A strong core is a good foundation for any athlete
with advice from
Gregory M. Moore, PT, DPT, PES;
Jeff Rothstein, PT, MS, CSCS;
and Wayne Seeto, OT, MSPT
When many of us think of a fit body, we think of killer arms and ripped 6-pack abs. And while that 6-pack may look good aesthetically, if you’re an athlete, the real key is not what your abs look like, but rather to have a strong core. Here are some reasons why.
The core’s primary function is to stabilize your body’s frame. Jeff Rothstein, an exercise physiologist and Director of Sports Enhancement at the PT Center for Sports Medicine (a Physiquality network clinic in Akron, Ohio), says, “Whether you’re sitting, walking, running, or jumping, the core must stabilize the trunk in order to move efficiently and under control.”
When the core is weak, you’re more likely to overcompensate with another muscle group, leading to injury or aggravating an existing one, adds Wayne Seeto (a Lead Instructor Trainer and Rehab Specialist for STOTT PILATES®, one of Physiquality’s partner programs). Both note that research has proven that a strong core reduces the chance of injury in the legs, hips and buttocks.
A strong core is also essential to good balance. Jeff says to think about how difficult it is to simply stand on one leg: “If the core musculature isn’t strong enough to keep the hips stable, then the knee will likely cave in as a compensatory effect, and the individual will lose their balance.”
Now think about how that applies to what you do on the court or in the field. Wayne points out that most sports require various movements and positions to be performed in unstable positions, using a great deal of force in a short amount of time. He says, “These tasks require activation of the core musculature to stabilize the pelvis and spine, maintaining balance and generating the required forces and movements. Core conditioning will allow an athlete to adapt to the often unstable physical demands of any particular sport — an overhead smash on a tennis court, a slap shot on the ice, or an uppercut in the ring.”
A strong core leads to faster throws, harder swings and quicker movement. As Jeff is quick to note, “The core is the powerhouse of the body. The stronger the core is, the more efficiently power can be transferred from the legs, through the hips, and into the arms.”
So what can you do to strengthen your core? Most of us immediately think of sit-ups and crunches, but Greg Moore, a physical therapist at HealthStyles Physical Therapy (a Physiquality network clinic with two locations in Michigan), cautions that those types of exercise only work part of your body. He reminds his athletes that “in sports, the only time we are using our core with our backs on the ground is when we get knocked down and have to pull ourselves back up.”
Greg advises focusing on exercises that will improve what’s called force reduction core strength. This will strengthen the muscles used when athletes cut on a field or court, changing their direction of momentum. These exercises make the athlete more resistant to external forces. Here are four types of exercises that he recommends; to see videos of some of the exercises, use the links below.
Anti-rotation: These exercises work the lower back, internal and external obliques, and hip rotators. They help athletes stabilize when changing direction, moving asymmetrically, or kicking, striking or throwing.
Anti-extension: These exercises work the deeper abdominal muscles and the 6-pack muscles without hurting your posture. They help athletes in collision sports react to and resist forces against their upper body.
Anti-flexion: These exercises work the lower back and the muscles surrounding the spine. They help athletes to jump and maneuver quickly.
Anti-sidebending: These exercises work the glutes and lateral trunk muscles. They help athletes move side-to-side.
Gregory M. Moore, PT, DPT, PES, is a physical therapist at HealthStyles Physical Therapy, a Physiquality network member with two locations in Michigan.
Jeff Rothstein, MS, CSCS, is an exercise physiologist and Director of Sports Enhancement at the PT Center for Sports Medicine, a Physiquality network clinic, in Akron, Ohio. He is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, as well as a sport performance coach.
Wayne Seeto, OT, MSPT, is a Lead Instructor Trainer and Rehab Specialist for STOTT PILATES®, one of Physiquality’s partner programs. He is certified to teach the STOTT PILATES Rehab program and is sought after internationally for private and professional instruction.
For further information:
SLCS Strength and Conditioning Coach. YouTube.com.
Exercise of the week: Pallof press. SportsRehabExpert.com.
Liddane, Lisa. Core stability is more than a 6-pack. Chicago Tribune, October 21, 2009.
Fredericson, Michael and Tammara Moore. Muscular balance, core stability and injury prevention for middle- and long-distance runners. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America, August 2005.