When thinking about the core we tend to think of it as one thing, and ask ourselves, “Is it strong, or is it weak?”
But the core (there are lots of definitions, but let’s say that it’s a combination of the gut muscles, the hip flexors, the two gluteus maximus muscles and the various low back muscles) has more going on than just this.
To start with, it may not be weak, per se. It might more be in-activated or switched off.
More importantly, it might be weaker on one side and stronger on the other. This side-to-side difference can explain a lot;
- it might cause better balance on one leg and worse on the other
- it might mean that you are more likely to put your back out bending down to the right but not to the left (for example)
- it might destabilise one side of the low back and not the other
- and so on…
Having a quick and simple diagnostic test to tell if there is a difference is very useful indeed.
And once you’ve identified a weak side you can work that weak side to ‘wake it up’ and get it working better.
When preparing the back for activity (a favourite theme of mine), this helps reduce the risk of injury and overstrain.
Check out the video below for a quick introduction to this diagnostic test and exercise.
The critical point is that it makes you do a partial situp using just one side of the core, which you compare to the other side.
The more challenging side on which to do the partial situp then needs corrective work;
- to help in the short term and just before exercise, you keep working the harder side by repeating the test/exercise until it feels easier (or at least closer to the other side)
- to help in the medium term, if this difference side-to-side proves hard to correct, you might well need a combination of treatment and highly targetted corrective strengthening exercises