Biomechanical Consequences of Running with Deep Core Muscle Weakness | Lower Back Implications & Research Review
Why is Core Strength/Stability so important? Well, some new research published in the journal of biomechanics can help shed some light on this.
Researchers captured & anaylzed the running motion of 8 healthy participants between the ages of 18-55 years old. Upon video capturing each individual’s running motion, simulation models were created using OpenSim software that allowed researchers to induce muscle weakness in various deep core muscles (e.g., QL, multifidus, psoas, erector spinae), while maintaining running kinematics. Compression and anterior shear loads were also measured through T12-S1, when muscle weakness was induced.
One of the more prominent findings were that when researchers induced 100% weakness in the deep erector spinae muscles, they found the greatest compensation and contribution from other deep core muscles. For example, the quadratus lumborum, latissimus dorsi, mulitifuds, , superficial iliocostalis lumborum, and superficial longissimus thoracis all had to ‘significantly compensate for the deep erector spine muscle weakness when running.
Moreover, peak anterior shear loads increased at all segments when all deep core muscles were weakened. However, compression loads increased only at L1 and L2, and actual decreases occurred at L4-S1 (Not necessarily a good thing as noted by the researchers as could an indication on instability).
Overall, the important takeaway from this study is that if one were to have a weak core, compensation will occur in order make up for the weakness. The muscles that have to compensate for that weakness will have to produce more force, which may alter the way compression and shears loads are placed on the spine. Also, the muscles that are working hard to compensate could become fatigued quicker and this may alter running kinematics as well. For example, if one does not have the proper stability to run and they compensate, the could create more motion through the spine (e.g., flexion/lateral flexion). This could create abnormal loading patterns on the spine and increase one’s risk for a lower back injury.
As a strength & conditioning coach, identifying a weak core musculature or imbalances in the core is vital for future performance. Simple isometric assessments such as planks, side planks, glute/hamstring holds, etc., can all provide some insight into this. Upon, finding a possible weakness or imbalance, the appropriate exercise can they be prescribed. Just something I thought I’d share 🙂
Raabe, M. E., & Chaudhari, A. M. W. (2017). Biomechanical consequences of running with deep core muscle weakness. Journal of Biomechanics, 67, 98-105.