I will be the first to admit that prior to the last couple of weeks, I haven’t done dedicated core stability training for at least a couple of years. Yes, years. I never made time for it, never made it a priority.
Sure I did heavy squats and deadlifts and that allowed me to lift properly and progress fairly well, but had I done dedicated core training, I would have been much better off.
Core & Back Relation:
Flexion and extension of the back is controlled by the core. A weak core has a lesser ability to restrict/stabilize movement of the spine. During lifts such as the squat and deadlift, your safety and performance is heavily dependent upon your ability to maintain a neutral spine position.
Having your spine flex/bend throughout a range of motion puts it in an unsafe position. This is because there will be a lot of pressure on the discs of the spine due to the lack of bracing from the surrounding core and back muscles.
How do we know the surrounding core and back muscles aren’t activating to control the spine and support the load? If your spine is bending, your core and back muscles aren’t doing their job. If your core muscles are bracing properly, your back muscles should be too, and you will be able to stabilize your spine to contribute to the safety and effectiveness of the lift.
Additionally, having a spine that is flexing throughout the range of motion leads to energy leaks. For example, in the deadlift, you would be pulling the bar up. But if your back starts rounding mid-way through, it would be bringing the bar closer to the ground, undoing what you have already done.
Stability training is not the same as the muscle growth training you do for a more defined midsection. That style of training is done through flexion and extension of the spine. Stabilizing the spine means resisting flexion and extension, so we want to do anti-extension and flexion type exercises.
We want to perform exercises that require ourselves to maintain a neutral spine position, while under load. Think about the plank. If you decided to let go of your brace, your back would cave in (extend).
Think about a back extension. If you were to let go of your brace, your back would round over (flex). This same concept applies to the deadlift.
Performing exercises that resist extension and flexion of the spine is how you properly train core stability. Another thing to consider are anti-rotation exercises.
Consider an exercise like the band pull-out. You attach a band to a pole, grab it in front of you so you are perpendicular to it, then ensure the band has some stretch in it. You might hold the band close to you, then extend your arms to make it more challenging. However, you would not allow your body to rotate or twist. Remember, we are focussing on resisting rotation, not allowing it. Being able to resist rotation is another important aspect of proper spinal stability.
Nobody is saying you can’t do some sit-ups or cable crunches. Those are great and they are optimal for muscle growth. However, if you want to increase core stability to help support your back and increase safety and effectiveness while lifting, stability core work is the way to go!
Those are my thoughts on the importance of core stability while lifting as well as the characteristics of the exercises that help develop core stability.
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