Strength or Balance Rehab?
By Gregory Petruzzi, DC, Owner
The Active Chiropractic Clinic
Strength or Balance Rehab?
Over the past ten years the trend in exercise, athletic performance and rehabilitation has shifted and now puts primary emphasis on core stability. What is core stability? The core refers to your center. It is the anchor from which your arms and legs fire. For example, in order to lift your arm away from your body, the first muscles to contract have nothing to do with your shoulder, rotator cuff or arm, but instead are actually deep abdominal muscles which stabilize your torso so now your arm can lift off of that stable anchor. The ability to contract these muscles and thereby support and stabilize your center (your core) will allow for more effective and efficient arm and leg movements and this is referred to as core stability.
A common misconception is that by exercising and developing the more superficial or surface abdominal and low back muscles, one could improve their core stability. In other words many people mistakenly believe that if they work their abdominal muscles to the point of having a “six pack” that this will result in increased core stabilization. This is not necessarily so. The abdominal stabilizing muscles are not on the surface, they are deep muscles closer to your center. They are not the typical muscle groups that are worked while lifting weights or doing calisthenics.
How do you develop these muscles? One way is to train with an unstable surface, like sitting on a large balance ball as opposed to a chair. Something this simple forces your body to recruit stabilizing muscles to maintain your balance. Another option would be Pilates type exercises.
The more you use these muscles, the better they will function. Conversely the less you use these muscles the more likely they are to shrink or atrophy and not be able to perform their functions. Our bodies are constantly adapting in response to our daily activities. So those of us who are forced to sit at a desk for eight hours a day and dont require our core muscles to work will likely have poor stabilization in this area which may often lead to disc or ligament degeneration and possible low back pain.
So is this just a trend, a fad? Are there any benefits to conditioning these core muscles? Absolutely. Many elite performance athletes have completely changed their training routines to involve predominately balance type exercises first and then incorporating strength training. A study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine in May 2006 showed how athletes who focused on balance exercises (sensorimotor exercises) first, and then strength training, had actually enhanced the effects of the strength training.
With the trend moving in this direction, it is relatively easy to find information on this topic whether that be videos, books, gyms or even infomercials. If you are medically able, I would recommend learning about and incorporating this type of training into your exercise routine. If you do not have an exercise routine, check with your doctor and find a mild to moderate program that will work for you.