Your core muscles are those which control and stabilize your lower back, abdomen, and hips. They are the core of all strength and power movements, as well as the core muscular connection between your upper and lower body, and have become the focus of increased attention over recent years because of their pivotal relationship with the effective performance of other major muscle groups, and the way they provide a powerful foundation for effective achievement in many sports and other functional areas.
A weak core muscle group increases injury and illness risk as well as reduced functional performance, and much exercise advice has neglected these muscles in the past.
Effects of Core Muscle Condition; Weakness and Aging Effects
As we age, starting at about 20, our muscles naturally weaken if we don’t exercise them. Weakened core muscles will over time provide inadequate support and protection against stresses that can occur to the lower spine, risking injury and chronic pain.
Along with incorrect posture (itself not helped by weak core), foot positioning, and stance in many activities, a weak core affects our balance. These influences lead to injury and joint wear, and in later years a greater risk of falls, and increased difficulty in recovering from them.
Not only does a powerful core muscle group prevent injury (and speed rehabilitation) it forms a major shield for your internal organs and spinal cord, it improves posture and moment-by-moment stability and balance, and it improves the effectiveness of your metabolism and circulatory and lymphatic processes (fluid cleaning and transport through the body).
Cycling and lower back pain are often linked together. Novice triathletes particularly find their lower back becomes painful when riding for long periods using aero bars. This discomfort could be the result of a combination of factors (e.g. riding position, seat height/angle, aero bar position, etc.) to do with the technical aspects of the bike’s set-up. Also contributing to this pain could be the lack of core strength and muscular endurance of the lower back.
When swimming, core strength aids in maintaining a streamlined body position, efficient kicking, and the underwater power of the stroke.
A common injury is Swimmer’s Shoulder, an overuse injury caused by instability in the shoulder joint, leading to inflammation in the rotator cuff muscles. Proper stroke mechanics play a key role in preventing this type of injury. Mechanical flaws are most often seen with fatigue, or inadequate flexibility, causing increased stress to the shoulder, both of which can be prevented with proper training.
The stronger the stabilizing muscles are, the longer an athlete can train at a high intensity with proper technique. Downtime to repair a typical shoulder overuse injury can be four weeks, which drastically affects the time needed to get back up to speed.
Running, especially after cycling.
The core muscles act as a corset allowing the hip to move the leg backward by maintaining forward momentum and pushing the athlete over the ground. In comparison weak core muscles allow the hip (and subsequently leg) to move up instead of backward when the foot strikes the ground. As a result of this hip sway, much forward momentum (and propulsion) is lost and the athlete will be slower across any given distance compared with an athlete who displays good core strength.
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