This is one of our favourite terms in the Sports Therapy world as it is discussed so often. A 'buzz' term if you like, but so often misunderstood.
Core stability is the ability to utilise the muscles that are designed to stabilise the body, and when talking about core stability, the spine in particular. The dictionary defines ‘core’ as “the part of something that it is central to its existence or character”. So in our bodies these are not the superficial visible muscles, but deep muscles within the body.
The second part of the term is ‘stability’. Roughly speaking, muscles can be classed into two groups 'mobilisers' and 'stabilisers'; Some muscles are designed to mobilise, or create movement of joints, whilst others are designed to stabilise the joint.
There are muscles within the body, such as the gluteus muscles or rotator cuff muscles, which have a dual function and provide elements of both.
The role and function of mobiliser muscles are perhaps easier to understand. The bicep is a mobilising muscle as it flexes the elbow joint. The bicep muscle contracts and shortens and pulls our elbow into flexion bringing our hand towards the chest. Therefore, a common way of strengthening this muscle is performing bicep curls.
Stabiliser muscles, however, have a completely opposite role. This muscle group want to prevent movement of a joint and provide stability. In order to strengthen these muscles, we are required to do the opposite and NOT move the joint.
This is where we believe core stability is misunderstood. When hearing the term ‘core stability’, often people believe they can strengthen their own core stability by strengthening the stomach muscles, perhaps by doing lots of sit ups. Performing a sit up is not an exercise for core stability. The sit up is an exercise that flexes the spine and therefore works the mobilising muscles that creates flexion of the spine, i.e. the rectus abdominus (six pack muscle).