Understanding Core Exercises

Core exercises have long been emphasized as the fix all for your back pain. By simply doing these exercises, one could expect to feel reasonably better and develop abdominal and back strength. While these exercises are important in the rehabilitation process, they are certainly not the ONLY thing that needs to be done.

According to the Mayo Clinic, any exercise that involves the use of your abdominal and back muscles in coordinated fashion counts as a core exercise. While this is technically correct, core exercises go beyond just back and stomach muscles and for most, it entails the proper coordination of the entire body. I’ve always explained the core as being the entire trunk of the body and its ability to move in harmony with all of your parts. In other words, the chest muscles must work in harmony with the lower back and the upper back muscles need to coordinate well with the abdominals. All of those muscles need to work properly with the arm and leg muscles in order to achieve smooth unaltered motion.

Stability of the core is of greater importance than just pure strength as it gives the body ability to resist abnormal motion which keeps us from getting injured. Think about that! The reason you don’t injure your back with everyday normal activity is because your core is stable enough to handle it without having to assume an abnormal posture or position to do the activity. Take for example lifting your young child up from the floor. If you have the proper core stability, the body does not have to recruit muscles abnormally to pick him/her up. If you lack the requisite stability, you feel pain either immediately or later on. Obviously this also ties in to your overall strength levels in your legs and arms as well. But the core must be able to resist the aberrant movement and stabilize first in order for you to lift.

So why can’t you just do core exercise by itself and achieve core strength? The answer lies in biomechanics of the body. If you have abnormal, restricted, or poor motion of any joint, the body will try to load the stress of the activity onto other joints and recruit other muscles. This can lead to joint stress and ultimately injury. This is why chiropractic treatments are so important in that they help you achieve joint mobility and “unlocks” restricted joints with a wide variety of methods. Without proper biomechanics, you can do core exercises until you’re blue in the face and never achieve the result you are looking for.

The most important thing about the core comes down to choosing the right exercises. For example, a person who sits in a chair all day at a computer is going to have the following: tight/shortened hip flexors, weak/inhibited gluteals (buttocks), tight hamstrings, weak overall core muscles (including back and abs), tight chest muscles, abnormal breathing patterns, and tight/weak neck muscles. This person would need to focus on specific exercises and stretches to stabilize the core muscles. This would include squats, lunges, planks, bridges, breathing exercises, standing on a Bosu ball or stability disc, and/or balancing on one leg. No sit-ups are necessary as they are poor core exercise and can actually weaken the spine.

Understanding the core can make it more than a buzz word and actually be beneficial to your fitness and health goals. Give us a call and we can evaluate your core stability and strength to guide you in the right direction of optimum health.

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