The Importance of Core Strength
The spinal column is in fact a fairly fragile structure. Movements as simple as getting out the car, bending over and lifting objects from the floor create approximately 175 pounds of force on the spine. However, the bones, disc and ligaments of the spine can only tolerate around 20 pounds of stress prior to buckling. Luckily muscles, often referred to our “core” are used to reinforce and stabilize this unstable structure.
When considering our “core strength” we must be careful not to mistake a flat, 6-pack stomach with a healthy, fully-functioning core. Research has shown there are three layers of muscles involved in supporting our spine. Each of these layers plays a different role in ensuring stability including: sensation of joint movement and position, stabilization of joints as well as power generation for movement. When strengthening our core, it is important to train each of these layers in order to prevent injury whether you are a seasoned athlete or an elder in the community.
Consider adding these exercises to your daily routine:
- Isolated Transversus Abdominus (TrA) Activation
The Transversus Abdominus is the deepest of the four abdominal muscles and acts like an internal corset as it is the only abdominal muscle that attaches to our spinal joints. It should be the first muscle we activate during any type of movement, but we often forget to use it and compensate with our more superficial abdominal muscles.
- Lay down in a comfortable, pain-free position. Imagine having to urinate. Activate the muscles you would use to prevent urination. You should sense a lifting of your pelvic floor and a slight firmness under your fingers if you feel on the inside of your hip bone. Continue to breathe normally while maintaining the contraction.
- Bent knee fall out: while maintaining TrA contraction, allow one knee to fall out to the side while maintaining level hips and firmness of contraction under finger tips. Only go as far as you can while maintaining proper technique. Work to strengthen by progressively letting the knee fall further and further to the floor
- Single Knee Lift: while maintaining TrA contraction, lift one foot from the floor while maintaining level hips and firmness of contraction under finger tips. Only lift as far as you can and do as many as you can while maintaining proper form.
- Door Jam Pushes: standing in a doorway facing the frame, stand in mini-squat position with TrA activated. Push on the doorframe with one hand at a time while preventing hips and back from twisting. Hold for 5 seconds and then apply pressure with other hand. Repeat until you are unable to maintain position.