How Does Core Stability Improve Performance?
The core is the center and foundation of your body. It consists of deep muscle groups in the torso, including the abdominals, back, obliques, and pelvic floor. Shoulder, hips, and neck muscles work with core muscles to support and stabilize the spine and pelvis.
What is Core Stability?
Although many use the phrases “core stability” and “core strength” interchangeably, there are key differences. Core stability refers to your ability to maintain your balance without falling over while keeping your posture stable. With a stable core, your core muscles can tighten to resist force or unwanted movements at the lumbar spine.
Core strength enables you to produce forceful movements, like sitting up. Optimum athletic performance requires both stability and strength of core muscles.
Together, a strong, stable core means the torso has the strength, endurance, and neuromuscular control to support and balance the body while producing the energy needed to fuel the movement of the arms and legs.
The torso moves in three planes, forward and backward, rotationally, and side to side. When the core is stable, the body maintains an anatomically healthy alignment. The deep muscles of the core stabilize the joints and allow us to move forcefully on all three planes with less chance of injury to the spine.
Core stability allows us to stand or propel ourselves in different directions, as well as jump, twist, throw, bend, flex, or lift objects with less risk of injury. A strong core protects the spine from excessive load and fuels energy transfer from the torso to the arms and legs. A weak, unstable core leads to an imbalance in the body, the most common cause of injury or pain.
Core stability means the muscles are evenly balanced, each taking their share of the load. One example of how a weak core contributes to injury is lower back pain, a common complaint among athletes and nonathletes. Studies find weak abdominal muscles are often the culprit. When the abdominals are weak, muscles within the back must absorb a more significant load, overstressing those muscles and causing pain.
When the core is stable, you can perform functional movements with your arms and legs while maintaining a healthy posture. Even if the body is not in motion, a stable core helps you stand erect, maintain balance, and initiate movement.
Why is Core Stability Important to Athletes?
Whether you are an amateur player or an elite athlete, you want to optimize your performance and avoid injury. A strong, stable core is essential to achieving performance goals. Without strong, flexible core muscles, your body cannot deliver the power your extremities need to function at their best.
All the movements of your body, including your arms and legs, emanate from the core. From something as basic as your posture to the explosive energy needed to jump and dunk a basketball, the stability of the torso drives functional movements. Weakness in the core means instability in the entire body, increasing the chance of developing an injury or chronic pain.
Whether performing an everyday task or competing in an athletic event, an unstable core may result in poor posture or form, which, in turn, frequently results in injury.
A muscular, stable core helps athletes:
- Perform forceful movements without overloading joints.
- Maintain good posture and overall body mechanics, improving respiratory function and endurance. Improper body mechanics are the most common cause of injury.
- Transfer the energy needed to perform or hold specific movements to the extremities while maintaining balance, coordination, and strength.
- Reduce the risk of falling.
- Generate the power and speed needed to excel.
- Keep the spine in a neutral position during movement, protecting the spine from injury.
- Avoid muscle imbalance, where strong muscles must compensate for weaker muscles, a common cause of injury.
- Provide the foundation needed to keep muscles in the hips, torso, and shoulders working together.
PT Helps Athletes Build Core Stability and Improve Performance
A strong core is much more than well-conditioned abs. Unless all your core muscles are powerful and balanced, you are vulnerable to injury.
Physical therapy is well-known as the “gold standard” for recovery from sports-related or other injuries. But you don’t have to be injured to benefit from working with a physical therapist (PT). By working with a PT to strengthen your core, you can improve your athletic performance and reduce your risk of injury.
Most states do not require a doctor’s referral for physical therapy. Physical therapists are qualified to evaluate, diagnose, and treat most conditions, and many specialize in working with athletes.
A trained PT will help you build a core that addresses muscle balance and strength, ensuring a foundation that protects your spine, optimizes how your core muscles work together, and gives your body the power to fuel explosive movements.
To help you build the strength and stability needed to optimize your performance, your physical therapist will start with a thorough assessment of your medical history, body mechanics, muscle strengths or weaknesses, posture, functional movement, and goals for recovery or improvement. This information enables your PT to design a therapy program to address your needs.
Your physical therapy program will teach you functional exercises to:
- Stabilize and protect the spine
- Correct postural alignment
- Improve neuromuscular control
- Improve musculoskeletal and cardiovascular strength and endurance
- Strengthen and balance the muscles that attach to the spine and pelvis
- Balance core muscles, so none incur an injury from compensating for weak muscles
Your physical therapist may have you use a medicine or stability ball, stability dome, kettlebells, a wobble board, Pilates equipment, or other devices as part of your program. A physical therapist will teach you the proper form to use while performing exercises, how to exercise and use props safely, and ensure you reach your performance goals as quickly as possible.
The expert team at Athletic Physical Therapy offers cutting-edge athletic performance solutions. Learn how our proprietary program, the ARC Progression, expedites recovery and optimizes performance quickly and safely. Contact Athletic Physical Therapy today.