You wouldn’t build a house without a foundation. Your core is your body’s foundation, so don’t neglect it. Not only is your core essential for enhancing performance but also for injury prevention and the rehabilitation of injuries. Your core works as a corset to offer stability and protection to the spine and extremities. All movements are generated from the core. A weak core can lead to excessive spinal and hip instability increasing the risk of spinal injuries and also injuries to the lower extremities in particular.
It is important to realise that there are two types of core muscles; global and local. Global muscles are the big torque producing muscles such as your abdominals and obliques. Local muscles such as lumbar multifidus, quadratus lumborum and transverses abdominis provide segmental stability/protection and movement.
Traditionally rehabilitation would have been focused on strengthening the global muscles by doing sit-up and crunches etc, leaving the local muscles weak. Now however, studies show both sets of muscles need to be working efficiently in order to have a healthy, strong and stable back. Not only is strength important but equally as important is muscle activation and endurance, which comes with the correct functional training.
Local core muscles are postural muscles and therefore respond well to training in a neutral spine position e.g. the plank exercise. A sit-up type exercise causes lumbar flexion which puts excess stress on the lumbar spine therefore increasing the risk of injuries such as disc herniation. Recommended and safe exercises are; the plank, side plank, supine bridge, clam shell exercises.
Exercises can be progressed once a basic level of strength and motor pattern has been achieved. Core exercises can be made more functional and sport specific by introducing a swiss ball, unstable surface or movement of the extremities to replicate movement patterns and increase strength throughout movement. It is very important to train to the appropriate level in order to prevent injury and re-injury.