There are many opinions on this subject, put simply it can be described as the activation of deep intrinsic muscles that attach directly to the spine providing it with immediate stability in turn preventing unwanted movement of the vertebrae.
Known as 'local' muscles due to their proximity to the spine 'the core
stability' muscles are switched on continuously without any conscious
thought and are postural in nature (work for long periods without
fatigue). They provide an effective foundation for the larger more
superficial muscles (also known as 'global') muscles to produce an
effective force & to pull from when you move.
Imagine having a
house with no foundations or a tent with no guide ropes, eventually (not
immediately) it will crumble then fail, this is the inevitable outcome
of being unable to recruit your core. The superficial 'global'
mobilising muscles including the hamstrings, hip flexors, lats and
glutes are easy to see which is why people tend to focus on over
It is the lesser known muscles we ignore, the two main core stabilizers listed below
Transverse Abdominus (TVA)
Located at the front of the body, surrounds
the trunk like clingfilm pulling the thoroco-lumbar & dorsal fascia
taut like a sail to increase pressure & stability around the trunk
A pair of muscles which scale the entire spine helping
to keep it nice & tall, preventing rounding of the back &
helping to resist the lure of gravity. These Muscles are like two inner
tubes running vertically up the spine, upon contraction they inflate
reducing any remaining slack with the TVA 'corset'
TVA & Multifidus are recruited unconsciously within healthy subjects prior to the movement of the upper or lower limbs, in most cases 130 Milli seconds before you even think about producing movement. In contrast 67% of Back pain sufferers are unable to unconsciously pre-activate the TVA and
Multifidi in turn exposing their spines to huge rotational excessive forces and placing an extra 47% more load through the 5th Lumbar vertebrae
If we are unable to activate
these core muscles then we use the larger global muscles to not only
move our bodies, but also stabilize the spine.
The big muscles tire
out through accumulation of lactic acid/waste build up causing constant
pain cycles (generally towards the latter part of the day as they
You will start to suffer injuries to muscle tissue and joints including lower back, hip and knees.
The core muscles are arguably the most important yet because we cannot
see them it is difficult to understand what must be done to recruit
If you suffer from any chronic long term
issues such as hip, knee, ankle or lower back pain this is an area
you need to improve in- you would have to focus in the short term on developing mobility through the spine, flexibility & fascial release in combination with core activation drills using specialized equipment such as a Pressure Biofeedback Unit.
I get frustrated as a clinician when I
see post-natal patients or back pain sufferers conducting advanced
movements like planks and sit ups far to soon (some poor boot camps),
leading to recruitment of the wrong muscles causing eventual injury.
If you have taken the time to read this post please take time to comment and like,
Please share like the main page with your friends on all of the available platforms