The muscles of the trunk and torso act to stabilize the spine, pelvis and shoulder girdle. From this solid, balanced base the limbs can be moved powerfully and under control. In fact before rapid movements of the extremities can take place, the central nervous system stabilizes the spine in anticipation. The rate at which the core muscles stabilize the spine may have a direct effect on the power of limb movement.
Core strength training differs from many traditional weight training routines by working both the lower back and abdominals in unison. The same is true for the upper and lower body. All athletic movements incorporate the core in some way. Very few muscle groups are isolated. Instead the whole body works as a unit and core strength training endeavors to replicate this.
What are the benefits of core strength training to the athlete?
- Greater efficiency of movement
- Improved body control, stability and balance
- Increased power output from both the core musculature and peripheral muscles such as the shoulders, arms and legs
- Reduced risk of injury (the core muscles act as shock absorbers for jumps and rebounds etc.)
- Improved athletic performance!
Core Training for Reducing Back Problems & Injuries
Weak core muscles have been associated with lower back pain. The core muscles form a stabilizing and protective barrier around the abdominal cavity. The Abdominal and back muscles are responsible for movements such as extension and flexion of the spine and rotation of the trunk. Because the back muscles are small, they are more at risk for injury.
4 Things to Improve Core Strength
- Corrective Exercises– Muscle function or activation needs to be improved prior to strengthening. The muscles need to be retrained or poor results and possibly more harm can be produced. An example of this would be stretching the over-active muscles (hip-flexors) in order to release tension from lower back muscles and hamstrings. This is very common for hockey players as they are in skating position for an extended period of time. Performing a “Pelvic Tilt” is a good way of understanding if you are activating your core muscles.
- Lie on the floor with your knees up/feet flat (There will be a space between the floor and your low back, as well as your neck)
- Inhale first, then initiate the pelvic tilt movement as you exhale (Inhale pulls your abs to ceiling and exhaling flattens your lower back pushing it into the floor.
- Try to pull the pelvis from the abdominals, rather than pushing from your butt.
- Control & Stability- Be careful of how much force you use when initiating movement or holding a position. Exercises should be performed through pain free ranges of motion. An example of this would be to sit on a Stability Ball to initiate balance and control of the Pelvic Tilt or proper upright posture.
- Endurance- Training the core muscles with low intensity functional exercises is important. Being able to repeat the exercises correctly for an extended period of time means that you have retrained your muscles to be engaged for protection, stability, and specific movement with control. Example of this would be holding a plank position for 30seconds, then 45seconds, then 60seconds, and etc.
- Strength- Performing exercises in positions that mimic your movement for skating, shooting, or checking. Examples of such exercises are Rotational Medicine Ball Underhand tosses, and Medicine Ball Chest Passes. This final stage has now allowed your muscles to be engaged for protection and stability; as well initiate muscles specific movement with control, speed, and power.