Training Series: “Core” Stability

Welcome back to our training series. In the last couple of weeks, we have focused on mobility, more specifically ankle, hip, and shoulder mobility. This week we are transitioning into stability with a focus on how we train to improve “core” stability. The first thing that we need to discuss in looking at “core” stability is what makes up the “core.” One of the biggest misconceptions about the “core” is that the “core” consists of only our superficial abdominal muscles, particularly the rectus abdominis. The rectus is abdominis is the most superficial of the abdominal muscles and is the muscle that can give us the “washboard” appearance. Though this muscle has its importance mainly as a muscle that assists in flexing or forward bending our torso, it is not a significant muscle when it comes to “core” stability. Though, it can contribute to “core” stability. Our core is primarily made up of our deeper abdominal muscles, particularly our transverse abdominis, and our deep spine muscles, particularly our multifidus, our diaphragm, and pelvic floor. We can think of the “core” like a can. The top of the can would be the diaphragm, the bottom of the can would be the pelvic floor and the sides of the can would be made up of the deep abdominal and spinal musculature.

This makes sense as a pressurized can is much more stable than a can that is not pressurized. An active and well-trained core helps to pressurize the can and as such creates stability for our trunk.

The next thing that we need to discuss is how the “core” functions or works. The “core” works at a subconscious and reflexive level, it is not voluntary. In other words, we do not control when our “core” is turned on or off. Activation of the core occurs without us thinking about when it should be active. This is a good thing as activation of the core should precede our actions most of the time, sometimes the “core” is reactive to stress. This may be most notable when we get pushed and must steady ourselves from a force so that we do not fall over. This is important when it comes to training the “core” as we need to train it to be reactive and at a subconscious level, being mindful to train it consistent with how it works to improve its function. In other words, sit-ups and crunches are not really working our “core” and improving stability. This should make sense if we just think about our core’s function of stability and not mobility. The core should be helping to control and resist excess motion and as such should be trained this way. These types of exercises are strengthening exercises for our superficial abdominals (rectus abdominis) and hip flexors (the muscles that help flex our spine) and of course can be used to improve the aesthetic look of one’s midsection. Which is not necessarily a bad thing and can be beneficial in training someone to be able to pull themselves up from the ground. However, from a chiropractic standpoint, I am not a big fan of sit-ups and crunches as research supports the fact that they displace unnecessary strain to your lower back and can increase your risk of intervertebral disc injuries, which in my opinion outweighs the benefit they may come from these exercises.  

The purpose of our “core” is to provide a solid foundation through good stability for our body, particularly our joints to be able to effectively move around. In fact, poor mobility in regions that we have previously discussed, especially the hips and the shoulders can be directly related to poor stabilization. Therefore, the “core” is so often discussed and involved with training in fitness and rehab. It literally is a cornerstone to good mechanical function of our body and can affect many things in positive and/or negative ways based upon its ability to properly function. For example, poor flexibility of our hip flexors and hamstrings can be a direct correlation to poor “core” function resulting in poor stability. The tension occurring in our hip flexors and hamstrings can be a protective mechanism to create artificial stability by tightening up these muscles to compensate for the poor function of our proper stabilizers. The tension in the hamstrings and hip flexors that can be created to compensate for poor “core” function can result in a reduction of hip mobility and as a result we can displace more strain to our lower back, which is already compromised as a result of poor “core” function and stability. This series of events can significantly increase your risk of lower back pain and injury. A decrease of hip mobility also displaces more strain on our knees, which can result in knee pain and injury. This example demonstrates how poor “core” stability can transfer into pain and injury in other regions of the body. Therefore, good “core” function is extremely important and one of the most foundational requirements for proper function and good health of our musculoskeletal system. Strengthening around a weak foundation related to poor “core” function and stability is like building a house on a poor foundation. In other words, we should never stack strength and power on top of a dysfunctional “core”.

Good “core” stability is also necessary in activities that require good transfer of lower body strength and power to our upper body as this happens through an effective “core”. These activities include throwing (baseball, softball, football) and swinging (golf, baseball, softball, tennis, lacrosse). A functional “core” is also very important in running, cycling and climbing as a significant amount of strength and power for these activities comes from our lower body (muscles associated with the hip, knee, and ankle), which can effectively do its job when working off of a stable base.   

If it is determined that stabilization is a priority of our training program as determined through our client assessment, including the Functional Movement Screen and offered as a part of our No Stress Fitness Strategy Session, here are some of our favorite techniques to help improve and maintain “core” stabilization.

Just as we have previously discussed during our previous posts on training mobility, we will start from the ground and work our way up to train and activate the “core”. The reason for this is that the ground is our most stable environment and as such we can use it to reduce the stabilization demand with training and gradually work our way to more challenging positions as our ability to properly activate our stability system improves. This is seen from birth and infancy as we gradually go from being on the ground to rolling, crawling, kneeling, sitting, squatting, and eventually standing with each developmental progression requiring a greater stabilization requirement, which continues to occur with the maturation of our nervous system to our environment and its ability to properly control our stability system.

Let’s review some of our favorite stabilization-based exercises from the ground or lying position:

Deadbug w/ Sandbag

Deadbug w/ Kettlebells

Active Straight Leg Raise

Leg Lower

Leg lower w/ Band

Upper Rolling

Lower Rolling

Get Up to Elbow

Get Up to Post

From the ground we will next go to the quadruped and/or suspended position:

Plank Compass

Plank w/ Leg Lift

Ball Roll Outs

Side Plank

Side Plank w/ Sandbag Hold


Birddog with Leverbell


Bear Crawls

From quadruped we will next go into kneeling and/or our stacked position:

Half Kneeling Set Up & Hold

Half Kneeling Set up with Rotation

Tall Kneel Around The World w/ Sandbag

Tall Kneel Pressout

Half Kneeling Cable ARP

Half Kneeling Cable Chop

To increase the challenge of any of the half kneeling exercises, narrow your base of support by bringing your front foot more inline with your down knee, the closer you get to being inline the more significant the challenge to your core to stabilize.

From kneeling we will go into our final position of standing:

Single Leg Stance w/ Core Activation

Single leg Stance w/ Rotation

Cable Anti Rotation Press with Walkout

Single Arm Kettlebell Racked Carry

Suitcase Carry

We hope that this discussion and the videos presented helped to provide you with some insight into how we train stabilization here at ChiroFitt and the importance of good foundational stability to proper mechanical function of our body. Attempting to train for strength or power without a good stable base to work from is a great way to create compensation and overuse increasing one’s risk of injury.

At ChiroFitt, our training programs are designed specifically for you and your needs, helping you to reach your goals in the safest and most effective ways possible. If this sounds like something that you would be interested in learning more about, our No Stress Fitness Strategy Session makes this simple for you to do. Does living a longer, heathier, more vibrant, and active life sound like something that you would be interested in? We are ready to show you how to make that happen. Next week will move from “core” stability to stability of our scapula (shoulder blade) which is very important to proper shoulder function.  

Till Next Time…

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