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 Core stability Vs core flexion

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PostSubject: Core stability Vs core flexion   Tue Aug 04, 2009 2:26 am

I was discussing on my training log about how I was doing side bends for 'core stability'. Technically I was wrong. Core stability is the ability to resist an outside force that is trying to move the trunk out of position, what I was training was 'core flexion', for example:

For the obliques

A side bend lifting a weight is core flexion
A one arm suitcase deadlift is a core stability exercise
A side plank would also be a core stability exercise

For the lower back

Hyper extension would be core flexion
Good morning would be core flexion
Deadlifting would be core stability
Squatting would be core stability


For the abs

crunches would be core flexion
sit-ups would be core flexion
front plank would be core stability

Rotational stability of the core

Wood chop would be core flexion
Tornado ball would be core flexion
bird-dog would be core stability

Why the concern about whether you are doing flexion or stability...well some of the leading experts in the field (McGill, Boyle, Robertson etc) of the opinion that most forms of spinal flexion are actually detrimental to spine health (excluding rotational movements of the spine that include flexion) & that mainly stability moves should be used. The analogy used is that of a credit card, bend it backwards & forward a few times a bit & nothing noticeable happens, but put it on a machine that bends & bends it over & over & over time a crack will appear & finally the card will snap. This, they say will happen to the spine.
Now first off before you shout 'rubbish' McGill is probably one of the top spinal guys in the world today...are you sure you know more than him?

I actually don't think I know more than him, but I'm not sure he has it quite right. When you look at the spine, what do you see. I see something that is designed to flex, it's whole function appears flexion based. If the idea was to keep a spine neutral 24/7, then I think our back bones would be designed in a more fixed, neutral spine stance, not given all those awkward vertebrae.
Yes, lifting weight (including bodyweight) can cause bulges in the discs over time, we are all at risk of this, but I think it's throwing the baby out with the bath water to conclude that because flexion causes disc hernia, then stop doing flexion. Maybe if I was training "Mr 100 million dollar" superstar athlete I might see why a trainer might exclude weighted core flexion moves, or even flexion purely through fear of litigation, but I'm not sure you'd get the best core strength & injury prevention by leaving them out. I do believe some caution should be used & any back issues you already have or develop should dictate which exercise you choose. For a while now I've avoid giving any core flexion moves on those with bad backs, it's really not worth it & as a trainer you really aren't doing your best if you do include them to clients who have back issues, but for the average, healthy athlete a mixture of core flexion & stability is probably the best bet....(in my view I hasten to add)...
..oh yea & before you knock something like a side or front plank try holding them for time, or with one or more limb lifted (keeping the posture correct, no twisting!) or even with a sandbag or similar on your back (again keeping the posture 100%).
...I just remembered I did write a basic plan for a girl I worked with who suffered from back issues & upped it on the VBB blog if you want to see a really basic core stability program for a beginner then click here (by the way you have to do core stabilty in pink socks...it's the rules lol! )
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