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Core Stability

The term “core stability” seems to be popping up quite often these days. Although physiotherapy rehabilitation training has been addressing core stability for some time now, the buzzwords are now being heard in exercise classes and with the emergence of activities such as Pilates.

Core stability refers to the ability of the torso or trunk muscles to stabilize the spine. This in turn, provides a stable base for the arms and legs to move from. Think of the spine as a tall column. Muscle co-contraction around this column is necessary to maintain stability and prevent the column from buckling. Stabilizing muscles tend to be deep and near the joints they are stabilizing. They are not the big powerful muscles that move your limbs. These smaller stabilizing muscles require endurance rather than power/strength training. They need to be able to stabilize your spine at all times, throughout many different movements and activities.

Spinal stability training is especially important in situations of excessive joint mobility. Dancers require much greater flexibility than the average person to be able to accomplish certain movements. Sometimes, this increased flexibility comes at a price. A joint hypermobility or instability is often seen at one level of the spine in dancers. To avoid pain and injury, emphasis is placed on increasing core stability and muscle endurance.

Proper dance technique helps prevent these joint problems from arising. For instance, if adequate “turn out” is not present at the hips, the dancer can accommodate by arching their lower back too much, placing the back under increased strain. Over a period of time, this can lead to spinal joint hypermobility and pain if not corrected. Once again, maintaining good posture also reduces the stresses on the spine and requires less activity from the muscles so they don’t fatigue as rapidly.

Stabilization of the spine is achieved with co-contraction of the front and side abdominal wall and back muscles. Exercises are used that challenge the performance of these muscles without putting the spine in a position risking injury. Core stabilization exercises focus on contracting the muscles together to stabilize the spine while arm or leg movements are performed. Specific exercises using the different therapy balls have been quite effective in increasing core stability. Pilates training also involves components of core stability training and is quite popular amongst dancers. Include core stability exercises in your training and prevent pain and injuries from occurring!

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