Somewhere along the line, we have all heard someone telling us the importance of having a "strong core”. This term has increasingly become a trendy buzzword, and now a huge number of exercises and movements are being classified under this umbrella, for better or worse.
So one may ask, what exactly is core strength? The not-so-simple answer to this, is that scientists can't agree on a universal definition for the term, and many seem to have a different answer to the question. I am sure we can agree that the trendy term, “core strength” seems to describe the musculature of the trunk, especially those fundamental in stabilizing it. When the body has good core strength we cannot deny that movement is more efficient and the body is better protected from injury. A scary statistic is that 80% of people describe having back pain at some point in their life. The abdominals are the muscle group that supports the back and takes the pressure off the spine. It is for this reason that Core work is typically the focus of a back rehabilitation program. Because of the structure and shape of the spine, the abdominals give support to the lower spine, while the mid-back and upper back support the upper spine. The transverse abdominals (TA) are the most important abdominal muscles with regards to stabilization. Too often, people focus on the superficial rectus abdominal muscles which is not a stabilizer but a muscle flexor. Instead focus should be on the TA, obliques and pelvic floor for the generation of intra-abdominal pressure, an important element in reducing the forces borne by the spine. Learning how and when to recruit these muscles is always of importance.
A balance between spinal flexors, extensors, rotators, and lateral flexors is paramount when considering the choice of abdominal exercises. When determining the effectiveness of abdominal and back exercises consideration of the following need to be made: varying ranges of motion, sufficient intensity and overload, correct mechanics and muscle recruitment and utilizing intra-abdominal pressure. Addressing the needs of each person is beneficial for individual goals and needs. What is good for one person’s body may not be good for another. Exercise can be a powerful tool for injury prevention and recovery, yet exercise can also produce further complications and injuries if misused. Pilates is one of the best forms of exercises to learn how to use your core efficiently and effectively through abdominal movement, and through pelvic-lumbar stabilization allowing the rest of the body to move independently.