A for Athlete

From Dr Mel C Siff:[]

Today, in the fitness and therapeutic world, one of the latest buzz terms is "core stability" and courses are cropping up everywhere to teach this amazing new discovery in the world of motor control. The implications are that an athlete or normal human is somehow seriously deficient if core stability exercises are not being done in some or other discrete, isolated fashion.

The belief here, of course, is that isolated core stabilising exercises necessarily improve balance and postural control. They do not, since most stabilisation and movement in sports where the hands and feet are in contact with a surface also depends very strongly on PERIPHERAL contact with the given surface (some exceptions are diving, airborne gymnastic and skating manoeuvres, and trampolining.) If this contact is inefficient or unstable, then no amount of core stabilisation is going to overcome any deficiency in peripheral stability.

Some simple examples - imagine what would happen to a gymnast or trapeze artist with poor ankle strength and stability or a huge weightlifter with great core stability but deficiencies in grip or ankle strength and stability? One could list a thousand similar examples.

This concept of a separate motor quality called "core stability" leads to the very faulty belief that core stability is more important and more central to overall stability than peripheral stability. The fact is that the body is a linked system of many interacting components, and current "core stabilisation" dogma happens to be yet another example of isolationist training. To borrow a somewhat clichéd term from the vocabulary of the late South African Prime Minister, General Jan Smuts (who coined the word "holism"), it would be far better to talk about "holistic" stability training. An emphasis on "core stability" is a step towards general instability, unless it is matched by peripheral stabilisation.

Once upon a time we had kinaesthetic or proprioceptive training or even motor skill training - now we have "core stability" training, which is by no means an suitable modern substitute for what used to be offered. Possibly it is time for the whole "core stabilisation" industry needs to carefully re-examine itself and take a step back to its more solid older roots. "Core stabilisation" may be a new term, but it offers little or nothing new to fitness, therapy or sports training that was not covered perfectly well a long time ago.