Strength Vs Stability - How much do you know about the core muscles?

February 26, 2016

We've all been to the gym and seen those big guys pumping up their guns in front of the mirror as though their life depended on it. This is all well and good if you want rippling muscles to show off at the beach, but if you want a healthy and balanced body you need to start with stability. 

Generally when people begin lifting weights at the gym they bypass stability and jump straight to strength. If you want to be strong and muscly then this makes sense. But this lack of stability is what leads to many injuries. Without stability the body tightens up to protect joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles. You can stretch and strengthen til the cows come home but without activating and strengthening the stabilising muscles you will always be prone to injury.

A good example of this is the core. Without core strength the muscles of the pelvis have to tighten up to provide pelvic stability. These muscles can then tighten up limiting pelvic movement. You will then feel tightness in your hamstrings and lower back, maybe even your hip flexors. Instinct says to stretch the muscles out which can provide some relief to the tightness but it just keeps coming back. The reason for this is that the core is still weak and therefore the pelvis is unstable.

So stop doing your sit-ups and start doing some core activation exercises. The benefits of this will reduce the likelihood of lower back pain, hip problems, knee injuries and much more.





Core activation - Let's start at the start. If you can't activate your core without moving or without weights then you really shouldn't be adding extra load or weight until you can first activate it.

First the anatomy - You really need to understand the core muscles if you are going to activate them. So scrub up on your latin and lets go....



Transversus Abdominis (TVA) - This muscle is basically like a corset that wraps around from one side of the spine, all the way around the front and then attaches to the other side of the spine. It lives underneath the Rectus Abdominis (six pack) and oblique muscles.


How to find and activate them?

Lie on your back with your knees bent. Tuck your fingers around your hip bones and press in gently but deep. Try to pull in your belly button but only with around a quarter of your strength. You should feel the contraction deep and not on the top surface which will be your abdominals.


Multifidus - These muscles basically stabilise the spine and are involved in rotational movement of the spine. They stop the vertebrae from slipping forward and keep them aligned. They traverse the whole spine from the lumbar spine right up into the neck (cervical).
There is a lot of controversy as to how to activate and strengthen multifidus.
The hardest part with these muscles is actually activating them. Here are a few different ways you can try:

  • Lie down on your back with your spine in neutral and your knees bent. Try to imagine you are pulling the back of your pelvis together. This will help to activate the lower multifidus.


  • Slow spinal roll downs and then coming up vertebrae by vertebrae bringing your head up last.  Repeat 5-10 times. Any lower back pain then stop immediately.