What It Means To Have A “Weak Core”

Weak Core

Weak Core

Parents of children with movement difficulties – no matter the diagnosis – are often told by doctors, therapists, and other health professionals that their child has “a weak core”. Okay so they can’t do a sit up or they have weak abdominals…but that’s not really all that goes into a “weak core” or poor posture.

So….What DOES It Mean Then?

The term “core” usually refers to the muscles that work to hold the trunk upright and steady when the limbs are moved. The neck muscles also play a really important role in your core to be able to hold yourself erect. All of these muscles need to work together in a coordinated manner to keep the head and trunk steady – especially when moving the arms and legs.

It’s very likely the abdominals ARE weak and the back extensors ARE weak…but there are actually other factors that contribute to the inability to hold your posture or stability too.

Other Factors that Affect your Core – (SEE VIDEO FOR EXAMPLES!)

Flexibility – Good flexibility is essential for core muscle activation. For example, if the hip muscle flexibility is limited – the child will sit with their pelvis tilted backwards and the back rounded. This means that in this position, the back core muscles are overstretched and can’t work effectively to stabilize the trunk. Even the neck position will compensate in this position and your front neck muscles will overstretch and you will have weakness of the neck muscles with tightness in the back.

Postural Response Mechanisms – Fancy lingo for your body’s natural reaction to changes in position. These consist of:

  • Anticipatory Postural Response - activate muscles in PREPARATION for a change in position or movement
  • Balance Responses - change alignment of the different segments of the body to maintain balance
  • Posture stabilization - Help maintain your posture over long periods of time.

All of these factors: muscle strength, flexibility, AND your postural responses ALL contribute to the position of your posture and core.


So even if your child has a hard time holding their head upright – it doesn’t mean that just their neck muscles are weak…you have to look at the position of their legs, their pelvis, their lower back, and allllll the way up to the neck that’s contributing to their head control or lack of head control.

Why Is This SO Important?

If they are not exercised properly or in a way to address all factors…then over time it leads to more muscular and structural deformities i.e. overstretched muscles, contractures, pelvic compensations, and so on…

So next time your therapist says your child has a weak core … you can ask WHY. Which of these factors are contributing to their inability to hold themselves upright and HOW can we fix it?

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Christine Astarita