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Written by Alyssa Juma

Core stability and core strength are two terms that are often used interchangeably when talking about traditional weightlifting. In reality, they are two very distinct concepts. Take a deep dive into understanding the functions of your core in this blog post.

What is our “Core”?

The muscles that make up our “core” are a commonly disputed subject across the fitness industry. Traditionally, our core muscles were thought to include only our abdominal muscles: transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, and internal and external obliques. However, over time, it has become widely accepted that our core muscles are actually all-encompassing. Our core spans to include all the muscles in the central part of our body that allow us to create movement, support, and stability in our trunk. This includes the muscles of our pelvis, lower back, hips and stomach.

anatomy of core muscles

The muscles of the core are split into 2 categories: the deep core muscles and the superficial core muscles. The deep core muscles are the muscles of the core that are located under the larger, more superficial muscles. These muscles are constantly active and work to stabilize and protect the spine. The muscles that make up our deep core muscles are the diaphragm, pelvic floor, transverse abdominis, and multifidus muscles. Together, these muscles act as a canister to create and regulate pressure within the abdominal cavity. These muscles help to stabilize the spine and pelvis, support functional movements (e.g., bracing for lifting, bending, etc.) and much more.

The superficial core muscles are the muscles that lay just under our skin and the main movers of the trunk in all directions. These muscles include the rectus abdominis (commonly known as the “six-pack” muscle), the internal and external obliques, the posterior spinal muscles, and even the gluteus muscles and latissimus dorsi which help to create movement rotation and extension of the trunk respectively.

What is the Difference between Core Strength and Core Stability

Core strength is the ability of our major abdominal muscles to create force and produce movement through the spine. Our spine can move through all 3 planes of motion. This means that our spine can create flexion and extension in the sagittal plane, rotation through the transverse plane, and lateral flexion through the frontal plane. The strength of our abdominal muscles is important as they allow us to perform important everyday movements such as getting out of bed, lifting heavy items off the floor, and even climbing stairs.

Core stability on the other hand, is an unconscious, autonomic nervous system action. The term stability refers to the ability to resist movement or force. When muscles contract, they produce force and stiffness. This stiffness that is produced when the muscles of the core contract is what we commonly refer to as core stability. This ability to create stiffness along the spine is important because it allows the spine to withstand force. You can think of the spine as a flexible rod that when stiffened, can bear load.

definition of core stability

So then, why does the spine need to be stable and withstand force? The human body can be thought of as a series of systems that are linked together. In order to generate force and power in one of these systems, the body needs to create stiffness or stability in the proximal systems. For example, during walking, the pelvis and spine need to be stable otherwise the hip would fall as the leg swings forward to take a step. In this way, all movements, including walking, running, squatting and moving, require stiffness and stability to allow for the appropriate coordination of muscles to create functional movement.

Our core is constantly working in everyday life to stabilize the trunk and ensure the maintenance of proper posture in order to reduce the load on the spine and decrease the risk of injury. If our core is unable to stabilize our spine, our distal systems will be unable to produce safe and powerful movement, which can lead to injury and decreased performance.

How Can We Improve Core Strength?

Core strength refers to exercises that directly target the major muscles that makeup one’s core: rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, and posterior spinal muscles. Traditional core strengthening exercises can be seen in a variety of fitness settings. These exercises help to create strength through the movements of the spine by producing force through the active ranges of these muscles and include:

  • Crunches
  • Sit-ups
  • Supermans/Back hyperextensions
  • Leg raises
  • Russian twists

How Do We Improve Core Stabilization?

Core stability exercises resist motion through the spine and attempt to engage the entirety of the core muscles as a group in reaction to the movements being conducted. Some examples of exercises that can help improve your core’s ability to withstand outside forces include:

  • Bird dogs
  • Glute marches
  • Deadbugs
  • Side plank with rotation
  • Palloff Press

These exercises are often referred to as functional core exercises and can have a direct impact on your lifting performance, both in the gym and in everyday life.

How to Address Your Core Instability?

Are you ready to improve your core strength and stability? Kin Lab is your partner in achieving your goals. Our expert Kinesiologists are here to guide you to improve your core strength and stability with the power of kinesiology. Through 1-on-1 sessions through our Performance and Rehab program, you can work with a kinesiologist to achieve your goals and help improve your everyday functional abilities. Don’t wait any longer to enhance your well-being. Contact us now to discover the incredible potential of kinesiology and to improve your core health!



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