2012-09-28 / Home Living

Core Training - Strength vs. Stability

Strength
BY JIM HERRICK

is the ability to exert force on another object. Stability refers to holding a firm, or unchanged, position while a force is being placed on you. Often times the two terms are used synonymously when referencing core training, but they do not mean the same thing. In a way, they are almost opposites. Strength generally implies creating movement, while stability resists it.

When most people talk about strength, they are almost always referring to how much weight someone can lift, particularly in exercises like the bench press or squat. Applied to their midsection, this could mean that a person who goes from holding a 25 lb weight to 45 lbs. when doing sit-ups has gotten stronger. And that’s true; this does show a strength gain.

There are two problems with this way of thinking, however. Without any context for evaluating the actual muscles involved in moving the weight, it is unclear what actually led to the improvement. Often times the common sit-up, or crunch, involves a greater effort by the hip flexors than the abdominals, meaning the strength gain did not come from your intended target.

The second problem is that athletes do not need to get stronger in this part of the body, they need stability. It has a completely different function than, say, your arms, whose primary function is to create motion.

It is an easy trap that most people in the fitness world have fallen into. Exercise at its heart is motion. If you are moving, then you are exercising. When you are not in motion, then you aren’t really exercising, right?

With respect to core training, this line of thinking is entirely misguided. If you put yourself in a position that requires effort to resist unwanted motion, that is also exercise. It is this type of training that your midsection demands, because when its ability to prevent unnecessary motion improves, it allows you to send more of your energy in the right direction.

Making the leap from strengthbased to stability-based training is the critical first step to understanding which exercises will lead to greater performance, and which ones will not. There are many excellent core stability exercises that are not crunches. Many develop stability and use nothing more than bodyweight or some band resistance. Athletes who make this jump from more traditional core training to stability based exercises will be greatly rewarded through enhanced performance on the field, ice, or court.

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