There is one more part of the body that still needs to be covered within our series of body parts blog posts: the center of gravity.
The true stabilizing mechanism of the body, which is greatly engaged in a variety of different activities. It is responsible for:
The most forgotten muscles, and yet one of the most important ones required for proper stabilization of the spine column.
We tend to concentrate on primary movers (big muscle groups of the rear legs and front legs), because we want a powerful and muscular dog, but often forget about this important link between front and rear – the core. The importance of the core is to provide efficient front and rear limb work.
If this system (abdominals, lower back) is not efficient, the body is not going to respond to all of the high demands placed on it while our dogs are running, jumping, and turning.
If extremities (limbs) are strong, but the core is weak, there is not enough force provided to produce efficient movements – again, leading to a potential injury. A weak core also puts more pressure on limb joints (hips, knees, etc).
But when the core is weak, the body usually compensates by overloading other muscles (such as the iliopsoas muscle), easily leading to injuries.
Dogs with weak core and back musculature often end up with compensatory iliopsoas strains.
The iliopsoas muscle is the deep flexor muscle of the hip, actually combined out of two muscles joined together: m. iliacus and m. psoas major (also psoas minor).
It originates from the lumbar spine and ilium and attaches to the inside top of the femur.
It is responsible for flexion of the hip joint (adduction and external rotation of the femur), core stabilization, flexion and stabilization of the lumbar spine (when the hindlimb is fixed) or caudal traction on the trunk (when the hindlimb is in extension).
Activities such as running, jumping, turning, negotiating equipment and working, rely on the activity of the iliopsoas.
A variety of unintended moves (jumping over obstacles with back legs stretched out beyond the current muscle capacity, flying over the A-frame, etc) can cause the muscle to elongate beyond the current capacities (in strength or length).
This can set the dog up for a potential injury to the area.
Providing strengthening of the core and hip flexor area in a proper way can greatly contribute to decreased risk of injury as well as to improved performance.
The core is engaged through a variety of different static and dynamic exercises.
Working out on unstable surfaces in dog fitness can contribute to increased core engagement during the performing of certain tasks.
Need some ideas for core-strengthening exercises even without any balancing equipment needs? Here are a couple of them you can include in your daily activities!
Just remember: QUALITY before QUANTITY!
Training with poor technique and poor neuromuscular control develops poor muscle patterns and poor stabilization. Read more about proper body positioning during specific exercises in the Know-how for dog fitness blog post!