We hear about core stability, core function, trunk stability – a lot of times patients will say, “My trainer is focusing on my core.” And a lot of times there’s that deer in the headlights and they ask, “what’s my core?”
The core is made up of your mid-section, predominantly your abdominal region but pretty much the area from your glutes to your ribcage. The primary purpose of a stable or solid core is to protect your spine while moving. So a good, solid core provides bracing. Just think of the old timey corset that women used to wear that just protects the spine. So the more stable and strong and more of a stable foundation you have there, you are going to prevent injuries.
It’s very important to be properly diagnosed and figure out what your problem is. A lot of times we go in the gym and our back is hurting and we think that maybe if I just stabilize and wake up my core or get stronger throughout that area it’s going to help me. Crunches or sit ups put a lot of load on your low back but they think, “I just read this in a book or I read this on the Internet” so it must be good for me and its very counterproductive. It actually can be very dangerous and you can injure yourself even more.
Before we start training something, you need to make sure it’s working properly. A lot of times we’ll determine there might be some restrictions, some tightness in your hips or maybe in your thoracic spine in that area above your core between your shoulder blades. We want to address all the mobility issues first – get things moving properly before we start to strengthen.
With core work we see progressive exercises like planking and a lot of these hardcore exercises to build stability in the core and I don’t agree with that. If we’re unable to properly facilitate or turn on some of those muscles then you are setting yourself up for injury.
We need to start at a basic or fundamental level -build a good foundation. There are some different tests we do here in the clinic that gives us a better idea shows us how to better facilitate or turn on your core. And then once we’re able to start to build a good foundation, we can start to add load and build strength and stability from there.
If you sit on your butt all day long and your brain has forgotten how to fire your glute muscles, over time you try to train something but the muscle doesn’t work properly. We’re trying to do with facilitation is turning it on so the brain can recognize when I want to fire a certain muscle in your midsection or core – like sitting to standing for instance – your brain sends a signal that says fire and stabilize. With injury and weakness – some of these other conditions, your muscles don’t work as they should. So we do that through basic motor learning drills and we just want to build a good foundation to make sure something is working properly before we start to strengthen it.
I would get with someone who knows what they’re doing whether it’s a personal trainer or a physical therapist – someone that’s well versed in core activity and stability. And I think it’s important that you are properly assessed. Cross fit gyms are popping up all over the place – the problem I have with these gyms is that they’re not assessing their clients as individuals. They are throwing them in these groups and everyone’s trying to do the same type of exercise. You start very, very slow and simple and build from that.
To contact Dr. Riley and his team of experts at Tulsa Spine and Rehab, call (918) 743-3737 or email them.