Training

What is core stability?

Apr 20, 2020

Man doing core exercises

Core stability refers to a person’s ability to stabilise their core.

What is your “core”?

The body’s “core” is made up of many muscles, not just your abdominals. The muscles known more commonly as the “core” are groups of muscles in the front and back of your body. The core muscles (shown in grey in the diagram) are responsible for stabilising and protecting the spine.

The anterior muscles (or those in front) are made up of:

  1. the anterior pelvic floor;
  2. transversus abdominus;
  3. obliques; and
  4. the diaphragm.

The posterior muscles (those at the back) include:

  • the “lats” (latissimus dorsi);
  • multifidus (deep lying muscle group next to and between the vertebrae in the lower spine);
  • posterior pelvic floor and
  • “glutes” (gluteal muscles – gluteus medius in particular).

Core stability

Higher up, your deep ‘neck flexor’ muscles and ‘scapular stabilisers’ play an important role in stability of the neck and shoulder area respectively. These are known as your upper body core muscles.

What is important to note, is how core exercises help your spine.

Think of it like this: your “core” is like the lines holding up a tent, pulling from all different directions. Slack in one line will cause tension in another. A strong core means that all the lines are working together equally.

Pilates-based intervention for core stability

Now that you know what and where your core is, we need to focus on how to start activating it. Once you learn how to activate it you can start to work on strengthening your core by following a rehabilitation programme developed by your physiotherapist. Personally, I believe in focusing on Pilates-based core activation and exercises.

Pilates is a controlled and restorative exercise regime which focuses on achieving stability of the entire body. This stability is accomplished in a co-ordinated manner by the ‘active’ muscles, the ‘passive’ spine and the ‘controller’ which is made up of our neurological or nerve system.

Pilates focuses on using our core strength, plus precise and controlled movement, to create more awareness about our body’s limits. By doing this, we can get the deep, stabilising muscles working properly and strengthened. In addition, Pilates promotes effective breathing patterns that help alleviate stress, which can be a major source of back pain. Conscious breathing provides inner focus, allowing you to become more aware of how your body and muscles are responding to external control.

When you do Pilates, you provide support for the lower back by:

  1. learning to work the deep pelvic floor;
  2. engaging the transversus abdominis; and
  3. assisting with correct positioning of other parts of the lumbo-pelvic region.

Below is a diagram of some exercise you can do to strengthen your back and relieve pain from tension and stiffness.

Back exercises for core

Lauren Angus


Lauren is a qualified physiotherapist at Lamberti Physiotherapy. Lamberti Physiotherapy has branches in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Find your nearest branch in our Services Directory or read more about them here.

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