Ask the Doc……..
Is strengthening your core muscles really important?
Strengthening your core muscles (including the muscles of the abdomen, pelvis and low back) is very important. Generally, athletes with greater core strength perform better in all sports.
In recent years much has been written about the importance of strengthening this group of muscles. Linebackers take ballet and Pilates classes because they increase core muscles. Golfers and many other athletes now focus on this. And today any coach worth their salt preaches the importance of strengthening the core… the central or foundational part of our bodies.
But as important as core strength is, sports performance can only be ultimately maximized, first and foremost, by improving our structural core. A simple car jack cannot lift very much if not first vertically aligned, and we cannot utilize all of our strength if our muscles and joints are not working in an ideal position. Even the best training techniques cannot make up for a lack of ideal, structural core positioning. It never ceases to amaze me to see great athletes with superb core muscle strength and a horrible structural core. That’s like having a race car with a powerful engine that has a great deal of horsepower that can’t be transmitted to the ground because of poor wheels and tires.
There isn’t a race car driver in the world who would ever consider racing their cars without first making sure their tires and wheels weren’t first aligned and balanced. But in sports, we simply start training individuals. This often results in injuries. Indeed, not too long ago an article in Sports Illustrated detailed the injuries NFL players were having while trying to condition themselves during spring training. Note that these injuries were specifically related to training and not injuries during play.
The foot is the foundation of our entire skeletal system. It is the supportive framework of all of our weight bearing joints which are our ankles, knees, hips, back and neck. Our feet are where our “rubber” meets the road. And the subtalar joint is the structural core not only of the foot, but of our entire body. This small joint just below the ankle is composed of the talus (part of the ankle joint), and the calcaneus (heel bone of the foot) and has a profound effect on injuries, arthritis and human sports performance
And because nothing about us is perfect (we all have one leg that is longer than the other, one foot that is flatter etc.), everyone’s structural core is “off” to some extent. Stabilize this core joint and you have the potential to immediately run faster, jump higher, lift more weight and basically improve your performance in any sport….and do all this with less chance of injury or tendency towards later arthritic changes. Indeed, even people with significant arthritic problems can often decrease painful symptoms in their feet, ankles, knees, hips and back and get active again by controlling the position of this critically important foot joint.
This is best done with a precisely made (and most aren’t) custom foot orthotic. The more accurately aligned this core joint is, the more stabilized all of the weight bearing joints it supports will be too. And doing this will help you then maximize the core muscles needed to perform better.
In addition, and often times not fully appreciated, chiropractic adjustments, massage therapy and other modalities can help align and relax muscles to create a much more efficient core.
Remember, even the strongest muscles need a solid skeletal framework to perform well. Optimally aligned bones and joints are the basis for a strong core and optimally aligning your feet, the base of your entire skeletal system, should be your starting point!
A former reconstructive foot and ankle surgeon, past Clinical Instructor of Medicine at Emory, and Fellow of the American College of Rheumatology, Dr. Pack practices in Greensboro and Atlanta. He treats athletes at all levels and works with patients who have arthritis and want to remain active. In the 2004 Olympics he had a silver and gold medalist, and helped the UGA Golf Team (2005 NCCA National Champions). For further information please contact him directly at 770-335-9201, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or see his website at www.drloupack.com. His new book, The Arthritis Revolution, Latest Research on Staying Active Without Pain Medication or Surgery, is available on LuLu.com or Amazon.com.