Core stability and strength
I hope you’ve had a great week.
You may remember from last week’s piece that I alluded to the topic of core stability.is a somewhat nebulous term that means different things to different people. Physiotherapists will define it as one thing and gym instructors will often define it differently. No wonder it’s confuses the average man or woman on the street.
In general terms, we have two types of skeletal muscles in in our body: movement muscles and stability muscles. The movement muscles are those that are responsible for quick and powerful contractions, but they fatigue easily. The stability muscles provide a solid platform for powerful and accurate movements to take place. They are specially designed to be able to work for prolonged periods.
For almost 2 decades, there have been loads of research studies that focused on these low threshold (stability) muscles. We know that their function can be disturbed in the presence of pain. One of the landmark studies was performed at my old uni, the University of Queensland, and it showed that people with long-term low back pain had altered recruitment patterns of the deepest of the , the , and a series of small muscles in the spine, called multifidus.
|"As for those exercises that I see in gyms, where people are doing back squats whilst standing on a Cirque du Soleil!"…well that’s plain ridiculous, unless you’re training for|
The main finding from this study, and the plethora of others that have followed it, is that these muscles seem to “forget how to work”. It’s not so much that they become weak, per se, but that they lose their ability to contract prior to the high threshold movement muscles. In this sense, the base is not solid before the movement takes place, a situation that can exacerbate pain.
Strength work will not really correct this problem; specific training that is designed to reverse these motor control deficiencies is what's required. Doing sit ups and prone holds will help improve strength of the trunk muscles but won't reverse the motor programming changes that are the real problem.
Don’t get me wrong, having strength is necessary around the trunk, but having stability is just as important. An analogy would be in a car: we need acceleration, but we also need shock absorbers to ensure a smooth ride.
As for those exercises that I see in gyms, where people are doing back squats whilst standing on a swiss ball…well that’s plain ridiculous, unless you’re training for Cirque du Soleil! You won't get any strength gains and the dangers of falling far outweigh any perceived benefit in stability. Run a mile if your trainer asks you to do this, because running may take you a while after you fall and brake your ankle.
Next week, in view of the fact that the grand tours (Giro d’Italia, Tour de Fance and La Vuelta de España) are just around the corner, we’re going to have a look at cycling training.
Stay robust amigos!
Injury and Performance Consultant at Galatasaray FC. Holds a Masters in Sports Physiotherapy and a Masters in . He also lectures on the MSc in Sports Physio course at the University of Bath.
Find out more info HERE: http://www.pponline.co.uk/