Can a person’s core stability improve their hamstring flexibility?
Range of motion is an important part of any conditioning program. Based on a number of recent studies, core stability is known to increase muscular flexibility, particularly that of the hamstring.
Increasing flexibility improves joint motion, while a decrease in flexibility results in less motion at the joint. Enhanced flexibility can provide many benefits, including:
1. A decrease in the occurrence of injury, pain and relief.
2. Advances in athletic performance.
One of the most common flexibility issues is shortness of the hamstring muscles. The shortness of the hamstring muscle limits the range of hip flexion and knee extension. Specifically, this loss of motion has been reported as a major injury risk factor. When short, the hamstring muscles cannot withstand increased passive tension while lengthening. There is also a correlation of hamstring shortness and the occurrence of low back pain. Even with a great deal of research on how to increase flexibility of the hamstring muscles, it is still difficult to determine the best method to achieve this goal.
The core can be specifically described as a box or a double-walled cylinder with the abdominals as the front, paraspinals and gluteals as the back, the diaphragm as the roof, and the pelvic floor and hip girdle musculature as the bottom. Core stability exercise programs target these muscles to help improve the overall function of the spine and body during everyday activities.
Research studies have demonstrated the importance of core stability in relation to the treatment of low back pain and sports conditioning programs. Recent research now demonstrates that a significant correlation exists between core stability and the range of motion of the lower extremities, specifically the hamstrings.
Core stability vs. Core strength:
Knowing the difference between core stability and core strength is vital in the fitness industry. Core stability is considered the ability to stabilize the spine because of muscle activity. Core strength refers to the ability of the muscles to produce force through contractile forces and intra-abdominal pressure. To develop total core stability, it is suggested that training includes a range of exercises performed to challenge the core muscles in all three types of movement.
Muscle endurance is valued over muscular strength for core stability. Exercises such as the curl up, bird dog, side and front support and loaded squat are recommended to develop core muscle endurance. This is because these exercises challenge all of the anterior, lateral, and posterior trunk muscles.
Recent studies have been conducted, explaining the concept of true core stability. these studies have emphasized that those wishing to increase range of motion in hip flexion and knee extension should incorporate core exercises that challenge endurance in all forms. Static stretching is still a recommended component. However, an added focus on core stability exercises at least twice a week will result in significant increases in hamstring length.
Exercises to increase core stability:
A few core exercises to achieve overall core stability for hamstring flexibility, as well as other muscle groups, include:
Bridges with the legs extended into a sling or TRX4
Planks with the legs extended into a sling or TRX4
Pilates straight bridge
Pilates leg pull in plank
Pilates reverse plank
It is important to realize the added benefits core stability provides for other muscle groups. Give these exercises a try and take note of the improvements – big or small.