Core exercises and core training are interchangeable terms for exercises that target the abdominal area, low back and pelvis. Core training is not a new concept. Joseph Pilates, the founder of Pilates training method focused on abdominal training, postural alignment and mindful exercise in the early part of the 20th century.
In the past 15 years through advancements in anatomy research, technology and strength and conditioning research core training has taken on a bigger role in injury rehab/prevention and the sport conditioning field. Research has shown that the core is the bridge between movements and force generated in the arms/torso and the hips/legs. Athletes of all disciplines can benefit from improving the strength, coordination and control of the core so that force is safely and efficiently transferred through the whole kinetic chain without adversely effecting the spine.
Core training has also become fashionable in the fitness field – instead of abdominal crunches personal trainers use plank exercises (for example) as a means of attaining six pack abs and the “perfect”, sculpted body. There is also the misconception that a stronger (more developed) midsection leads to less back pain preventatively.
I started practicing and teaching core exercises over 10 years ago, back then they were called lumbar stabilization exercises. Research showed that patients with low back pain had delayed activation of the deep abdominal muscles – the muscles responsible for spinal stability, position and control. Delayed activation also means poor sensory function. In other words people with back pain have an inability to sense spinal movement and are unable to control spinal positioning.
Over the years what I found in my practice treating back pain, training fitness clients and teaching exercise is that yes, it is true that people with back pain have deficiencies in sensing and activating their core muscles. So do most people regardless of the presence of back pain. Good spinal control is often the exception and not the rule for children, adults and many athletes too. Proper core training begins w/simple exercises to sense control and maintain positional control of the spine/pelvis, once this skill is improved more advanced core exercises can be introduced. The worse case scenario is the person w/poor spinal control performing aggressive core exercises.