Core Stability & Lower Back Pain
In the areas of health, fitness, strength and conditioning, the “core” is referred to frequently but what and where is it? Wilson et al (2005) defined the core as the lumbopelvic hip complex, consisting of the lumbar spine, pelvis, and hip joints and the active and passive tissues that produce or restrict motion of those segments.
Reeves et al (2007) explained that training the core musculature improves the robustness of the stabilising system, potentially protecting against low back injuries. The prevention of low back pain (LBP), and some limb and joint injuries can be based on the ability of the core muscles to stabilize the vertebral system (Abenhaim et al, 2000).
Any impaired control of the core muscles and / or weakness can predispose individuals to low back injuries, therefore including core training exercises into your program will assist in injury prevention. Exercises such as side bridges, prone holds, and prone back extensions in addition to normal trunk flexion exercises will assist in decreasing the incidence of LBP. Increasing core muscle activation can be achieved by utilising unstable surfaces or devises such as fit balls, chains, ropes and suspension training. An example of this type of training would be push ups with hands on fit ball, compared to push ups on a stable floor. Performing exercises with some degree of instability can result in greater activation of the stabilising muscles, even though it requires a lower loading for similar exercises (Behm et al, 2011).
A key finding from Behms’ research is that for low back health, it is unnecessary to excessively load the vertebrae to attain positive results. Lower loading levels and higher repetitions can provide sufficient stressors for the prevention or rehabilitation of low back issues. The higher volume training with relatively low force will gradually increase muscle fibre recruitment by inducing fatigue of the higher threshold motor units.
Traditional exercises such as the deadlift and back squat create more trunk muscular activation than core stability exercises performed with a fit ball (Landow & Haff, 2012), because increased loads are utilised. Exercises such as squats, deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, power pulls and power cleans offer a greater efficiency of training for enhanced sport performance. This type of training, however, utilising increased loads may be impractical for non-trained or individuals with an existing injury. Variety is the key to success and instability type activities in conjunction with traditional exercises provide a balanced approach to core training. It is important to include core work into your program, so feel free to ask for advice from our professional trainers to ensure you optimise your training and results.
ANU Sport Fitness Services Team