Laurie's Blog


26 Nov 2017

What IS Core Stability?


Definitions & Descriptions


"There is controversy and some confusion on the definition of the term “core stability”.  Traditionally this term has referred to the active component to the stabilizing system including deep/local muscles that provide segmental stability (e.g. transversus abdominis, lumbar multifidus) and/or the superficial/global muscles (e.g. rectus abdominis, erector spinae) that enable trunk movement/torque generation and also assist in stability in more physically demanding tasks.  Different proponents have advocated different types of core stability exercises ranging from the abdominal drawing in maneuver to sit ups or “plank” type exercises.


Training the local muscles (developed by physiotherapists) is a complex skill for participant and trainer that requires precise and rigorous assessment, exercise instruction and feedback. Training the superficial muscles can be equally complex and is undertaken by a range of health and sporting professionals with a large variety approaches evident. An alternative term to “core stability” is “motor control” that reflects concepts around lumbar stability in a more holistic approach including: the brain, sensory inputs, motor outputs, mechanical properties of muscles/joints, what is normal/abnormal and what may be adaptive/maladaptive."


"It is commonly believed that core stability is essential for the maintenance of an upright posture and especially for movements and lifts that require extra effort such as lifting a heavy weight from the ground to a table.  Without core stability, the lower back is not supported from inside and can be injured by strain caused by the exercise. It is also believed that insufficient core stability can result in lower back pain and lower limb injuries.


There is little support in research for the core stability model and many of the benefits attributed to this method of exercise have not been demonstrated. At best core stability training has the same benefits as general, non-specific exercise (see review by Lederman 2009) and walking. Trunk or core specific exercise have failed to demonstrate preventative benefits against injuries in sports or to improve sports performance."

Lederman, E. The myth of core stability. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. 2009, doi=10.1016/j.jbmt.2009.08.001:


The nitty gritty about Core Stability in the first place:


Here are some research papers & review papers that look at Core Stability in human athletes:

Reed CA, et al.  The effect of isolated an integrated ‘core stability’ training on athletic performance measures: a systematic review.  Sports Med. 2012, 42(8: 697 – 706.

CONCLUSIONS:    Targeted core stability training provides marginal benefits to athletic performance. Conflicting findings and the lack of a standardization for measurement of outcomes and training focused to improve core strength and stability pose difficulties. Because of this, further research targeted to determine this relationship is necessary to better understand how core strength and stability affect athletic performance.


Prieske O, et al.  The role of trunk muscle strength for physical fitness and athletic performance in trained individuals: A systematic review and meta-analysis.  Sports Med. 2016, 46(3): 401-419.

CONCLUSIONS:  Our findings indicate that TMS plays only a minor role for physical fitness and athletic performance in trained individuals. In fact, CST appears to be an effective means to increase TMS and was associated with only limited gains in physical fitness and athletic performance measures when compared with no or only regular training.


Ambegaonkar JP, et al. Lower extremity hypermobility, but not core muscle endurance influences balance in female collegiate dancers.  Int J Sports Phys Ther.  2016, 11(2): 220 – 229.

CONCLUSION:  Lower Extremity (LE) hypermobility, but not core muscle endurance may be related to balance in female collegiate dancers. While LE hypermobility status influenced balance in the female collegiate dancers, how this LE hypermobility status affects their longitudinal injury risk as their careers progress needs further study. Overall, the current findings suggest that rather than using isolated core endurance-centric training, clinicians may encourage dancers to use training programs that incorporate multiple muscles - in order to improve their balance, and possibly reduce their LE injury risk.


And here are some studies that look at ‘Core Stability Training’ in patient populations (i.e. those with clinical musculoskeletal issues):

Coulombe BJ, et al.  Core stability exercise versus general exercise for chronic low back pain.  J Athl Train. 2017, 52(1): 71 – 72.

CONCLUSIONS:  In the short term, core stability exercise was more effective than general exercise for decreasing pain and increasing back-specific functional status in patients with LBP.


Akhtar MW, et al. Effectiveness of core stabilization exercises and routine exercise therapy in management of pain in chronic non-specific low back pain: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Pak J Med Sci. 2017, 33(4): 1002 – 1006.

CONCLUSION:  Core stabilization exercise is more effective than routine physical therapy exercise in terms of greater reduction in pain in patients with non-specific low back pain.


So what?

Yes, yes, yes, more research is needed.  I proposed that IF those of us in the field were to create & make a proposal for tests, exercises, etc. (for each of the subcategories that have been all lumped under ‘core stability’ – i.e. those above), then those in the research arena would actually have something to go on when deciding what to research and study!!


Furthermore, how are we actually testing for these components in our canine athlete or patient populations?


Soooo, maybe what we need to be looking at is BALANCE Training, COORDINATION training, STRENGTH training, MOTOR CONTROL training, SKILL training, and over all CONDITIONING.  Perhaps we need to be more specific about what is we are trying to train. Perhaps we also need to rephrase and reframe what it is we’re doing with our canine (and human) patients.  And perhaps we need to broaden our terminology and most importantly our perspectives.



Tags: core stability , definition , descriptions , motor control , balance , coordination , strength , conditioning , skill

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