Core strength training is a popular term with a few very different definitions. Athletes and coaches tend to look at core exercises as a method of improving athletic performance, while general fitness enthusiasts and body building oriented people tend to use core strength training as a means to develop the look of six pack abs.
The two only overlap because the core does consist of the rectus abdominus (six pack ab area) so ‘working the abs’ is a part of core strength training. When training your core for athletic performance you train yourself to activate muscles used to stabilize the spine, hips, and pelvis while performing other tasks such as weight lifting or explosive movement.
Abdominals: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, Internal and External Oblique’s
Spine: Erector Spinae, Quadratus Lumborum, Iliopsoas, Psoas Major, Trapezius
These are not the only muscles used in core strength training but they are the muscles that work together to stabilize the spine. The theory behind strengthening these muscle groups through both conditioning and weight training (core strength training) is to maximize upper to lower body (or lower to upper body) transfer of strength during many sporting activities.
Benefits of Core Strength Training
- Improved proprioception (body awareness)
- Improved balance & stability
- Increased total power output
- Reduced risk of injury
Benefits of core strength training to the athlete
Core strength training differs from many traditional weight training routines by working the lower back, abdominals, and spinal stabilizers in unison with strength movements of the upper and/or lower body.
During athletic movement the whole body works as one unit to complete its intended task, whether it be running, throwing, catching or shooting. Core strength training is a method for replicating the simultaneous muscular stimulation required to perform these tasks. By replicating these movements in the gym, the athlete trains his/her nervous system and musculature to fire the appropriate muscles in the appropriate sequence, with more strength and power than before.
Core Strength Training Steps for the Athlete
If you would like to use core strength training to improve your performance for a specific sport, I recommend the following:
- Analyze your sport and see what different types of tasks are required.
- Does your sport require speed, power, agility, vertical jump, etc.?
- Once you break down the different skills required in your sport, begin to include them in your weight training and conditioning routine. Additionally, be sure to include strength exercises that challenge the core while simultaneously isolating other muscle groups.
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