What is Core Stability?
Core stability should not be confused with ripped abs or a 6 pack. Core stability actually refers to keeping our bodies stable and balanced, allowing us to perform every day tasks and movements without harming our spine or its surrounding muscles and tissue. Therefore it includes much more than the muscles in the abdomen and actually involves the spine, the muscles of the stomach, back and hips and the nerves of the core working in harmony.
Why is Core Stability Important?
The core is involved in nearly every movement the human body makes from vacuuming the carpet, making the bed, gardening, lifting heavy objects right down to the simple act of walking. For someone involved in sport and exercise its even more important as the core will optimise performance. It will improve your golf swing, help you strike a tennis ball harder, kick and punch faster and run for longer. It is a fact that most sports and physical activities depend on a strong core.
What a strong Core will do for you.
1. PREVENT AND/OR REDUCE BACK PAIN
Back pain is one of the biggest causes of work absence, accounting to more than 12 million days lost every year in the UK. It can also be one of the most painful and mentally challenging conditions a person can experience. Strong abdominal muscles will mean less strain on your back muscles. Strong stomach and back muscles will effectively support your spine, protecting your spine and spinal cord from injury.
2. REDUCE THE RISK OF INJURY TO OTHER BODY PARTS
Everything stems from your core. A weak core can mean excessive strain on other muscle groups. If your hip muscles are in poor condition then this could cause pain in the knees. Poor back and stomach muscles could cause pressure on the nerves resulting in the condition sciatica, which could manifest in pain going down the back of the leg all the way down to the foot. Sports people are not the only people who are susceptible to these problems. Sitting at a desk for hours looking at a computer or lifting shopping out of the back of a car could result in an increase risk of injury. By developing a strong core you will lessen this risk.
3. IMPROVE ATHLETIC PERFORMANCEA strong core will help you transfer power and energy to your body’s extremities. You may have strong arms and legs but they are pretty useless if you cannot transfer power to them. When you bend or rotate your core with force, this will increase the speed and power to the hands and feet. You will be able to hold positions for long periods, without fatigue. This can only be achieved with ‘strong core stability’. It is a fact that core strength is beneficial to almost any sport.
4. HELP PERFORM EVERYDAY ACTIVITIES
During a normal day you will engage your core many times from pushing a supermarket trolley, carry a child to bed to strenuous activities such as laying a garden patio. It is doing these everyday activities that injuries are more likely to occur because we do them unconsciously, with no thought of the consequences of what might happen if we lift or twist incorrectly. Good core stability will give you the strength to carry out these movements and even enhance the range of movement, significantly reducing the risk of injury.
5. IMPROVE YOUR BALANCE
As we age our balance declines and falling over is one of the main causes of injury in those over the age of 65. Around a third of people over 65 and over half of people over the age of 80 will fall at least once a year. Core stability and balance go hand in hand.
If we can perform everyday activities without pain or injury and without the fear of falling you will feel better in yourself. When your body is working in harmony so does your mind.
7. TONED ABS
Toned abs is something quite a few people aspire to or wish they had. By focusing on your core by practicing specifically designed exercises your abs will develop naturally.
8 RESPIRATORY FUNCTION
It has been suggested that a good core can improve breathing. Because your frame will automatically remain more upright, pressure on your spine is reduced and this will allow you to breath more deeply. A strong core equals good posture and good posture equals improved respiratory function.
How Do You Improve Your Core?
There are many exercises designed to strengthen your core and you do not need exercise equipment to do so. However what fitness equipment specifically designed to strength the core achieves is faster and more focused results. It’s also important that the equipment does this safely. Below are a few suggestions of equipment that will do just that.
These come in all shapes and sizes. They have a circular platform with an uneven concave base, which can vary in depth. You stand on the platform and attempt to balance and the greater the depth of the base the more the platform will move.
They are excellent for rehabilitating sport injuries and used in many physiotherapy departments. A study in 2011 found that wobble board training three times a week significantly reduced the risk of falling in the elderly population. Most people will find a wobble board to suit them. Three wobble boards have taken the idea one step further.
The first is the Bosu Balance Board.
This is a wobble board with a base you can inflate to different pressures depending on your ability. It can also be flipped upside down so you can then balance on the soft base itself. It’s basically two balance trainers in one.
The second one is the Nohrd Wobble Board that you can add water to the inside of the base. The water splashes from side to side increasing its instability and in turn the difficulty. So it may not be for the beginner. The other is the ICAROS Cloud. However this is so different from any other wobble board that we have given it its own segment in this section.
Also know under a number of different names such as balance ball, stability ball and therapy ball to name a few. They are heavy duty, inflatable balls that vary in diameter from 45cm - 75cm and you choose the size according to your height. They can be used in a variety of ways to improve strength, balance and of course your core.
Life Fitness G7 and Swiss Ball:
If money is not a problem then owning a Life Fitness G7 Dual Adjustable Pulley and using it with the Swiss Ball that is included with the G7 will open a Pandora’s box of core exercises only limited by your imagination.
ICAROS Cloud and ICAROS Cloud 360:
The ICAROS Cloud and its smaller brother the ICAROS Cloud 360 are the ultimate wobble boards. They are much larger than any other wobble board on the market and incorporate a digital interface for a Virtual Reality experiences with a Pico VR headset. Or download the ICAROS App to your tablet or Smartphone and you can do a multitude of core exercises whilst surfing the pacific, skiing through slalom gates or shooting down alien ships. There are also scientific designed games specifically for the core.
The ICAROS Cloud is large enough for a number of people to climb on and use at the same time. For a real fun workout why not link the visuals to a large TV screen and then the whole family can work their cores as a team.
ICAROS Home Flying Machine:
The ICAROS Home ‘Flying Machine’ is the ultimate core exerciser and is great fun. As with the ICAROS Cloud it is digitally interfaced for use with VR headsets or the ICAROS app that provides exergames, exciting adventures and mind challenging experiences downloaded to your tablet or Smartphone. The ICAROS works by moving your body weight around a central pivot point. As you do so the ICAROS will tilt forward and backward and roll from side to side, controlling your in-game movements.
It will improve reflexes, balance and co-ordination as well as an outstanding core workout. Short and long leverage plank, side plank and some other classic core exercises like the ‘bird dog’ can be performed with several variation possibilities. has also been found as an excellent rehabilitation tool to help stroke victims increase their balance and mobility through improved core strength. Scientific papers available on request.
These are just a small example of some of the better core improving fitness products. There are many more to choose from but when doing so always keep in mind the safety aspect of the exercise they are promoting. Some products may require a reasonably strong core to begin with.
Remember your core is your entire support system and one of the most important areas of your body and you need to build enough core strength before you can build strength anywhere else.