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Issue: #1 January 2009
Dear ASEP Exercise Physiologist:

Thank you for being part of our community. ASEP is the specific voice for (historically under-represented) Exercise Physiologists. Please use this Newsletter as a link to ASEP resources from scientific journals to professional papers, to employment and related opportunities. And be sure to click on "More On Us" at the left for the ASEP-newsletter's parent web site.
Finally, don't miss the Annual ASEP Conference coming April 2-4, in Wichita Falls, Texas, 2009! Details available at
-Lonnie Lowery and Jonathan Mike, ASEP-Newsletter Editors 
 Editor's Corner

editorialDistance Education: The Pathway to a Second-Rate Education in Exercise Physiology

The current economic downturn has affected many aspects of life, including universities.  As universities constantly try to find ways to offer quality programs with less money, administrators frequently tout the cost-benefits of online and distance education programs. I recall the Dean of the College where I am employed encouraging faculty members to develop 1) online courses, and 2) teach distance education courses (via interactive broadcast satellite television), rather than face-to-face courses because these alternative modes of instruction were more "cost effective". If you are a university professor and have not yet been asked to develop an online course, it is likely that request might come in 2009.
So, why is this important to the exercise physiology profession? I cannot speak for other academic disciplines. Maybe the content and quality of instruction for online and distance education courses is similar to face-to-face courses in history, English, and business administration. However, this is not the case for exercise physiology. The very nature of our discipline involves movement or physical activity, and the measurement of it. In addition to the cognitive domain, there is a psychomotor component to exercise physiology that differentiates it from many other professions. One can argue that the theoretical and conceptual aspects of exercise physiology (e.g., the sliding filament theory of muscle contraction) can be adequately taught online or from a distant site. But, the skills and knowledge that come from the hands-on, face-to-face learning that occurs in the laboratory cannot be duplicated through distance education.
Can students become exercise physiologists by simply learning the theory (e.g., online or through distance education) without the laboratory training? No! Would you go to a surgeon who knew the theory behind performing an operation yet had never actually had any training with a scalpel? Of course not. Likewise, the development of laboratory skills is a critically important part of being an exercise physiologist. For example, an instructor can explain how to do simple skills such as take a blood pressure measurement (e.g., where to place the cuff, the rate of deflation, what sounds to listen for, etc.) or take a skinfold measurement (e.g., how much skin to pinch, where to place the calipers, etc.), but unless students have the opportunity to practice their technique it is unlikely that they will be able to master even the most rudimentary skills common to the exercise physiology profession. ASEP Accreditation includes 15 areas of laboratory skills. Academic programs that do not teach these skills should not be accredited, and students that do not learn the skills do not have the right to use the title "exercise physiologist".

For the professors of exercise physiology, when that school administrator asks you to convert your face-to-face exercise physiology course to an online or distance education course to be more "cost effective" (and that time is coming), I urge you to take a stand for academic excellence and quality control within the profession and explain the importance of a hands-on, face-to-face laboratory experience regardless of the cost. Exercise Physiology: Because Life's not Virtual (maybe that should be the new slogan for ASEP). 
Dr. Dale Wagner,
ASEP Board of Directors
Ask the EP 
Q. Within health, fitness, and exercise, we constantly here the term "core", "core strength", and "core stability". However, what is Core? What does it mean and how can personal trainers and fitness professionals better inform clients regarding overall core training?

A. It is critically important to discuss differences between core strength and core stability. Interestingly enough, individuals use them interchangeably. However, in reality, they are different. In addition, it is imperative to converse on the application of core training and current research involved with this phenomenon. It is fascinating that trainers and coaches implement these modalities into their program without knowing either historical significance or current research and application initiatives.
The "core musculature" consists of the 29 pairs of muscles that support the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex in order to stabile the spine, pelvis, and kinetic chain during functional movement (1). Stability is the ability of the body to control the whole range of motion of a joint thereby not creating deformity, neurological deficits, or incapacitating pain (2,3). In the proceeding paragraphs, there is evidence to support that endurance is the better training variable when training core musculature (4,5).
To differentiate between terms, the article from Faries (6) notes core 'stability' is being made to the stability of the spine, not the stability of the muscle themselves. The authors also mention there has been no reference to enhancing the stability of a muscle, but rather the ability of the muscle to contract. Specifically, the muscles are contracting in order to control that functional movement.

Core "strength" is used and reference is made to the ability of the musculature to stabilize the spine through contractile forces and intra-abdominal pressure (6). However, confusion exits on labeling an exercise core strength or stability. According to Faries (6), core exercises do not aim to increase the stability of the musculature, but enhance the muscles ability to stabilize the spine, specifically, the lumbar spine.
Recent research has promoted the Transverse Abdominis (TrA) and Multifidis or Multifidi as the primary stabilizers of the spine (1,2,7), and thus when contracted they are able to increase tension of the thora-columbar fascia and increase intra-abdominal pressure, increasing spinal stiffness in order to resist forces acting on the lumbar spine. So, in other words, this lends the fact that core stability is essential for resisting forces on the spine such as in squatting, deadlifting, and overhead pressing. It is also useful for upper body movements, and can aid in single arm or leg exercises. In addition, since these muscles do not create movement of the spine, the internal oblique, the medial fibers of the external oblique, and the quadratus lumborum also assist in stabilizing the spine, but also FUNCTION, secondarily to MOVE the spine (2).
Faries (2007) stresses the importance of both local (i.e. TrA, Multifidis) and global (rectus abdominus, erector spinae) musculature in terms of incorporating both into a training program, although overall the whole 'application' to core training from a 'research view' is limited. Since those global muscles have long levers and force arms, they are able to produce high outputs of torque with emphasis on speed, power, and a large arc of multiplanar movements, while counteracting the external loads for transfer to local systems (1,8). In regards to fiber typing, the local system consists of mainly type 1 and global is mainly type II (8,9).
It has been suggested that focus should move past the strength alone to understand the speed with which the muscles contract in reaction to a force (2). Also, some individuals might do well on a strength test of force but do poor on a performance test of endurance (10). History and specificity of training are major influences. As with assessment, measures of the core should include various performance measures of force, endurance, and power (6).
There is also the possibility of too much stability as well as too little stability and what the optimum dosage response should represent. "Sufficient stability" would be the minimal level to assure spinal stability without imposing unnecessary loads on the muscles and tissues (11). However, an ideal set of exercises for all individuals currently does not exist, but general suggestions for exercises that emphasize trunk stabilization in a neutral spine, while emphasizing mobility of the hip and knees (12, 13, 5). For a further discussion in this area, please refer to McGill in the reference section.
In regards to performance enhancement, limited research has been conducted. However, Hagins (14) showed that a 4 weeks lumbar stabilization exercise program improved the ability to perform progressively difficult lumbar stabilization exercises. Six weeks of swiss ball training specifically designed for core activation improved ability of core musculature to stabilize the spine significantly, while also improving core endurance (15).
Functional progression is the important aspect of core strengthening, which includes performance goals, history of functional activities, variety of assessment, and training in all 3 planes of motion (16,10). Interestingly, a brief statement made of the possibility of overtraining the global system such as rectus abdominus, which seems to be the most utilized part of core training. Consequently, the local system must compensate
Many coaches are big advocates of the whole 'functional' aspect because it works for them and their athletes and clients, while others are not as convinced. Notwithstanding, personal trainers, fitness professionals and coaches will continue to use what has worked and what they are successfully with, despite what 'research' says. This can be a good thing (used cautiously) as it opens more doors for new types of training, philosophies and principles.
1). Fredericson, M., and T. Moore. Core stabilization training for middle and
long-distance runners. New Stud. Athletics. 20:25-37. 2005
2). NORRIS, C.M. Functional load abdominal training: Part 1. J. Body Work
Mov. Ther. 3:150-158. 1999.
3). Panjabi, M.M. The stabilizing system of the spine. PartI. Function, dysfunction adaptation and enhancement. J. Spinal Disord. 5:383-389. 1992.
4). McGill, S.M. Low back exercises: Evidence for improving exercise regimens.
Phys. Ther. 78:754-765. 1998.47.
5). McGill, S.M. Stability: From biomechanical concept to chiropractic practice.
J. Can. Chiropractic Assoc.43:75-88. 1999.
6). Faries, M, and Greenwood, M. Core Training: Stabilizing the Confusion. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 29 (2). 2007
 7). Moseley, G.L., P.W. Hodges, and S.C. Gandevia. Deep and superficial fibers of the lumbar multifidus muscle are differentially active during voluntary arm movements. Spine. 27:E29-
E36. 2002.
8). Standford, M.E. Effectiveness of specific lumbar stabilization exercises: A
single case study. J. Man. Manipulative Ther. 10:40-46. 2002.
9). Richardson, C., G. Jull, R. Toppenburg, and M. Comeford. Techniques for active lumbar stabilization for spinal protection: A pilot study. Aust. J. Physiother. 38:105-112. 1992.
10). Kroll, P.G., L. Machado, C. Happy,
S. Leong, and B. Chen. The relationship between five measures of trunk strength. J. Back Musculoskeletal Rehabil. 14:89-97. 2000.
11). Vera-Garcia, F.J., S.H.M. Brown, J.R. Brown, and S.M. McGill. Effects of different levels of torso coactivation on trunk muscular and kinematic responses to posteriorly applied sudden loads. Clin. Biomech. 21:443- 455. 2006.
12). Axler CT, McGill SM.  Low back loads over a variety of abdominal exercises: searching for the safest abdominal challenge. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1997 Jun;29(6):804-11.
13). Barr KP, Griggs M, Cadby T. Lumbar stabilization: core concepts and current literature, Part 1. Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2005 Jun;84(6):473-80. Review.
14). Hagins, M., K. Adler, M. Cash, J. Daughtery, and G. Mitrani. Effects of practice on the ability to perform lumbar stabilization exercises. Orthop. Sports Phys. Ther. 29:546-555. 1999.
15). Stanton, R., P.R. Reaburn, and B. Humphries. The effect of short-term
Swiss ball training on core stability and running economy. J. Strength Cond.Res. 18:522-528. 2004.
16). Akuthota, V. Core strengthening. Arch. Phys. Med. Rehab. 85(3 Suppl.1):S86-S92. 2004
~Jonathan Mike, CSCS,
Doctoral Student, Assistant Editor

Opportunities Related to Exercise Physiology
ConvaTec is seeking to hire a Part-Time Fitness Professional. To learn more, click here...more information...

The School of Health and Human Sciences at Southern Cross University (New South Wales, Australia) is seeking to appoint a Professor in Exercise Science to facilitate and nurture research and learning development...more information...

The Department of Kinesiology at the University of New Hampshire... is currently seeking applicants for a tenure track appointment in Exercise Science at the Assistant or Associate Professor level. ...more information...
NOTE: ASEP Board of Directors with approval of The Center for Exercise Physiology-online developed the "EPC Petition Guidelines" for doctorate exercise physiologists to become Board Certified.

Thank you for perusing our opinions, facts and opportunities in this edition of the ASEP-Newsletter.

Lonnie Lowery
American Society of Exercise Physiologists

All contents are copyright 1997-2009 American Society of Exercise Physiologists.