What exactly is core stability?

Unearthing the mystery of the core, and why it is hailed by many as the most important part of the body.

Strengthening the core helps every aspect of the body.

Twenty years ago ‘core’ was what you said when a cute guy walked past. In more recent years, core has become the hottest buzz word in the fitness industry. Sydney PT Rachel Livingstone explains why.

It is rumoured that training this magical, if not a little mysterious, group of muscles can change your life. If you want a flatter tummy, improved sports performance, or even to reduce back pain, working on your core is a must.

You can’t see you core muscles in the same way you can see, or hope to, your abdominal six pack. They are set deep in your torso and are designed to activate at a low level for extended periods of time and more quickly and forcefully when needed.

The problem with the inactive and sedentary nature of modern life is it causes your core to switch off, become deconditioned and therefore not do its job properly. If your core muscles are not functioning optimally, you end up with aches and pains and are inevitably told by a physiotherapist, personal trainer, Pilates instructor or even GP, that you need to focus on your core.

Early definitions of core stability lead to the misconception that strength and rigidity of the trunk muscles equalled stability.This implied that core training should aim to train the core muscles harder and create stiffness around the spine. But strength and stiffness are not synonymous with stability.

The core muscles support the lower back and pelvic floor.


A more accurate definition of a healthy core would be the ability to retain control of the spine as it moves through different positions and postures with the appropriate amount of activation of the correct muscles.

There is a dichotomy in how the core is worked. If you are injured, post natal or suffer from back pain you tend to get taught low load stability work as part of your rehab program. This is great to get you on the road to recovery. But there must be progression onto harder core work and other exercises that involve the global muscles of the torso if your body is to cope with more challenging high load movements in daily life or in the gym.

On the other side, those you have learned their core work within the fitness arena tend to focus solely on higher load stability and forsake more gentle core exercises. As Jenny Doyle, physiotherapist and Pilates instructor urges, we need an integrated approach where the body is conditioned in both low and high load core work, as both are needed for exercise and life in general.

By Rachel Livingstone Personal Trainer & Owner of The Health Hub www.healthhub.net.au

Rachel Livingstone

Rachel is a PT and Maternal Health specialist who found the gym at 14 through her weight lifting dad and never looked back. Originally from the UK she finally settled her wanderlusting feet on the shores of Sydney and can often be found on the back of a paddleboard exploring Rose Bay and the beautiful harbour.

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