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A Brief Guide to Core Stability

Before you can commence any of these core stability exercises you need to be able to activate the correct muscles. The core stability exercises aim to activate Transverse Abdominus (a deep stomach muscle) and Multifidus (muscle running deep up the side of spine). Performing these exercises without activating these muscles is unlikely to improve your condition.

The common mistake when performing core stability exercises is to work the wrong muscles, such as Rectus Abdominus (your six pack). You should infact try to relax this muscle when performing core exercises. Why?

Well, Rectus Abdominus is a mobiliser muscle not a core stability muscle, this means it gives little support to your spine and is therefore unlikely to have an improvement in your condition.

Working Transverse Abdominus and Multifidus is beneficial as they are core muscles close to the spine. There sole responsibility is to support the spine in a good position. They have a corset effect on the spine, they support it from in front and behind and therefore a good spinal position is achieved. After an episode of back pain, injury or prolonged poor posture these muscles forget to switch on, this gives less support to the spine and increases the risk of back pain. Retraining these muscles to switch on and stay on will reduce any back pain.

So how do you switch them on?

Your aiming to work the muscle that stops you going for a wee (Phil tells me this isn’t a good example for men) / the muscle that pulls your lower tummy in when your too fat for your pants.

You can feel the muscle contract deep just inside your hip bone. Make sure this muscle turns on while you perform all the exercises. You can keep your fingers on this muscle while you perform each exercise to ensure it stays on.

Do not let it switch off during the second part of each exercise (it will try to switch off but really concentrate and keep it on). If you are unable to keep it on then you need to keep practising. Do not progress to the next level unless you can keep this muscle on throughout the exercise.

To do these exercises correctly is very difficult and can take a week of practice just to activate the core muscles correctly. Progress through each level at your own pace. Only increase the level once you are sure you can perform the exercises without cheating.

The great thing about core muscles is once you have learned to switch them on and you can keep them on during the core exercises you can give them a work out doing anything. E.g. while your walking, sat in the car, on the cross trainer and turning them on during workouts at gym - I always turn them on when I am working my arms for example.

What have stomach muscles got to do with my back?

Contracting this deep stomach muscle (Transverse Abdominus) automatically contracts the postural back muscle (Multifidus) and retrains them if they have become weak.

When is the best time to perform core exercises?

The core exercises can be done anytime of day. Although the morning would be a good time to do them as you can fire up your core before you increase your activity.

Who can benefit from these exercises?

Men often perceive these exercises as something only girls should do because they look ‘easy and girly’. This is a mistake and probably why there are a lot of men suffering from back pain. Just because you have six pack does not mean you have a good core.

Other factors to consider

  • To help your back pain you must ensure you have a good posture
  • A poor posture can cause your core muscles to become lazy and your movement muscles to take on the work - movement muscles don’t appreciate this and give you pain as a warning
  • If you think you have a poor posture and want to correct it seek advice from a physiotherapist

If you have any questions, please use the comment form below or post a thread on the forums.

— Phil @ 5:08 pm, February 11, 2007


  1. Well done Phil, good article

    Comment by Mark — February 23, 2007 @ 5:25 pm

  2. good artical and has given a good idea about coremuscles and basic

    Comment by priya — April 9, 2009 @ 5:23 am

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