Far too great an emphasis is placed on ‘core’ strengthening programs to address chronic back pain. The core is an ambiguous term referring to deep trunk muscles, with the majority of practitioners and personal trainers holding differing views on the specific muscles that fall in the core group.
Let's look at the most common muscles believe to make up the ‘core’:
In comparison to the major muscles that support the pelvis and back, the above ‘core’ muscles pale in significance.
Yes they are muscles that provide stability to the pelvis, the trunk and the spine - however no amount of strength to these muscles will override and counteract weak non functional postural muscles.
Lets now look at just one of the major muscles of the body that support our posture:
The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the human body. It is large and powerful because it plays the role of keeping the trunk of the body in an erect posture. It is the chief antigravity muscle that aids in walking up a flight of stairs.
In essence if the back pain sufferer has a non functional and weak gluteus maximus muscles, no amount of ‘core strength’ will compensate for the lack of foundation and stability this creates.
It is like asking someone to stand on one leg, then try and push someone over who is standing on two legs. Or like placing a solid beam on top of a loose pile of bricks, and wondering why the beam is unstable.
As stupid as these examples sound, this is the exact approach that so many therapists and trainers recommend to their patients suffering from back pain. People dedicate hours upon hours focusing on core stability exercises, whilst completely ignoring the major muscles such as the gluteus maximus.
Whilst the muscles we outlined earlier in this article, defined as core muscles hold their importance, it is imperative to understand that effective functional compound exercises that target the major postural muscles of the body, also strengthen these core muscles.
In fact they do so in a functional manner, they replicate everyday human movement.