Stop Doing Crunches!
While the majority of our population would be happy with a “6 Pack,” core training for athletes requires in-depth understanding of our bodies and the unique demands that athletes face on the field.
In fact, our belief systems regarding the Core, or our “abs” has evolved significantly in the last 50 years. Thanks to some very effective marketing done by companies like Bowflex and P90x, we have associated Core Training with Spinal Flexion (what you do when doing a crunch).
Don’t get me wrong, crunches are a great way to target SOME of your core muscles. However, they are not effective for improving your ability to create stability and to support hip rotation – both critically important aspects of athletic performance.
Core Training 101: Meet the Key Players
As a strength and conditioning coaches, it is critical that our athletes understand the key elements that, working together, create a strong and stable core.
Let’s start with the Deep Stabilizers: the Diaphragm, Transverse Abdominus, Multifidus and the Pelvic Floor Muscles.
These muscles are mainly tasked with providing stability and protection for the rest of your body. For instance, many of these muscles will contract, or “brace”, in anticipation of impact – making them a critical part of core training for athletes.
Next, we have the Global (superficial) Stabilizers: the Internal and External Obliques, and the Adductor muscles (Ad. Brevis, Ad. Longus, and Ad. Magnus).
These are muscles that focus mostly on providing stability during the execution of a movement. Think of kicking a soccer ball, all of these muscles work in unison to provide you with rotational power and stability to generate force.
Lastly, we have our Global movers: the Lats (Latissimus Dorsi), our Thoracolumbar Fascia, and of course the Glutes (Glute Max in this case).
These muscles, as you can probably guess, are responsible for generating significant amounts of force. Because of this, these are also muscles that are highly susceptible to injury if not stabilized properly by the other 2 major groups.
Developing Core Strength for Athletes
Now that you’ve mastered the core anatomy, let’s dive into some strength and conditioning strategies. Let’s start by highlighting the fact that core training for athletes essentially boils down to two factors: core stabilization and rotational control.
Think of the power generated when swinging a bat or throwing a football. Those same muscles are also responsible for deceleration after the swing, or throw. Most importantly, these muscles prevent our spines from twisting to unsafe ranges when absorbing lateral impact.
Secondly, the ability to absorb head-on impact is also critical in most sports, which we refer to as Anti-Flexion strength. The same way that crunches flex your spine (bend it forward), it is critical that athletes be able to stop the spine from overly flexing when absorbing energy in the field of play.
Top 3 Core Exercises for Athletes
Here are our favorite exercises to strengthen and develop those critical core muscles. Remember to take it slow and really focus on control and tempo. As your practice these movements, your brain will form neural pathways that will be utilized in the field of play so FORM and FOCUS are critically important.
Taking it to the next level
We hope that these exercises will be helpful in taking your game to the next level!
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