What is the core, how do we train it, and how does it prevent lower back pain? Approximately 80% of the American population suffers from back pain at some point in their life and roughly 25% of them are in pain at any given time. Often times, people may bend over to pick up something and suddenly their back “goes out”. Well, is the pain caused from that one incident or from constant poor posture, repeated flexion/extension cycles (i.e. crunches or doing hyperextension type excercises), lateral flexion, or rotational exercises done in the gym? Logically, it is the latter. Our core’s true function is for stability and not mobility. The core musculature functions differently than our limbs in that the core muscles co-contract to stiffen the torso in the presence of change. Therefore, we should train in this matter because repeated flexion causes repeated bending of the discs which increases the likelihood of injury (1).
The core musculature consists of the muscles of the abdominal wall, lumbar spine, back extensors, quadratus lumborum, as well as the latissimus dorsi, psoas, and glutes.
Dr. Stuart McGill is arguably the world’s leading back researcher (specifically a spine biomechanist) and if there is one place to find the most important information on the back it would be to search his research and his books. His list of things that should be avoided would be …
*Lower Back Stretching -it decreases back stability and stresses the discs of the back
*No crunches – they stress the discs and do not activate the core the way they should be (what benefit does lying on a floor and flexing the spine have..none)
*Drawing-in – this technique does not stabilize the spine (bracing your stomach is the way to go)(2)
*Avoid flexing/extending spine in the morning – lying all night long allows extra fluid in the discs to accumulate which increases the changes of disc rupturing. Loading the spine up first thing in the morning might not be the best choice for the early morning gym goers.
These are exercises for the core that we should be doing..
Tony Gentilcore demonstrating “Stirring the Pot”. *Keep the hips through low back level and without any movement (if this too difficult then holding a plank on a ball would suffice)
Keep chest up, shoulder packed back and down (good posture)
this is a 1-Arm DB Walk that is great for Resisting Lateral Flexion of the spine. This is a progression from a simple 1-Arm DB Hold and even a side plank would be a great place to start.
At Endeavor we call this Tall-Kneeling Belly Press. It is an Anti-Rotational core exercise. It is more difficult than you may think so keep it a light weight with perfect form. Also, make sure that you get your hips all the way through by firing your glutes the entire time.
1. Callaghan JP and McGill SM. Intervertebral disc herniation: Studies on a porcine model exposed to highly repetitive flexion/extension motion with compressive force. Clin Biomech. 16: 28–37, 2001.
2. Potvin JR and Brown SHM. An equation to calculate individual muscle contributions to joint stability. J Biomech 38: 973–980, 2005.
Categories: Core Training