Core Stability or Strength: How Are They Different?
Core stability and strength are often used interchangeably; however, these two terms are quite different. To understand the difference, it helps to understand the definition of the core.
What Is Your Core?
Your core is a series of muscles that support your spine, including your back, side, abdominal, pelvic and buttock muscles. These muscles link the upper body to the lower body. According to Harvard Health, the muscles in your core must be both strong and flexible. Core muscles are not movement or direction dependent. This means they are continually being used whether or not you are moving. The core acts as a stabilizer of the spine and protects it and the surrounding musculature from injury.
The following four muscle groups make up the core –
- Transversus Abdominis – This group of muscles are the deepest muscles that include the oblique abdominals and the rectus abdominis. These muscles are what create the 6-pack on an athlete and act as a corset to provide stability. The muscles connect to the lumbar spine and wrap around each side of the body and join in the front of the abdomen. When the transversus abdominis are contracted, the pressure in the abdomen increases and the spine is stabilized.
- Multifidus – The multifidus is a series of deep back muscles located on each side of the spine. These muscles connect to each individual vertebra. Although the muscles are small, they perform a very important task. They take pressure off the spinal discs to help prevent injury and keep the spine straight.
- Diaphragm – The diaphragm provides support for the upper portion of the core. This muscle is used for breathing. When the transversus abdominis muscles are contracted, the diaphragm tightens to stabilize the spine and maintain pressure in the abdominal region.
- Pelvic Floor – The pelvic floor muscles act as a sling that runs from the tip of the tailbone to the front of the pelvis. These muscles stabilize the lower back and pelvic area of the body. The pelvic floor muscles work in conjunction with the other muscles in the core to help protect your back from injury.
Stability is the ability to resist unwanted movement to help protect the spine. Stability exercises involve resisting motion in the spine by activating the abdominal musculature.
There are five components of stability, including function, strength, endurance, motor control and flexibility. Without function and motor control, the remaining three components are useless, no matter your strength or endurance levels.
Having strong spinal stability protects against injuries, helps the body move more fluidly and helps decrease recovery times. Fixing your posture by increasing the stability in your core can help relieve a variety of issues, such as shoulder problems, headaches, knee problems, hip problems and more. As you can see, stability is vital.
Strength is the power available to perform a movement. Strength exercises involve moving the spine while working the abdominal musculature.
Exercises To Improve Stability and Strength
Training exercises help improve both stability and strength. For these exercises to be beneficial you must activate the muscles deep within the core. In the beginning, you must concentrate and become aware of each muscle group as it contracts.
There are many wonderful exercises that help with stability and strength. Two exercise methods that help build stability while strengthening the core are Pilates and Yoga. Yoga emphasizes balance, relaxation, proper breathing, strength and flexibility. It helps manage the workload on your hips, ankles and knees through proper stretching. Pilates emphasizes concentration, control, breath and strength. With this type of exercise, you will strengthen your core and improve the balance in your legs, hips and back.
In addition to Yoga and Pilates, you can strengthen and stabilize your core by performing simple exercises, including squats, lunges, planks, bridges, deadlifts and sit ups. No matter the type of exercise you choose to strengthen and stabilize your core, you must maintain proper form and posture during the exercises.
The muscles in your core are continually activated. You will use these muscles doing everyday tasks, such as putting on your shoes, sitting in a chair, lifting, standing and twisting. As you begin to strengthen your core muscles, your posture will improve and you will experience fewer aches and pains.
Guest Post – Dr. Vishal Verma specializes in functional chiropractic services for pain management and active restoration of the body. He focuses on treating root causes using gentle chiropractic, physical therapy, cold laser therapy, and rehabilitation for fast effective results. Dr. Verma treats back, neck, spine and joint pain, sciatica, sports injuries, fibromyalgia, and various other chronic and acute pain conditions at Rose Wellness Center in Northern Virginia.