The Myth of Core Stability

The Myth of Core Stability from

This is a great read. It’s clear and understandable, and it gets to the point. I’ve never been a fan of stability work (under the guise of functional training or what what you).

A couple points of note (there are many in this article):

Internal focus on TrA or any other muscle group will reduce skilled athletic performance. [/ul]
[li]Core Stability exercise and General exercise are demonstrated to be equally effective.[/li][/ul]

Some notes to pick on in that article
1 - i get the impression that pregnant females don’t get back pain…
I have yet to meet any female who does NOT sufer back pain.
mind you, i’m not stating the cause of backpain is from lack of Transverse abs
2 - The article implies the SIT up works the Transverse Abs - and that pregnant people cannot even do one sit up - Sit ups focus is the Rectus abs. It might not fully 100% isolate it - i don’t think anybody assumes it does? But majority of effort is directed towards it.

The fact that pregnant ladies cannot do sit ups, weakens their core - the larger belly pulls forward and Down - resulting in the spine being pulled in a similar fashion - thus causing Back pain. Resulting in lots of sitting down, causing their Hip Flexors to seize and or tighten and thus causing further Back pain.

The article baffles me saying their is little evidence to suggest being pregnant causes Lower back pain… Does he even know females?

Then the article contradicts itself saying after birth, Lower Back pain is reduced in the majority of women before 4-6wks of time.
He seems to allude that The abs are at 0% useful up until around 8wks after birth. Surely they develop progressively over time, and that even though not yet at 100% by wk 8, the strength they do have at say week 6 is still far greater than 0%, but less than 100%. Why cannot they be 80% strong, but at that 80% strength is easily strong enough to support and stabilize etc.??
For an everage sized female who is lets say 8month pregnant - have you ever felt her belly - Hard as a rock. Not soft and flabby. Just simply think about that and stability for a minute. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out. :slight_smile:

Then Obese people - esp males with the Large Belly - I have not meet one who does not have Lower Back Pain - in some form. I meet new people like this Daily. All suffer Lower back pain.

I’m up to The Timing Issue - but no longer have time to comment.

I’m under the impression this guy assumes one can Isolate the Transverse Abs - or that others think they can. Well, to a degree you can Focus on it, but nothing is ever 100% - It might be as little as 50%, but you sure can feel that muscle work.
I feel his interpretation of Isolation is to the extreme and puts others into that Extreme Basket. Or maybe i have more faith in other trainers than he does?

A set of super strong Abs - cannot outset a set of Super tight Hip flexors acting on the Hips causing Hip rotation thus causing Lower back pain.
However - with the tightness removed and flexibility resumed to the hip flexors, A set of Weak Abs will still cause the hips to rotate downwards and back pain will still result.

The body is one big unit - not a set of abs or whatever, they all tie in. From reading just that 1st part - the author is not leading me to continue reading, to me, he is implying the ABS do NOTHING.

Sure they are overrated in some circles - but he is implying they do nothing…

Fortunately, Jimmy Kimmel has answered all of our questions in his new workout video:

boldwarrior…did you read the article from the link I provided? Seriously, why bother commenting if you’re not going to read the article carefully. He says no such things as you mention.

He never once said pregnant women don’t get backaches. I’m a little upset about your comments. Your comments don’t represent the article at all.

You assume completely wrong regarding his views on isolation as well.

I’m not too upset with you though…i’ve scanned articles and misjudged them myself. I’ll forgive you if you go back and re-read the small portion of the article you’ve already read…but this time read it carefully.

Or, simply watch the link NumberTwo provided. :wink:

The article is adequately backed up by research…over 11 pages of citations!

The whole article has been single handily debunked by some of the most EXPLOSIVE, POWERFUL martial artists of all time that centred there training around HOURS of “core stability training” EACH DAY, a lot of “breathing” & didn’t so much lift a kg in weight.

Core is vital to increasing power production.

But each to his own.


Great article Herb! Anyone who takes the time to read past page 2 will appreciate your post. It is well written and supports many of the ideas laid out on this site.
I did appreciate the Jimmy Kimmel post too. (for entirely different reasons):cool:

strength is the foundation for stability…

Race Radio, Which martial artists exactly are you talking about, and what where their workouts? We need that information to promote proper discussion. Otherwise it’s just he said-she said. We can’t determine if they debunk the article or not if we don’t have that specific information.

Also, I don’t think we’re talking about the same thing here. When I say “Core Stability”, I am talking about something very specific, a catch phrase if you will. Core Stability work is different than core work.

The athletes I coach do thousands of reps of core work every week (as per Charlie’s training concepts).

His says, During pregnancy, women cannot do sit ups, their core is elongated and becomes weak. This is true.

He says people give pregnant ladies Core sit ups to work on. I don’t know who these trainers are, but i have never heard of it.
He is right in that that no they shouldn’t do it - as i said in my comments above, but you didn’t pick up on, is the pregnant ladies bely is Hard as a rock, the baby and its surrounds are now acting as a Stable platform for the mother - to a degree. The Abs role to a degree is taken up by the baby and it’s surrounding.

He should never have brought up Pregnant ladies in his Proof that Abs are unimportant in trunk stability. It’s Stupid and renders him unthoughtful right from the Get Go.
That right there is what caused me to be upset with the article.
It’s stupid and borders on idiocy.
Have you noticed a heavily pregnant lady walk - or i mean, WADDLE - they are far from Stable if they try to walk normal.

The part on Timing - i have seen many articles, and seminars on Core or Stability or Strength or whatever - never once have i come across that training the TrA or other abs increases the Timing issue. It increases the strength (and strength increases stability) but never have i heard you can increase the timing. To me, he is trying to Re-butt something that is not there?
Either that, or your trainers over in America are borderline crazy and i’m glad it has not filtered over to Australia.

His Strength issues - he is only talking about strength in Standing or slow walking. But mostly standing. I don’t argue the results there - except for Couch potatoes where standing is their only form of exercise and walking is a Chore (but that’s a whole different ball game)

One cannot apply these same thoughts to other endeavours - such as sprinting, where the core is activated (along with every other muscle)
I doubt any muscle anywhere in the body is working all that much at all in standing or walking slow potions - so, why bring it up?? (standing / walking as core stabilizing)

As a side note - i get many people coming to me who cannot do even ONE sit up. They also cannot do a hell of a lot of other things also. It’s not just their abs that are weak - It’s everything. The amount that cannot even get up off a chair without Aid is B.s. - Sure their abs are Weak as and completely useless - but so is everything. These people are not very stable due to their complete Weakness

Page 13 - it’s called Unconscious incompetence
when you cannot control your muscles (this case the abs)

then comes Conscious Incompetence - where you now know you should do something (such as abs) but cannot

Then comes Conscious Competence - where you have think about what your doing - such as thinking about holding your core and actually doing it right.

Then comes Unconscious Competence - what you’re striving for in the long run. Where they can hold their (core) without a thought in the world. This can happen in hrs - or can take Months to learn.

Completely agree with Page 14 - but - Who does that? Are there seriously trainers out there teaching that? Unless one is as i stated above, Unconsciously Incompetent - but sports people are typically Not in that category - some are.

There is one ab workout that i noticed transferred directly to my and others running - is where you lay on the floor, push your back into the floor and lift your feet up and down a few inches off the floor. Brilliant when those muscles are weak.
All other abs work is general conditioning

Core work v’s Core Stability work.
As far as im concerned - stability work improves with Core work as the method you employ.

What other way is there? Perhaps i missed something in the Meaning of Core work and Core Stability Work. What other way is there?


2:22 - 2:35.


In what way?.

The by product of increasing core strength is greater core stability.

Yes - exactly.

Core strength is more than just Abs also
It’s the ability to hold yourself solid against outside forces - such as running over 40km Hr.

In actuality he says: “Core Stability exercises [different than sit ups…the sit ups were during research] are often prescribed as a method for retraining the abdominal muscles and ultimately as a treatment for Lower Back Pain during pregnancy” (4). and among many others. You just need to Google Core Stability and pregnancy to find the info. I’ve spoken with at least one physio here in BC who is a firm believer in this. What he isn’t saying is that they are ineffective. He says, “Both exercise approaches are demonstrated to be equally effective” (15). He also sites some studies/trials regarding this.

His point is that even when the TrA and rectus abdominus are taken out of the equation there is still stability. His point is that “The relationship between abdominal muscles and spinal stability” has been potentially "over-emphasised", not that a relationship doesn’t exist at all (5).

He never says abs are unimportant in trunk stability. Again, just that their role has been over-emphasised.

They are stable enough for the purpose of his argument.

Let’s call them crazy then. I’ve had discussions with a couple physiotherapists on this subject. I’ve been treated by two different physiotherapists regarding the timing of the TrA and training it to fire in the correct sequence. Among the personal training community here all of this is rampant. Crazy indeed. Perhaps this is why the article seems unrealistic to you. For me and the legitimate trainers I work with it is epidemic.

Also, strength does not increase the sort of stability he is talking about. He says, “During standing “active” stabilisation is achieved by very low levels of co-contraction of trunk flexors and extensor, estimated at less than 1% Maximal Voluntary Contraction” (9).

I was coached to consciously keep my TrA and abs tight while I sprinted!!! This is why it has been brought up. I’ve been coached (by a personal trainer as recently as a week ago) to consciously keep my core tight while doing CF’s med ball routine. He and I had words about it afterwards. We now do the exercises nice and relaxed and naturally like they are shown on Charlie’s MedBall video. (I was letting him coach me as a way of coaching him on coaching if that makes sense).

This is exactly his point!! See, you do agree with the article.

As I mentioned, there are many trainers who do this with perfectly healthy and coordinated athletes. Talk about incompetence!

Angie does a great job demonstrating this in the GPP Essentials Video, and Charlie, at the Al Vermeil, Charlie Francis, Joseph Horrigan Seminar held in Vancouver a few years back, talked about this motion being used to test some of his athlete’s core strength back in the day (if they could keep their lower back on the floor they were strong, if not, they were weak). He laughed it off cause of the limb length difference between elite sprinters and the college student test subjects used to form the baseline data for the study.

Originally Posted by Herb
Core Stability work is different than core work.

Glad you asked!

I think this is why there is disagreement among us here.

As I mention in the last post, the author is addressing a very specific topic called Core Stability. He is addressing the research done "that demonstrated a change in onset timing of the trunk muscles in back injury and chronic lower back pain patients (2), AND how “as a consequence of (certain) assumptions, a whole industry grew out of these studies with gyms and clinics worldwide teaching the ‘tummy tuck’ and trunk bracing exercises to athletes for prevention of injury and to patients as a cure for lower back pain,” and how “core stability became a cult and TrA its mantra” (2).

RE: the Asafa interview…he says his core strength is down, not his core stability. I hope my previous responses have cleared up the difference. If not, let me know.

Herb - I hope you don’t think i am attacking you - apologies if it seems that way.

I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned the way Trainers over where you are and the way they train. I must say i am shocked - and it deff makes more sence of the article when applied to trainers like that.

Yes i agree with his outcome - it was just his methodology in determining that was getting to me. But it makes more sence if a lot of trainers over your way are NUTS.

It really baffles me that People are getting Pregnant ladies to do core work. I have never heard of this. Ever. So to me, it sounded like he was making things up. Amazing

Thanks for your effort in explaining Herb.

I’ve never dealt with back pain so I can’t say for certain whether the ‘tummy tuck’ and trunk bracing exercises will help.

But what I would say is, if the muscles you mention are strengthened & help with stabilising the spine along with the multifidus/inner obliques etc) hence gaining better posture, then surely the patient with lower back pain must benefit from that.

It’s not the be all end all. Having a beer gut is known in some circles to cause chronic back pain. By not addressing that particular issue, all the spinal strengthening exercises in the world probably won’t help you.

I’ve never felt attacked on this site boldwarrior. I love the arguments we all get into and consider them friendly arguments for the sake of clarity, accuracy and truthfulness in what we post. If you disagreed with the article and didn’t post anything the world would be a sadder place. “Iron sharpens iron.” Your views and opinions have always been respected by me. Thanks for posting.

Yes - strong abs but a beer gut and tight hip flexors/thighs/glutes generally wont help a sore back. No matter how strong a set of abs you have.

If you can teach that same person to deep squat with perfect form - his flexibilty will improve out of sight, knotts reduced or removed - some basic abs work done like shown in the Gpp dvd - then Back pain even with a Beer gut will be greatly reduced or removed.