To run well you must have a great core. Chartered Physiotherapist, Rob Hanley discusses core stability in the second last instalment of this blog series.
What Are The Core Muscles?
These muscles encircle the spine and connect the trunk to our legs and arms. They are some of the biggest muscles of the body and are often called “The Powerhouse” or engine for all arm and leg movements. It may not feel like it, but if you took away the core muscles you wouldn't be able to walk, let alone run. As running involves movement of the arms and legs, the core is the vital connecting block that keeps everything moving well and in rhythm.
The core muscles are essentially the muscles of the trunk, as shown below
The core is also vital in injury prevention for runners. A runner with poor core stability will often run with a wider stance, land more heavily on their feet and lean side to side too much as they move. This stops you from running quickly, makes you fatigue much sooner in your run than you otherwise would and can cause a whole host of running conditions from back pain, to hip pain, Runner’s knee and foot pain.
Are you Core Muscles Working Well?
Research in recent years has developed tests for the core that can tell you if your core muscles are working well or not. As important as these overall tests are, it’s imperative that you have good balance between the different muscle groups. The core muscles basically create a box shape with the spine held steady in the centre. The abdominal muscles, such as Rectus Abdominus, are to the front, the back muscles such as Errector Spinae and glutes to the back and the Oblique muscles to each side. Finally the diaphragm under the rib cage make up the top part of the box and the pelvic floor muscles of the pelvis make up the base of the box.
When each group of muscles have the right strength and endurance this helps stabilise the whole spine just like the guy ropes on a sailing ship keep the mast stable. Over tighten or loosen even one of the guy ropes though and the whole ship loses stability. This is commonly seen in athletes that mistakenly think core work just means training their abdominals by doing sit ups. Firstly, sit ups have been shown to damage the disks in the lower back and are generally no longer recommended. Just as important though is that focusing on abdominal strengthening alone would be like tightening the front guy rope of the ship below. All it does is put additional strain on the spine and make it more prone to injury. Balance is the key.
A Good Core Is Beneficial Because…
Having a good core as a runner means that your posture is kept steady while you run and allows your arms and legs to relax. This, in turn, allows you to conserve energy, particularly when doing a long run. Sprinters also benefit from a good core. It is after all the powerhouse so better core means better times.
If you don’t do core work as part of your running training, or indeed if you still do traditional sit-ups and crunches then an examination of your core stability with you Chartered Physiotherapist is very important. Correcting weakness or imbalances in the core takes work but your body will thank you in the long term with less injuries, not to mention the improvements having a better core will make to your running performance.
If you would to have your core assessed or indeed find out how to strengthen your core, book an appointment with one of our our physiotherapists today.
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