Review Article

Sports Medicine

, Volume 38, Issue 12, pp 995-1008

First online:

Optimizing Performance by Improving Core Stability and Core Strength

  • Angela E. HibbsAffiliated withEnglish Institute of Sport, Gateshead International StadiumUniversity of Teesside
  • , Kevin G. ThompsonAffiliated withEnglish Institute of Sport, Gateshead International StadiumSchool of Psychology and Sports Science, Northumbria University
  • , Duncan FrenchAffiliated withEnglish Institute of Sport, Gateshead International Stadium
  • , Allan WrigleyAffiliated withCanadian Sport Centre Pacific
  • , Iain SpearsAffiliated withUniversity of Teesside

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Abstract

Core stability and core strength have been subject to research since the early 1980s. Research has highlighted benefits of training these processes for people with back pain and for carrying out everyday activities. However, less research has been performed on the benefits of core training for elite athletes and how this training should be carried out to optimize sporting performance. Many elite athletes undertake core stability and core strength training as part of their training programme, despite contradictory findings and conclusions as to their efficacy. This is mainly due to the lack of a gold standard method for measuring core stability and strength when performing everyday tasks and sporting movements. A further confounding factor is that because of the differing demands on the core musculature during everyday activities (low load, slow movements) and sporting activities (high load, resisted, dynamic movements), research performed in the rehabilitation sector cannot be applied to the sporting environment and, subsequently, data regarding core training programmes and their effectiveness on sporting performance are lacking.

There are many articles in the literature that promote core training programmes and exercises for performance enhancement without providing a strong scientific rationale of their effectiveness, especially in the sporting sector. In the rehabilitation sector, improvements in lower back injuries have been reported by improving core stability. Few studies have observed any performance enhancement in sporting activities despite observing improvements in core stability and core strength following a core training programme. A clearer understanding of the roles that specific muscles have during core stability and core strength exercises would enable more functional training programmes to be implemented, which may result in a more effective transfer of these skills to actual sporting activities.