free weights.
Of course even these pieces of equipment are not essential. There are many exercises that use body weight or partner resistance that strengthen the core effectively. The use of free weights can adapted to cater for the majority of athletic movements.