It’s all about the core. If you ask your personal trainer, physical therapist, or primary care doctor they will tell you to strengthen your core, but what does that mean? This concept is continually evolving in what it means to have core strength and how you go about achieving it. Core strength incorporates a few very important principles. The first of which is the ability to engage the deepest layer of the trunk which has a direct impact on the inherent stability of the spine. The ability to engage this deep layer, including muscles known as multifidus and transverse abdominus, requires a light contraction of the lower abdomen without compensation of the more superficial layers. Another important concept is the ability of the muscles to reflexively engage quickly to stabilize the spine in preparation for lifting, reaching, and other functional tasks. Various studies have shown deficits in both the muscle mass of those deeper layers as well as a delay in the firing of those muscles in people who have a history of back pain. So how do get that highly sought after core strength? Like many activities or skills, it starts with mastering the basics and applying those principles to higher level functional activities.
The process begins with recruiting those deeper layers with some very light isolated contractions. Many individuals report immediate alleviation of their back pain when they simply engage these muscles, which can be done easily and with little effort. See this link for controlled deep abdominal stabilization. See next post for progression to phase 2 application of trunk stability to transitional movement.