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An introduction to core stability

A guide to core strength training

Poor posture is one of the biggest problems facing people's health in modern life. However, regular core stability exercise can improve your core strength and your posture. Here's a guide on getting started in core strength training exercise.

Core stability and stability ball

How do you usually watch television?

When watching TV, most people relax on a soft sofa for comfortable viewing but that is very different to the way in which a young child sits to watch TV. Children invariably watch TV sat on the floor, totally unsupported with a straight back.

Try the ‘television test’ yourself by sitting unsupported on the floor and after about a minute, you’ll probably find that you’ve rounded your shoulders and are leaning forward onto your knees to support your upper body.

So what do children have that many of us have lost? The answer is core stability. Running right around your abdomen is a network of ‘core’ muscles that hold us in and keep us stable. They are critical to maintaining good posture and because we sit on soft sofas etc, these muscles have become ‘de-trained’ with a resultant loss of posture. By training your core muscles, you can regain your core strength together with a host of additional benefits, particularly:

Top benefits from core stability training:

  • Improved balance
  • Improved joint and body stability
  • Improved posture
  • Increased core strength
  • Reduced risk of injury
  • Improved sporting performance
  • Fun!

Choosing core stability training equipment

Minimal equipment is needed to improve your core strength and there are many exercises that can be executed solely using your bodyweight. However, to fully challenge your core muscles, a stability ball is a tremendous aid. Stability balls are becoming far more commonplace but before using one, it is important to select a suitable diameter ball for your size.

Stability balls are great for core exercise

Many shops sell ‘one-size-fits-all’ 65cm (25in) diameter stability balls but for most people, these are far too large. Because they are so big, they are then used under-inflated and by exercising on a very soft ball, a large surface area is in contact with the ground, which reduces the effectiveness of the exercise. Far greater and faster gains can be achieved through using a smaller ball pumped up harder, so that there is less surface area in contact with the floor.

Foundation stability ball exercises

1. Stability ball balancing and kneeling

Technique

Stand with feet approx 45cm (18in) apart.
Position the stability ball on the floor and up against the knees and shins.
Place hands on top of the ball.
Pushing up from the toes, slowly roll forward with the ball until feet are off the floor until balance is achieved.

Key coaching point

Initially, position a mat in front of the ball to provide confidence should you roll forward.

Progression

Once balance can be achieved, remove a hand or leg and eventually both hands until it is possible to kneel completely upright on the ball.

2. Stability ball floor bridge

Technique
Lie face up on the floor, arms outstretched either side of the body.

Stablity ball floor bridge

Position heels on the ball, toes pointing at the ceiling and lift body off the floor. Form a straight line from shoulders through to ankles. Contract core muscles and keep pelvis elevated to maintain correct position.

Key coaching points

If the standard floor bridge position is too challenging, reposition feet so that ankles and calves are supported by the ball. As core strength increases, revert to solely heels on the ball.

Progression

Gradually bring arms in towards body until eventually they can be lifted off the floor together, leaving only the shoulders in contact with the floor.

Fun

One final benefit of stability ball training is that it is tremendous fun despite the challenging nature of the exercises. That alone is an excellent endorsement and regular stability ball training will add a completely new dimension to your exercise routine, providing a comprehensive range of benefits.

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