Winter has arrived and for me that means skiing.
Whether you’re also heading for the mountains or getting ready to start another winter activity, it’s important to prepare your body for new challenges ahead to avoid injury.
One of the greatest ways to get ready for a new activity is core stability training.
The term “core strengthening” is used a lot, but many people are unclear about what exactly that means.
While the benefits of core stability have become a common topic, the “how” and “why” of core strengthening seem to be less well known.
Hopefully this can answer a few questions about core exercise and help you to get ready for the season ahead.
What is the “core”?
Your body has a group of small muscles which, when working together, provide stability to your spine.
This essential muscle group is commonly referred to as the “inner core” or “inner unit.”
It is comprised of four deep muscles—multifidus at the back of the unit, transversus abdominus (TA) at the front, pelvic floor muscles at the bottom, and the diaphragm at the top.
Together, these muscles allow the rest of the body to perform challenging tasks, all the while keeping the trunk stable.
How exactly does core strengthening help to avoid injury?
Core strengthening is a great way to begin getting your body conditioned for a new sport.
Many of my patients have come to the clinic with injuries to their back, hips or knees; where quite often, the common cause is core instability.
In trying a different sport, they placed new physical demands on their bodies and their core was not up for the challenge.
As a result, other body parts were recruited to help provide stability with the outcome being an overuse injury.
Such pain could have been easily avoided by first preparing the inner core for the new task.
How do I find my inner core muscles?
Start by lying on your back with bent knees and feet flat on the floor.
Put your index fingers over your hip bones and roll them in and down three centimetres.
Your fingers are now lying over your TA muscle. To activate this muscle try bringing your bellybutton toward your spine and draw your two hip bones together.
If you feel the muscle flattening under your fingers, you will have successfully found your TA muscle. The great thing about the inner core muscles is that by activating one, you activate them all.
Once you are comfortable finding these muscles, you can then begin to challenge the inner unit by changing the position of your arms and legs or by using exercise equipment such as a Bosu ball or foam roller.
Ask your physiotherapist to show you new core stability exercises to prepare yourself for winter activities.