What does it really mean to have a strong core? The primary audience is for athletes.
When most people think of training the core, the image that comes to mind is tossing on a few rounds of sit-ups, crunches and planks at the end of your workout. Many people treat core exercises as “add-ons” to their regular workout and sloppily go about flexing and extending their back. Sometimes they get hurt. And then there is the mass media who write things are are illogical and won’t work at all. Don’t even get me started!
Here is the truth about core strengthening. It’s NOT about creating lots of moving through flexing/extending the trunk. It’s about resisting movement…..core stabilization.
Core stabilization is the ability of the core musculature that connects the spine, hips, and joints around the lower back vertebrae, to prevent movement. Simply put, stabilization is defined as making something become unlikely to give way or change. During sports, the athlete’s core muscles activate to make your hips and spine unlikely to move. While the arms and legs create motion through space, the core acts to stop motion in order for the body to have a solid foundation that actions are performed from. This is an important role the core plays when an athlete is performing any athletic routine, be it sprinting, cycling, lifting, cutting, jumping, or any other movement.
So, training the core should logically be about counteracting the forces placed on the body from various athletic movements, along with stopping the trunk from falling into unstable positions. This will allow the athlete to then produce optimal biomechanics in his/her given sport. Said another way, the core is working to create a foundation the arms and legs can move from.
To illustrate this, let’s consider what happens in a unilateral movement such as running. The core transfers energy from one side to the other creating the opposite force needed to maintain stable posture. When one runs, the opposite arm raises with the lead leg to counteract the unilateral force. This occurs when the core acts appropriately, thus producing a stable foundation, from which efficiency can spring.
Through a fuller understanding of what the core does can help the athlete to train his/her core more effectively. A stronger core promotes increased performance and injury prevention, regardless of the sport one participates in.
To develop a truly strong core, loaded movements, such as loaded carries, sled pushes and pulls, walking lunges, step-ups, and other similar exercises are more effective than situps, planks and crunches. Why? Because the athlete is moving their body through space under heavy loads. These movements will improve core strength far more than planks ever will, and this will ultimately improve athletic performance.