Exercises That Build Real Core Stability

Mar 04, 2020

I’m sure you often hear people use the phrases core stability and core strength, but are you clear on what they actually mean and how they differ from one another? In this tutorial I discuss stabilising and strengthening muscles and how to make sure you’re doing the right exercises to get the right results.

 What is the difference between core strength and core stability?

 Core strength is the ability to hold a position or posture for a period of time and / or against a load.

Core stability is more about coordination and balance. It’s the extent to which we can exert control over our core muscles, engaging them or switching them on and off as necessary to support our movements.

 As you can see from this, the two are complementary but not the same, so it makes sense that we would concentrate on different exercises and movements to develop each one.

Exercises for core stability

Exercises that build up core stability focus on the small muscles, those around joints such as your hips, spine and shoulders, that make subtle movements and constant corrections. Working to develop these rather than the larger muscles will help you to improve coordination and balance.

Exercise 1: bird dog

 This is a simple exercise that is good for keeping a healthy spine if you can perform it with the correct posture. To do this you should position yourself on your hands and knees, ensuring your hands are below your shoulders and knees below your hips. Concentrate on maintaining a neutral posture through your spine making sure you don’t overarch or round your back.

Extend your left arm and right leg and then bring them in, focus on your core, shift your centre of gravity and then extend them again. The important thing here is to avoid rotation – get those muscles to engage at the right time to hold your shoulders and your hips level. This can be tricky to start with but if you work slowly and build gradually you’ll get there.

Watch the video above if you’d like a quick demo.

This is a great example of what a core stabilising exercise should be – movement that encourages the muscles to make little adjustments as posture changes. It includes three things, timing, switching the muscles on and focusing on coordination to ensure the correct spinal shaping is maintained. 

Exercises for core strengthening

 Exercises for core strength, or core endurance as you may have heard it called, are those that focus on holding a position for a period of time and / or resisting against a load.

If you’re looking for an easy exercise to get you started, the plank is perfect.

Exercise 1: the plank

 Lie on your front on the floor and lift up onto your hands or forearms, ensuring your elbows are below your shoulders and your knees slightly bent. The most important thing to think about is proper positioning of your spine.  Slowly lift one leg and then the other, this forces your body to resist against the time held and the load of your body weight. As long as your back health is good you should be able to gradually build up to holding your plank for one minute – this will build endurance in your core. 

Exercise 2: The side plank

 And once you’ve mastered that, try the slightly more challenging side plank – watch the video for a demo.

Two exercises that can help with both core stability AND core strengthening

 Of course, if you are able master exercises that fulfil both a core stability and a strengthening function, that’s ideal. But these tend to be more complex and give you many more things to think about.

You’ll need to focus on: 

  • getting into the right position
  • ‘switching on’ the muscles at the right time
  • strength to hold the position for a period of time
  • coordination to make the required movements

Exercise 1: plank with arm raise

Make sure you can already hold a plank for at least 30 seconds before you attempt this exercise to ensure you’ve got enough core strength in your torso.

Create a plank position but with your feet slighter wider and elbows slightly narrower than usual.

Next place the back of your hand in the small of your back, all the time focusing on keeping your hips perfectly still – practice until your hips automatically switch on to hold the position steady as you lift your arm. Your goal is to keep your hips centred. This will take a bit of practice but is perfect for building the strength of your core and the stability of your hips and spine. 

Exercise 2: side plank with leg raise

Come into a side plank position with your hips and feet stacked. Lift your top foot and place it down in front and then put it back onto your other foot, do this several times and the repeat on the other side. As you lift each leg concentrate on keeping your hips centred, make sure they don’t drop as you begin to move your foot.

Knowing the difference between core strength and core stability is important. But if you’re able to concentrate on both, all the better. Making your core healthier and stronger will help your back and spine become more robust and more resilient in the gym, in sport and in everyday life.

 Try some of these exercises and see how they work for you.

 Want to know more about building core strength and stability? Download my ebook now. Learn more at: https://www.christopherholetraining.com/core-ebook

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