Core strength or core stability, what’s the deal?

“50 ab exercises to score a stronger core”

“20 core exercises top trainers swear by”

Type ‘core training’ into google and these are just a couple of titles that come up, it’s these titles that work in capturing the attention of people searching for the key to that beach worthy midsection. Having said that, I’m here to talk about what core training really is and how you don’t have to spend hours in the gym doing endless crunches and russian twists to see results in core strength.

When most people hear the word core, their mind is automatically diverted to the pronounced 6 pack you see all over social media, although core training should start with the basics. There is a massive buzz behind core training in the fitness world and 99% of the time it’s related to abdominal training, which explains the results for the titles mentioned before. The truth is, the core is so much more than the summer ready six pack we all obsess over, and it should be treated as such.

The core is composed of the lumbar spine, muscles of the abdominal wall and back extensors as well as multipoint muscles such as latissimus dorsi that pass through the core, linking it to the pelvis, legs and shoulders. This muscle group functions differently to that of the limb musculature as core muscles often co-contract, meaning it stiffens the torso to avoid excessive movement. Thus, core training needs to be looked at much differently to that of limb training.

In short, your core acts to move and stabilise the spine, fairly simple, right? In theory yes, but as there are so many muscles (as many as 35) contributing to core stability, a much more complex approach is required. When the core is weak your moves from up and down and side to side are unstable, and this is when injuries can occur. Think about back pain in this way, if you core is unbalanced areas of your spine are then compromised and delicate structures such as ligaments and discs may eventually pay the price of faulty biomechanics. Current evidence suggests that decreased core stability may predispose to injury, although the correct training may reduce this risk. What we need to understand is that the primary function of the core is to resist rotation, flexion and extension, not to initiate these movements.

In saying this, to get a more effective core routine, essentially there are 3 ‘categories’ that should be included;

  1. Anti-flexion – resist a weight that attempts to pull your spine into flexion (i.e deadlifts)
  2. Anti-extension- resist a weight that attempts to arch your spine backwards (i.e tall kneeling overhead press)
  3. Anti-rotation – resist a force rotating your body (i.e pall of press)


When it comes to rehabilitation for back pain or just building core stability in general, functional exercises are the way to go in that they mimic real-life activity better than a fit ball crunch ever could. By training all areas and teaching your body to work as it should it will allow you to develop a more functional core and help you down the track when it comes to lifting, correct technique, overall body strength and avoiding injury.

For more information about taking a holistic approach to your training or rehabilitation, contact us at Absolute Balance on 9244 5580 or alternatively you can go to our website at

Channai Graham (B.Sc-Ex.Sp.Sci,Post.Grad.Dip.(Clin.Ex.Phys))

Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) (AES) (ESSAM)



Akuthota, V., Ferreiro, A., Moore, T., & Fredericson, M. (2008). Core Stability Exercise Principles. Current Sports Medicine Reports7(1), 39-44. doi: 10.1097/01.csmr.0000308663.13278.69

McGill, S. (2010). Core Training: Evidence Translating to Better Performance and Injury Prevention. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 32(2).

Willson, J., Dougherty, C., Ireland, M., & Davis, I. (2005). Core Stability and Its Relationship to Lower Extremity Function and Injury. Journal of The American Academy Of Orthopaedic Surgeons13(5), 316-325. doi: 10.5435/00124635-200509000-00005