Are You Training ALL of Your Core Muscles? - Part II
Part II - The Global Stabilizers: Your "Middle Core"
By David Drinks
If you didn’t read part I of this three-part series yet, then check it out here!
In part I last week, I introduced the idea that the core is a very complex and diverse part of the body, and we need to adopt a varied training approach to cover all of our core training bases.
I also introduced the three groups of muscles that we can break the core down into:
The Local Stabilizers
The Global Stabilizers
The Global Movers
Breaking down the 35+ core muscles (or 60-70+ if you count the muscles that are on both the left and right sides of the body) into these three groups helps us to better understand how to train all the core muscles.
As I mentioned last week, you can’t train each of these varied muscles and muscle groups with one or two core exercises. Instead, you need a different approach for each type of core muscle.
Last week, we took a deep dive into the local stabilizing muscles that comprise your “inner core”. These muscles are smaller and deeper core muscles that tend to both attach to and have a great impact on your spine.
If you want to maintain your back health and avoid injury, it’s imperative that the exercises we went over last week make up the foundation of your core training program.
Once you master training your local stabilizers, however, it’s time to move up to the global stabilizers.
The Global Stabilizers
Your global stabilizers are larger muscles that make up the “middle layer” of the core. Their primary role is to engage to provide stability around the core, similar to the local stabilizers. However, these larger muscles have a greater influence on overall posture and body alignment than the smaller local stabilizers do.
The global stabilizers:
Provide postural control and body alignment.
Are active at low levels of resistance and during endurance activities.
Control motion during rotational or deceleration movements.
While your local stabilizers provide stability on a micro-level (e.g., they provide stability between individual segments of the spine), the global stabilizers provide an equally important level of stability on a macro-level.
For optimal posture, body control, and movement ability you absolutely need both your local and global stabilizers functioning properly!
But, while the smaller, local stabilizing muscles tend to play a larger role in preventing injury and pain, the global stabilizing muscles really set the foundation for maximizing movement and performance.
If you don’t first have proper posture and body alignment, it’s much more difficult to optimize your movement and performance for a sport, a specific activity, or for life in general.
Once you set the foundation by properly strengthening the global stabilizers, however, you can build on top of that for optimal movement and performance!
Of course, the global stabilizers do play an important role in preventing injury and pain as well, since they have such an influence on posture and alignment.
Anyone who has ever been to a chiropractor knows just how much poor posture and body alignment can lead to pain and injury.
So, your global stabilizers perform the role of injury and pain prevention on a more global, postural level. Plus, they also set you up for movement and performance success.
Really, if you don’t first have proper posture and alignment at the body, you’ll never be able to fully optimize your movement. If you start from a place of poor posture, you’re giving your body a mechanical disadvantage when you need to perform a movement that goes against the posture you’ve adopted.
An easy example of this is the case where someone is in an excessively kyphotic posture. Kyphosis refers to excessive flexion (i.e., rounding forward) of the thoracic spine (the upper back). This is the dreaded hump-back posture that we all want to avoid as we age.
In this case, the upper back is rolled forward, and the shoulders are consequently rolled forward along with it.
This posture puts you at a great mechanical disadvantage when it comes to reaching overhead, like when reaching up to grab something off the top shelf in a kitchen cabinet.
It is much harder to get your arms overhead if you start from a very rolled forward position. Plus, you’re putting your shoulders at an increased risk of pain and injury since there’s a much higher chance of impinging the rotator cuff, biceps tendon, and other structures on top of the shoulder as you reach overhead.
You can appreciate, then, how the global stabilizers which play a large role in alignment and posture of the core can go a long way in preventing injury and helping you move better.
What are the global stabilizers?
Some examples of muscles that are global stabilizers are the:
Internal and external obliques
Superficial multifidus (as opposed to the deep, segmental fibers of the multifidus I referenced last week)
Quadratus lumborum (often referred to as the “QL”)
Deep medial gluteus maximus
All these muscles play a large role in posture and alignment of the spine and pelvis, and consequently the rest of the body.
They also play a role in controlling motion during deceleration and rotational movements. A good example of this is a baseball pitcher or golfer. Both movements require a great amount of rotational force, but also a large amount of deceleration after the baseball is thrown or the golf ball is struck.
Training these muscles properly is a big deal then, especially when training for the above-mentioned sporting activities or other similar activities.
However, you don’t just need to be able to control rotation and deceleration when throwing a baseball or hitting a golf ball. You also require these muscles to function in this capacity when you bend over to pick something up or tie your shoe.
How about picking up a two-year-old running past you? That certainly requires some control of rotation and deceleration!
Unfortunately, when most people think about how to train for these activities, they only think about performing movements that replicate the twisting and bending motion.
However, the key is that these muscles control deceleration and rotational forces, they don’t create them. This is an important distinguishing factor and one that we should discuss.
You obviously need muscles to create rotational forces, but you equally need the global stabilizers to be able to activate and control these movements so as not to allow uncontrolled rotation.
Uncontrolled rotation and deceleration are two of the most frequent ways that people get injured, especially when it comes to back injuries.
So, getting your global stabilizers up to snuff will ensure that you are not risking injury every time you go to pick something up, hit a golf ball, serve a tennis ball, or throw a baseball.
So, how do we train them?
Well, it’s not the best approach to train your global stabilizers by doing twisting and bending exercises. Instead, you can effectively train them by performing stabilization exercises against various outside forces to build endurance and body control.
Here are some excellent examples of how to do this:
Planks are quite a common exercise, but many people don’t realize that there are a lot of variations that can increase the effectiveness of the plank by adding in different challenges to your core.
Both front planks and side planks, along with their many variations, can be great opportunities to train your global stabilizers.
Here’s a quick overview of the regular front plank:
Here’s an overview of how to perform the side plank:
Here are a few great variations of front and side planks for you to add in rotational forces to the core and hips that recruit more of the stabilizing muscles throughout the core:
Plank with Arm March:
Physio Ball Stir the Pot:
Side Plank with Top Leg Clamshell:
Side Plank Hip Abduction:
Loaded carries are also great choices for training global stability throughout the core. As I mentioned earlier, your global stabilizers are active at relatively low levels of resistance and during endurance activities.
Carrying weights in different positions and for different time intervals serves to work the postural muscles of your core more than almost anything else!
Choosing a weight that allows you to carry it under control for at least 20-40 yards is a great starting point. From there, the sky’s the limit as to how you challenge yourself with carrying exercises. You can do a carry for as long as possible before you lose muscular endurance, you can try different holds and carry positions, etc.
Here are some great carry variations for you to try:
2-arm Farmer's Carry:
1-arm Barbell Farmer's Carry:
In addition to the plank variations and loaded carry variations that I showed you today, the chop & lift exercises, and the Pallof press exercises that I overviewed last week also serve to train some of the global stabilizers. They are exercises that span the gap between training the local and global stabilizers.
Again, there are many other options out there for training these muscles, but the exercises I showed you today are great places to start.
Once you get a handle on training your local and global stabilizers, only then are we ready to progress on to the global movers, which we’ll talk about next week!
Want to learn more about training your body to Move Better, Feel Better, and Live Better? Our exercise programs at the Med Gym are custom made to get you exactly what you need.
Whether you come into the gym or work with us via Med Gym Online, we can help you get on the right track with your movement and fitness.
Contact us here to talk about how we can help you develop an exercise routine that improves your core strength and function and so much more!