A weak core is considered paramount for athletes, as it is the “engine” of the body. It is also believed a weak core increases the risk of injury. The core is defined as the muscles which surround the lumbopelvic region and includes the abdominals anteriorly, the paraspinals and gluteals posteriorly, the pelvic floor musculature inferiorly, the hip abductors and rotators laterally, and diaphragm superiorly.
Being able to transfer force from the core or trunk into the limbs is called the serape effect. This concept incorporates the concept of transferring stored energy into potential energy.
Testing the Core
Assessing the core includes looking at the entire kinetic chain. This includes looking at every plane of motion, not just one area.
Suggested tests are the side bridges (right and left), trunk flexor endurance test and the trunk extensor endurance test. The mean values for men (women are slightly less) is (in seconds): left lateral bridge 86, right lateral bridge 83, flexion 34, and extension 173.
How to Train the Core
It is believed training the local and global muscles simultaneously is mandatory for improved overall stabilization. Some advocate the drawing-in method, while others suggest bracing. Diaphragmatic breathing is also necessary, as the diaphragm lies on the top of the core.
First, the athlete should learn how to activate all the muscles involved. Next, these exercises must be performed on every plane. Thirdly, proprioceptive training should be incorporated. Lastly, power exercises should be incorporated (plyometrics).
Core stability should be initiated at the start of any training program and progressed as the athlete improves.
This anecdotal discussion brings to light the importance of multi-planar strengthening for sports performance.
- Bliss LS, Teeple P. Core stability: the centerpiece of any training program. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2005 Jun;4(3):179-83. Review.