Core Strength vs. Core Coordination - Protecting Our Low Back

Traditionally when individuals talk about core training they are talking about core strength. How long can you hold a plank? How many sit ups can you do? When it comes to injury prevention and recovery  it’s vital to differentiate core strength and core coordination. Because they are not the same thing.

Research has shown that core stabilization relies more on ‘proprioception and timing rather than gross muscular strength (SFMA – Grey Cook).’ In other words, core stability requires more coordination (proper firing of muscles) rather than isolated strength. Injuries happen when the key muscles that protect our spine don’t fire correctly.  A simple truth is:

Most people don’t get hurt from a lack of core strength. Most people get hurt from a lack of core coordination.

Think about it, most low back injuries happen when we’re doing something rather innocuous (bending over to pick something up, pulling up our pants, reaching to catch something that we drop). It's not that out muscles aren't strong enough to lift our pants up (at least I hope not), it's that the muscke didn't activate when we needed them to and all the force goes through our spine.

So the question then becomes how can we improve core coordination for better pain and injury outcomes. The following are a few ways to

1. Training Rotation Patterns

While the science and anatomy regarding the benefit of rolling patterns could have an article of it’s own, suffice it to sat that rolling patterns require us to recuit and coordinate the firing of deeper core musculature. An ability to ‘start’ and ‘stop’ movement at the core prevents forces from being transferred through our spine. The 90/90 roll is a beginning exercise and is much more difficult than it seems...

2. Proprioception/Balance Training

Gray Cook, a leader in movement science and thinking describes core stabilization as being proprioceptively driven. An improved ability to know where our body is in space will increase the proper firing of muscles to protect our spine and extremity joints. Something as simple as adding a balance pad or BOSU ball to your workout can aid in improving core coordination.

3. Full Body

In daily life, our muscles don’t operate independently. Strengthening isolated ‘core’ musculature through sit ups, toes to bars, etc  fails to protect us in real life situations. Full body core exercises require the integration of all muscles of the core to improve firing patterns when it matters most. Exercises like the farmers carry are an excellent core coordination exercise that require proper coordination of the entire body.

Evolve Performance Healthcare combines full body chiropractic and sports therapy with therapeutic fitness programs for long term pain relief and improved functional performance. We're here to help - if you have questions please don't hesistate to reach out!

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