Core Stability & Back Pain

If strength training made your lower back sore the next day, you'd probably want to know what caused it.
Perhaps you lifted more weight than you normally do, and are experiencing typical next day soreness.
Maybe you put too much strain on your lower back due to bad technique, or a flexibility limitation.
Yet many times the answer lies in how well your core muscles do in creating stability in the right amounts, at the right time.
Without getting too complex, there are muscles near your spine that act almost like seatbelts in a car. Just as a seatbelt keeps you from moving far in the event of a sudden stop at high speed, the muscles closest to your spine act to keep its sudden movements to a minimum.
And they must act immediately to be effective. Even a split second delay of a seatbelt can send you hurling towards a windshield or other object. And with your deeper core muscles, even a slight delay in activation can cause your spine to move dangerously out of position.
With this understanding, it is important to realize that true core stability involves not just the strength of your midsection musculature, but in the timing of them turning on to protect your spine.
You can do planks and crunches all day long and you'll never improve the timing of your core firing properly.
Within the Functional Movement Screen, the assessment tool we use before strength training with all of our athletes, they include a core stability pushup test.
The test involves completing a single pushup from a resting position on the ground. A passing score is achieved if your back comes up without arching, signifying that your core muscles activated immediately to prevent unwanted spinal movement.
In testing thousands of athletes over the years, I'd say that at least 80% of our female athletes do not pass this test the first time. Many initially think it is because their arms are weak, when in fact it is a core stability problem being unmasked.
This is not to say male athletes are immune to the same problems, probably one in every three male athletes struggles to pass this test as well.
If you have experienced significant back pain from strength training, playing your sport, or any other physical activity, you may have a core stability timing issue to fix.
Although the more popular core drills will not do much to address the problem, the good news is there are many other exercises that do.
For all of us who are older, chronic back pain is more likely the result of flexibility issues and asymmetries.
But most younger athletes do not yet have these problems, and should be able to strength train without back problems provided they use good technique, clear up flexibility problems first, and select proper weights.
Improving the timing of your core muscles to turn on efficiently is also beneficial for contact sport athletes to lower injury risk, endurance sport athletes to maintain efficient mechanics, and speed sport athletes to move faster.
Proper core stability is a huge injury preventer and performance enhancer. Learn to do it right, and you'll reap the rewards for years to come.

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