INTRODUCTION:

 

In the media, the term core exercises are often used to promote exercise to develop “six-pack abs”. The strength of your core muscles is very important to stabilize your spine and prevent or help with low back pain. A strong core is also a vital part of a training program to improve performance. The core muscles transfer the force from the legs to the arms in almost all sports. Rotational sports generate some of the largest torques in numerous directions and end ranges of motion.

 

BENEFITS OF STRONG CORE

 

  • Helps decrease low back pain
  • Improves stability of your spine and helps prevent injury
  • Improves sports performance
  • Helps decelerate your body during rotational sports.
  • Helps you become more powerful and explosive

 

In this post, we will be covering how to use a stability ball to develop not only the strength of your core but the reactive stability of your spine. 

 

DEFINING THE ANATOMICAL CORE:

The anatomical core includes more than just your abdominal muscles. First of all, the abdominals consist of the rectus abdominis( AKA six-pack), transverse abdominis, and the internal/external obliques. In addition to the abdominals, there are the diaphragm and the pelvic floor muscles which form the top and bottom of the core muscles, and the erector spinae group which is essentially your back muscles. Some core muscles span several vertebrae and possess long lever arms making them ideal for producing a lot of torque (McGill 2007). There are also very small muscles that only span one vertebra that act more as sensors and local stabilizers. 

 

SPINE STABILIZATION: 

There are three essential systems to developing stability of your spine and preventing injury, which include: 

  • Passive system: This includes the vertebrae, discs, and ligaments that hold the spine together. 
  • Active system: This system consists of all the core muscles that surround the spine.
  • Neuromuscular system: This system is how you control all the muscles which stabilize the spine in a neutral zone which will ultimately prevent injury.  

 

UNSTABLE SURFACES: 

Unstable surfaces are commonly used for rehabilitation of the spine in a clinical setting. Increasing the level of instability during weightlifting has been shown to increase the activity of the core (Grenier et al. 2000). There are many ways to create greater instability such as performing exercises with free weights instead of machines, supporting the body on one foot rather than two, and incorporating unstable apparatuses such as a stability ball. 

 

STABILITY BALL ROUTINE: 

 

  1. Bridging
  • Start position- Lie face up on the floor with your hands at your side and feet on the ball. 
  • Procedure- Keeping your abs braised, lift your back off the floor keeping a straight line at the top of the move to form a plank. 
  • Coaching keys- 
  • Make certain you are contracting your glutes, quads, and abs to maintain a neutral stable spine position 
  • To increase the degree of difficulty cross your arms across your chest and move the ball further away. 
  • You should feel it- in your glutes, quad, and abs. 

 

  1. Walkout push-ups

                       

  • Start position- kneeling in front of the ball with your forearms placed on the ball.
  • Procedure- Slowly walk out with your hands allowing the ball to roll towards your legs, perform a push-up, and return to the starting position. 
  • Coaching keys-
  • Maintain your abs, glutes, and quads braised/tightened to form a plank to maintain a neutral spine. 
  • You should feel it- in your glutes, quad, and abs. 

 

  1. SB plank to pike up
  • Start position- kneeling in front of the ball slowly roll forward and assume a pushup position 
  • Procedure- keeping your core and legs tight and maintaining a neutral position, bring your legs towards your arms flexing at the hip allowing the ball to roll from your shins to your toes, return to the starting position. 
  • Coaching keys-
  • The movement should be slow and controlled to maintain a neutral spine position. 
  • At the finish of the movement, your shoulders and back should be nearly perpendicular to the ground.
  • You should feel it- in your glutes, quad, and abs. 

 

CONCLUSION: 

The anatomical core consists of numerous muscles that act on the spine and is essential to preventing injury and enhancing performance. The use of a stability ball is one effective way to develop strength, neuromuscular control, and stability of the spine. 

 

If you are interested in learning more about how to develop your core to prevent injury or to enhance performance, don’t hesitate to contact us!

 

About the Author

Ruben Salinas is the CEO and founder of Salinas Physical Therapy/ Sports Medicine. He is a board Doctor of Physical Therapy, Certified Orthopedic Specialist, and a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist. He specializes in rehab of overhead throwing athletes, rehab following ACL reconstruction, and an expert in managing spine disorders.