The Truth About Core Stability

Yes – I know that we all know that we need it, and most readers will already be doing lots of training for it. But are you really doing what you need to do to get the most out of your core stability training?

I have lots of students come in for various issues in their hips and backs, and most of this stems from a lack of true deep core control. When I ask them to demonstrate what core stability exercises they are doing, most of the time these are ineffective for what actually needs to be working, and in some cases the exercises were a contributing factor to the injury! Core stability is not about doing hundreds of sit ups, getting a ‘six-pack’ or being able to hold a plank position for 3 minutes (although these do still have their purposes!)

True Core Stability Is…

  • The ability to control the spine dynamically, that is, with movement.
  • Fine co-ordination of all of the muscles that control your trunk, not just the abdominals.
  • The ability to adjust the level of control needed, depending on the situation.
  • Creating a stable base off which to work the limbs.
  • Stabilising the mid-section to allow smooth and effective transfer of force through the body.

While everyone needs some level of core stability, some people need more than others. For a dancer, core stability needs to be fantastic fine coordination of all of the muscles to allow controlled mobility of the pelvis and spine with movement, rather than bracing in one spot.

The truth about core stability crunches sit ups lisa howell the ballet blog six pack

So How Do We Do That?

First comes understanding of the anatomy of the spine. The bones of your back are held together by some very deep ligaments and a special arrangement of joints and discs that allows huge mobility of the spine. Some people have more ‘give’ in their ligaments than others, meaning they have even more mobility, and more of a demand for true core stability.

Next up there is a series of very deep muscles that help support the position of the spine. These are called postural muscles and are designed to be on a little bit, most of the time. Your deep back muscles, deep abdominals, pelvic floor and diaphragm all lead into the fascia that attaches into the spine and can help to stabilise it.

The outer muscle layers, the ones that you see when someone has a six pack, are more designed for movement than stability, and so work powerfully for a short period of time. They have to be trained quite differently to the deep muscles, as they are actually a different type of muscle fibre.

So our true core training starts off with very tiny activation exercises for the deepest back muscles, deep abdominals and pelvic floor. We then need to move on to exercises that challenge the stability of the spine with movement, but still just using the deepest possible muscles, such as the 4 point sit back exercise, which is demostrated in this video. 

Next up comes exercises with movement, to challenge the stability of the spine while it s rotating, extending or side bending. These exercises do wonders for your extensions and your turns as they help you learn how to stabilize the spine in all kinds of odd, dynamic positions!

In the advanced levels of core training we also bring in an unstable base, including lots of Ball Exercises for an extra challenge. The ball is a wonderful piece of equipment and is definitely underrated in dance circles!


True Core Stability Exercises are extremely hard to do properly and very easy to do wrong. Simply bracing the abdominals to immobilize the spine is not what we are here to learn.

To discover lots of different core exercises that can really help your dancing, please check out our A New Approach to Core Stability program,that is organised into three stages to take you from beginners to advanced. The Ball Conditioning for Dancers program is also a great resource for more experienced dancers.

The purpose of these courses is to teach you the finer details required to gain true core stability; to help you understand the reasons why it is so important; and a progressive system of exercises to train your muscles in the best way possible.

Core stability is essential to the dancer in improving turns, controlling an arabesque and preventing many back pain issues. It is an area that is the base of almost all dancing movement and you will find as we move through the course it is an area that is very easy to work on both in class and in day-to-day movements. We can't wait to see your results with this approach to core stability.

Core Resources

If you are looking to delve deeper into this topic, check out the following programs:

  • A New Approach to Core Stability: This program approaches Core Stability training in a completely new way. Using a simple visual chart comprising of 5 different positions (Lying, Side Lying, 4 Point, Sitting and Standing) and 5 different grades, you can work your way through the entire program at your own pace, layering levels of stability to achieve ultimate dynamic control of the spine and pelvis.
  • Level One Dance Teacher and Therapist Training: This unique course covers a multitude of assessment and treatment techniques to individualise a dancer's training. With special focuses on Postural Control, Core Stability, Flexibility, Basic Classical Technique, The Dancers Hip, Allegro, Spinal Mobility and Arabesques, it is suitable for anyone working closely with dancers.

Join The Ballet Blog Community & Receive 10% Off Your First Order!