Strengthening Versus Stabilization

Core Strengthening/Stabilization: What am I doing?
Core strengthening is a vital part of spine recovery and spine maintenance.  Many times, when I work with patients regarding therapy, I emphasis the importance of the core musculature.  Patients often get excited about being able to become an active participant in therapy and taking control and taking control of their symptoms.  Unfortunately, that excitement leads to disappointment once the strengthening exercises are revealed.
Many times, I hear patients say my initial core strengthening exercises are considered “easy” or “not hard enough”, or they will ask “what else”.  I then go into my long explanation of “what we are really trying to achieve with core strengthening”.  This explanation begins with what core strength is.
Strength is defined as a muscle that has the ability exert or withstand a force.  Regarding the spine, strength is the active control of the spine stability which is achieved through the control of the forces in surrounding muscles. 
Wow, what a mouth full!!! 
When the spine is unstable, the musculature does not have the ability to apply enough force to stabilize the spine during normal movements.  Conversely, a stable spine has core musculature that can support the spine during normal activity. 
This helps us conclude, we perform core strengthening to achieve core stabilization. 
So why are patients not excited about the core strengthening/stabilization exercises?  The muscles can be categorized as local systems or global systems.  The local muscles is where most strengthen protocols begin.  These muscles are deep, specifically weakened, endurance based and require 30-40% maximum contraction.  In other words, they take very little movements to activate them and they must be performed over a period of time to improve endurance……BORING!!!
The muscles targeted early are the transverse abdominal and the multifidus.  Stabilization begins with these muscles.  Movements are basic and simple.  Patients want to move, they want to sweet! 
Unfortunately, many patients are unimpressed with introduction of these exercises.  The spine must be able to maintain rigidity during static positioning and during dynamic activities and local muscle are the foundation for spinal rigidity. 
Global muscles are the opposite of local muscles.  Global muscle are fast twitch, superficial and used for power, and involve over 40% of maximal voluntary contraction.  These muscles involve big movements and are typically the exercises patients look forward to.  They are functional exercises that and make the patient sweet!
Unfortunately for the patient functional (global muscles) exercises need to be implemented after foundation (local muscles).   So as a patient just remember FOUNDATION BEFORE FUNCTION!!!!
For additional strengthening exercises for the local muscle groups check out our exercises page here!
If you would like additional more advanced information regarding please check out our more advance breakdown of core and stabilization exercises located here!!!
Core Strength: Stabilization the Confusion
Strength and conditioning journal April 2007
Mark D. Faries and Mike greenwood
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