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HFE instructor guides student through a deadlift.
HFE instructor guides student through a deadlift.

Core Stability Explained

2 minute read

Stability, the opposite of flexibility, describes the state of being rigid and stable. Too much flexibility renders a joint unstable, whilst too much stability increases the risk of tissue strains and tears. Both are necessary in different aspects of exercise, so a personal trainer must know how to optimise both ends of the spectrum.

In relation to kinesiology and exercise, the degree of stability explains one’s ability to be able to resist and oppose external forces and movement. The core is the most important stabilising mechanism in the body – not only does it protect the organs, but it also provides a solid foundation from which the arms and legs move from.

What is the Core?

If we were to remove the arms and legs, we would be left with the trunk – the core describes all of the muscles that are involved in the stabilisation of the trunk; thus ‘core stability’ refers to one’s ability to recruit these muscles in their capacity as stabilisers (usually called fixators). In an upright posture, the core is also the location of the body’s centre of gravity and is where all movement begins.

Stabilisers invariably work statically to oppose or prevent unwanted movement. During a simple squat exercise, these muscles work together in an integrated fashion in order to keep the spine erect and stiff. This is largely achieved by elevating the pressure within the abdominal cavity (intra-abdominal pressure) which subsequently increases the stability of the spinal region.

Consider a tent and it’s supporting guy wires; each wire pulls in a different direction to exert tension on each of the poles. When the tension is symmetrical and sufficient, the tent remains stable. Asymmetrical tension decreases the tent’s stability whilst too much stability places the tent at risk of becoming torn and damaged.

When discussing this concept in relation to the spine, a lack of symmetry and tension within the core muscles is likely to lead to spinal instability, dysfunction and injury. Therefore, an effective core conditioning programme should endeavour to develop symmetrical stiffness and tension throughout all of the core musculature. These muscles include:

  • Transverse abdominis
  • Rectus abdominis
  • Internal and external oblique’s
  • Quadrates lumborum
  • Erector spinae
  • Multifidus
  • Pelvic floor
  • Diaphragm

If you would like to learn more about the action of these muscles and the subject of  ‘core stability’- why not take at look at our Level 3 Personal Training Course.

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