When one thinks of core training, one often thinks of just the abdominal area, trunk area and perhaps the gluteal region. The core actually consists of the lumbo-pelvic hip complex which consists of the diaphragm, the abdominal and oblique muscles, the paraspinal and gluteal muscles, the pelvic floor and hip girdle muscles. Some therapists are now including the shoulder area such as the latissimus dorsi muscles also. There are stabilizing muscles, global mobilizer muscles, and transfer muscles. Often with injury, several muscles are delayed in responding to movement where they should stabilize.
While there are many ways to evaluate core strength, studies show that it should be activity specific and studied in all planes of motion (sagittal or moving front/back, frontal or moving sideways and transverse or moving in rotation). Programs should be implemented locally first (specific muscles), globally (muscles working together), then dynamically (action specific).
How to help your training: Runners are often given exercise routines for the core and other areas of the body connected to the core. It is important to know if the muscles are working correctly or delayed in their response. (This can be measured best by using EMG). Palpation of the muscles or touching them while contracting the muscles will provide some insight. If you are a very aware runner, you may be able to tell if certain muscles are working, with cueing from a professional, if you are not able to get instruction in person.
Also, programs should be laid out in a fashion that allows for the stabilizer muscles to work, then larger muscle groups next and then should provide sport specific activities. Doing a general strengthening program may not help the correct muscles get stronger and turn on at the appropriate time, if it is not laid out appropriately. Getting specific instruction from a qualified source can help with this.
My experience: Being a runner and physical therapist allows me more insight into whether the correct muscles are working in a runner by touching the muscles or talking them through an exercise. Poor alignment (not changed by correcting the body position, but by the actual joints and muscle), and pain can inhibit a muscle and many runners don’t know when this is happening.
Photos courtesy of : photobucket.com
(**This section is only a brief analysis of one or a few journal article(s) and the relation to running. When I am able to review more that are related to a specific subject, I will attempt to update and add information. Keep in mind every runner is unique).