Core exercises and, more to the point, core strength, is a topic for debate amongst all performance, rehabilitation and health professions. Core strength has long been heralded as a key component in reducing back pain, improving movement capabilities and maximising athletic performance. However, it can be easy to become narrowly focused when discussing ‘core strength’ and many times we forget its actual purpose. In this article we explore the true meaning and recommend some simple exercises to develop your core strength.
Core strength, as it is defined by the Collins Dictionary, is “the strength of the underlying muscles of the torso, which help determine posture.” Therefore, core strength is our ability to maintain torso or spinal alignment and maintain good posture. However, posture isn’t static, posture changes throughout the day with every movement we make. This means that posture isn’t only controlled by the musculature of the spine and torso, but by any muscles that control any body movements. This more wholistic view on core strength provides a basis for understanding pain response, movement capacity and athletic performance.
Now we have an understanding on what defines core strength, it is much easier to identify exercises which best suit these parameters. When prescribing core exercise it’s important to include as many joints into the movement as can be correctly controlled. Below we have listed our top 3 favourite core exercises, all of which can be progressed and regressed to suit your individual capabilities.
1. THE BIRDDOG
The birddog incorporates both upper and lower limbs whilst placing rotational stresses on the spine. This exercise causes rotational forces at the torso, hip and shoulder which require both superficial and deep muscular involvement to control. The focus of the movement is to extend the hip and flex the shoulder concurrently whilst preventing any movement along the spine. Watch the video below to get you started.
2. THE DEADLIFT
The deadlift, or hip hinge, is arguably the most functional pattern of everyday living. Picking something up off the floor, getting in and out of a chair, sitting on the toilet, we complete this pattern many times on a daily basis. The deadlift requires adequate mobility and strength at all three major joints of the lower body, along with the individual needing good proprioception and strength of the upper body. Watch the video below to get you started.
3. FARMER'S CARRY
The farmers carry, or any derivatives of this exercise, holds the final spot on our list. The farmers carry requires a large degree of strength and proprioception as this movement is largely unilateral, or single legged. It requires the individual to walk whilst holding heavy objects and maintain pelvis, spine and shoulder alignment. This exercise stresses the spine on all planes and can be regressed or progressed easily with lighter or heavier weights. Watch the video below to get you started.