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MSR Runner's Maintenance Guide - Part 2 - The Core

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

Core Exercise

In Part 2 of the MSR Runner's Maintenance Guide, we spotlight the core - the epicentre of stability and power in running. We concentrate on two major core components: the abdominal muscles and the erector spinae.

The abdominal muscles, including the Transverse Abdominus, Rectus Abdominus, and Internal and External Obliques, provide essential stability, aiding balance during the gait cycle. The erector spinae, running along the spine, contributes to postural stability, allowing smooth force transfer across the body.

Article Index

Anatomical Structures

Manual Therapy

Conclusion & References


Abdominal Muscles: Stability Disrupted

When functioning correctly, the abdominal muscles operate as a cohesive unit to provide the stability that runners heavily rely on, especially during the stance phase. This stability allows for the efficient transfer of forces from the lower body to the upper body, much like a well-oiled machine.

However, when core instability occurs due to an issue within the abdominal muscles, it's like throwing a wrench into that machine. The disruption can lead to excessive lateral trunk movement, analogous to a pendulum swinging too widely. This abnormal movement can reduce the gait efficiency, causing the runner to use more energy with less forward momentum. This can hamper performance and increase the risk of injuries by forcing other muscles to compensate, straining them beyond their capacity.


For a runner, understanding the clues of potential abdominal muscle restrictions can be invaluable. Restricted abdominal muscles might manifest in a few palpatory and visual ways:

Palpatory Clues:

  • Tenderness upon Palpation: One of the first indications of a restriction can be increased tenderness when pressing on the affected abdominal area. It might feel tight or hardened compared to surrounding areas.

  • Palpable Myofascial Adhesions: These feel like small, fibrous knots in the muscle tissue. When pressure is applied to these adhesions, they can produce a localized pain or even refer pain to distant areas.

  • Reduced Tissue Mobility: When attempting to move or glide the skin and superficial tissue over the abdominal muscles, there might be a noticeable restriction or a lack of fluidity in some regions.

Visual Clues:

  • Postural Changes: Restricted abdominal muscles can pull the posture out of alignment. This might appear as an anterior pelvic tilt, leading to an exaggerated curve in the lower back.

  • Altered Movement Patterns: During running, there may be excessive lateral trunk movement or an apparent lack of rotation or torsion in the torso, especially during the transference of weight.

  • Difficulty with Core Activation: Runners might struggle to engage or "brace" their core, leading to a more relaxed or protruding belly, especially during dynamic activities.

When the core, primarily the abdominal muscles, isn't functioning at its peak, the effects cascade throughout the runner's body, compromising their stride, efficiency, and resilience against injuries. Recognizing these palpatory and visual cues can prompt timely interventions, such as Motion Specific Release, to rectify issues and maintain the body's harmony essential for running prowess.


Erector Spinae: The Guardians Compromised

The erector spinae, acting as the spine's guardians, ensures the spine's integrity and maintains an upright posture akin to a support beam in a structure. They facilitate a seamless transfer of forces throughout the body, paving the way for a smooth running motion.

However, when these guardians falter due to dysfunction, it's like a support beam giving way. The balance and harmony of running can be disrupted, leading to altered running posture, similar to a building leaning off to one side. The runner might hunch forward or lean backward, leading to inefficiencies in movement and higher energy expenditure.

It can also contribute to potential lower back discomfort as other muscles strain to counterbalance the instability. This discomfort can manifest as a distracting, persistent pain that inhibits the runner's performance and if left unaddressed, may potentially escalate into a more severe injury.


Palpatory Clues for Erector Spinae Restrictions:

  • Altered Tissue Texture: The muscle may exhibit hypertonicity or feel unusually dense under palpation, potentially indicative of muscle spasm or chronic contraction.

  • Myofascial Trigger Points: These are hyperirritable nodules or taut bands within the muscle fibers. Palpation might reveal these points that elicit a localized pain or a referred pain pattern characteristic of the erector spinae.

  • Reduced Tissue Mobility: On attempting to move or glide the skin over the erector spinae, there may be a restricted feel, suggestive of underlying fascial adhesions.

  • Temperature Variations: Areas of chronic tension or inflammation might exhibit a localized increase in warmth.

  • Palpable Fibrotic Changes: Long-standing restrictions or previous injuries can lead to fibrotic changes in the muscle tissue, making them feel grainy or cord-like under palpation.

Visual Clues:

  • Postural Deviations: An overt sign might include a pronounced thoracic kyphosis or lumbar lordosis.

  • Asymmetry: One side of the back may appear more elevated or pronounced than the other, suggesting muscle hypertonicity or spasm on the affected side.

  • Restricted Lumbar Movement: During flexion, extension, or lateral bending, there might be a reduced range of motion, particularly in the lumbar region where the erector spinae is prominent.

  • Muscle Spasm: In acute cases, visible involuntary muscle contractions or spasms might be evident.

  • Gait Alterations: Any restriction in the erector spinae might also manifest as changes in the gait cycle, such as a lack of smoothness in trunk rotation during walking or running.


Motion Specific Release (MSR)

MSR, a targeted manual therapy, enables runners to boost performance and ward off injuries by addressing myofascial and articular constraints. Constraints from habitual motions or past traumas can limit movement and weaken muscles. MSR intervention enhances joint mobility and muscular synchrony, fostering efficient training, balanced biomechanical loads, and reduced tissue stress, thereby optimizing athletic output.

Core MSR Demonstration Video

MSR Runner's Maintenance Guide - Part 2 - In this video Dr. Abelson demonstrated how to release key structure in the core.



In the realm of running, the core serves as a biomechanical hub, centralizing stability and force transfer. Dysfunction in these areas is akin to a system error, disrupting overall efficiency and increasing the potential for injury. Whether it's the abdominal muscles causing lateral movement imbalances or the erector spinae affecting postural integrity, the ramifications can be severe, requiring immediate attention to prevent long-term damage.

Enter Motion Specific Release (MSR), a targeted manual therapy that acts as a problem-solver for these issues. By focusing on myofascial and joint limitations, MSR improves range of motion and muscle coordination, optimizing overall athletic performance. This not only leads to more efficient running but also minimizes the risk of overuse injuries, making it an indispensable tool in any runner's maintenance routine.



Dr. Abelson's approach in musculoskeletal health care reflects a deep commitment to evidence-based practices and continuous learning. In his work at Kinetic Health in Calgary, Alberta, he focuses on integrating the latest research with a compassionate understanding of each patient's unique needs. As the developer of the Motion Specific Release (MSR) Treatment Systems, he views his role as both a practitioner and an educator, dedicated to sharing knowledge and techniques that can benefit the wider healthcare community. His ongoing efforts in teaching and practice aim to contribute positively to the field of musculoskeletal health, with a constant emphasis on patient-centered care and the collective advancement of treatment methods.


Revolutionize Your Practice with Motion Specific Release (MSR)!

MSR, a cutting-edge treatment system, uniquely fuses varied therapeutic perspectives to resolve musculoskeletal conditions effectively.

Attend our courses to equip yourself with innovative soft-tissue and osseous techniques that seamlessly integrate into your clinical practice and empower your patients by relieving their pain and restoring function. Our curriculum marries medical science with creative therapeutic approaches and provides a comprehensive understanding of musculoskeletal diagnosis and treatment methods.

Our system offers a blend of orthopedic and neurological assessments, myofascial interventions, osseous manipulations, acupressure techniques, kinetic chain explorations, and functional exercise plans.

With MSR, your practice will flourish, achieve remarkable clinical outcomes, and see patient referrals skyrocket. Step into the future of treatment with MSR courses and membership!



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