According to researchers at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Centre, core strength is key to keeping our bodies in balance (read: injury-free). And for most of us, these muscles are often commonly neglected.
In a new study first published in the Journal of Biomechanics, researchers created a scaled computer model of the bodies of athletes and used motion detectors and force-measuring floor plates to analyse their stride.
This allowed them to examine how the bones and muscles interacted and exactly how much pressure was put on each joint. They then used the simulation to virtually “turn off” certain muscles and observe how the rest of the body compensated for this.
They found that deep core muscles forced superficial muscles (such as abs) to work harder and fatigue quicker, increasing the load on the spine.
The result? Pain.
“When your deep core is weak, your body is able to compensate in a way that allows you to essentially run the same way,” explained Ajit Chaudhari, associate professor of physical therapy and biomedical engineering and the study’s lead author.
“In theory, if you had the deep core muscles contributing, you’re sharing the load among more muscles, which theoretically could allow you to have better performance or better endurance.”
But when it comes to stabalising your core with ab workouts, sit-ups and crunches won’t cut it. Instead, Chaudhari recommends planks.
“Working on a six-pack and trying to become a better runner is definitely not the same thing,” he said.
“If you look at great runners, they don’t typically have a six-pack but their muscles are very fit. Static exercises that force you to fire your core and hold your body in place are what’s really going to make you a better runner.”