training has become a buzz phrase in the sports performance industry
over the past few years. And while the core is critical for sports
success, it has been slightly misunderstood from a training perspective. For
core strength, exercises should involve movement of the spine and hips
into flexion, extension and/or rotation (such as crunches, back extension
and any twisting or rotating movement). For Core stability, exercises
should have no movement of the spine, only maintain spinal positions
(examples being bridging progressions, kneeling on stability balls or other
balance type exercises). How do athletes themselves know where to begin?
Russian Twists create rotary strength
in the core
At Athletic Edge, we understand the difference between training for core stability
and training for core strength. We know when it’s important to be
strong and stable through rotation, from side-to-side and from front-to-back. We
show that the core, or trunk, has the main purpose in athletics of allowing an
athlete to transfer force from the ground upward and outward. It’s
crucial for everything from throwing, to blocking, to kicking, to diving, etc. If
the trunk isn’t stable, the force will dissipate back into the athlete’s
core and will not be expressed against an opponent or object. In other
words, athletes cannot advance — themselves, the ball in their hand, the
puck on their stick, etc. — and they can easily get knocked over and hurt.
Contrary to what most people believe, the core is not only abdominals
and low back muscles, but everything from the neck down, excluding extremities. This
also involves the hips and shoulders — if they’re unstable, the athlete
is at high risk for injury. Many of the most critical muscles involved
in core stability are not even visible, but are below the surface muscles (e.g.
transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum, to just name a few).
variations develop great core stability
Because everyone wants a strong core, many fantastic new ways of training
these muscles have been devised, in addition to some of the older methods
seeing a come-back. But an athlete's goals have to be specific
in order to choose which to use and how to train effectively.
Many of the training devices used for core stability have a great value
to athletes if used properly. The idea behind the stability ball,
for instance, is that by forcing an athlete to perform movements while
on an unstable surface, the deep abdominal wall will need to control
the trunk to successfully perform the movements. This can be extremely
effective, but should be used in its proper context. Not every exercise
needs to be done on an unstable surface all the time.
ball side-throws improve rotational explosiveness
ball training, a tried and true method, can also be an effective training
tool, especially for developing trunk power. But medicine ball drills come
in many forms. An athlete can do slower repetitions with heavier weighted
balls, super-fast repetitions with lighter weighted balls, and anything in between
to create different training effects. Compound free-weight exercises, such
as squats, Olympic lifts and snatches are also extremely demanding on the trunk
because there is a lot of weighted movement going on that the body has to stabilize
and adjust to. Even some "stationary" types of the exercises,
such as planks, can be useful, since the trunk's main function in sport
is many times to be a stabilizer, not a flexor or extensor.
training produces readiness on the playing field
The one constant in the multitude of core stability options is that
an athlete has to be aware of the goal in order to get the proper training and the ultimate sport success. What's the sport? What's
the position? In what phase of training is the athlete? The answers to these questions dictate what exercises get chosen and how
much or how little of each should be done. The trainers at Athletic Edge help athletes incorporate the right core workout into an overall strength
and conditioning program that takes their game to new levels.
Do not neglect training core stability in the frontal plane (side to
side). This is where most athletes are weak. Try doing side bridges - sometimes
called pillars. This training exercise is important in sports such as golf,
baseball or any other striking sport, since the lead side must brace before
hitting an object.
Make sure your core strength exercises are performed at the same rate
of speed as they are done in your sport. For example, if doing rotational
exercises for hitting a ball or shooting in lacrosse or hockey, the movement
must be trained explosively against light resistance, since this more closely
mimics the actual sports movement.