Core Training To Improve Overall Strength
In the last few years it has become evident that there is a relationship between the body’s muscle support structure and its larger muscle groups. Most Professional sports teams have embraced core training as a way to prevent injuries in their respective sports To visualize this support structure the term core was invented and is now used. The “core” is defined in many different ways by many different people. In my opinion the body’s core starts below the neck at your trapezius and radiates out to the supporting muscles of the deltoids and ends at the gluteus. In order for the body to adapt to the stresses of resistance training and or athletic activity the core must be solid. It doesn’t matter how large the major muscle groups are, if there’s weakness in the support structure at some point an injury is going to occur. Stabilizing the core will lead to increases in overall strength since the major groups have increased assistance from the support groups.
The methods to train the core are endless. They include but are not limited to Swiss balls, medicine balls, Stabilization balls and platforms as well as bodyweight exercises. Core training can be performed on flat surfaces or for the more advanced practitioner on unstable surfaces. All of the exercises force the body to stabilize itself through the core in order to perform them correctly. As a test stand up straight and lift your left or right foot so that it’s a few inches off the ground. Now try to touch the ground in front of you with the opposite hand while balancing on that one leg (picture). Its not easy for someone who has a weak core structure. Now to make it a little more difficult, stand up while still balancing on that leg and raise hand you bent over with over your head. Now to REALLY make it difficult bend over and touch the ground in front of you, then raise your hand over head. Not only are the muscles of the quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteus firing to keep you balanced, but your abdominals, shoulder and back muscles are all firing to keep the weight above your head from tipping you over or crashing down on your head. This instability forces the body to adapt to the stress by strengthening the stabilizing muscles attached to the larger muscle group which is being stressed. In this article I will show you some of my favorite core exercises.
First is the medicine ball rotation. This is excellent for stretching and strengthening the support structure of the shoulders, as well as the obliques abdominals and hip flexors. Start by holding a medicine ball waist level and rotate the ball from side to side while walking forward. The ball should always be rotated to the leg you’re stepping with (picture). This exercise can be performed with wide rotations or tight rotations Start off with sets of 10 rotations each side and progress to 20 rotations
Second is the Swiss ball push up. It’s important to note on this exercise that the further the ball is placed away from your hands the more difficult the exercise becomes. I suggest starting in a pushup position and your shins on the top of the ball (picture). While keeping your back as flat as possible perform a pushup bringing your elbows to a 90 degree and then pushing back up to the start. By the way you also have to keep the ball stabilized while you’re doing your pushup as well. Start with 3 sets of 15 repititions and progress to 30.
The last exercise is called the Plank. The plank is performed by first lying on the floor on your stomach. You then come up on your elbows while keeping the rest of your body straight and hold the position. As you hold the position you’ll notice your abdominals and lower back will start to fatigue. Start out with 3 sets of 15 sec with 10 sec rest in between and work your way up to 45 seconds. There is also the Side Plank which is a variation of the standard Plank (picture). You can perform these exercises before your workout as a warm up, after as a cool down or depending on your time constraints you can make this into a work out.
Hopefully this will give you an idea of the various exercises that can help to make you a better and stronger athlete.