Core strength is the hot topic in sports, health and fitness today. Sports performance and injury prevention center on the strength and flexibility of the core and abdominal area.
The core muscles consist of the abdominal muscles, made up of the rectus abdominus, external and internal obliques, and the transverses abdominus. It also includes the lower back, and the thoracic and cervical region of the spine.
The abdominals are a major link in the body’s musculoskeletal chain, yet they are typically the weak link. When properly strengthened and utilized, as these muscles are engaged they provide support, creating a solid base or foundation for which many of our body’s movements are based. If not properly activated, the spine or back will take a greater load and result in back stress and pain.
Strengthening the core stabilizes the pelvis, and the pelvis stabilizes the hips, which stabilize the foot. The lesson here is that the effects of the core are felt throughout the body.
The key is to strengthen all areas of the core including the upper and lower area of the abs, the obliques and the lower back through a variety of exercises.
Your core or torso is your “center of power” source and determines the coordination between your upper and lower body. Think of your core as the strong column that links the upper and lower body together. Remember the saying, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” For many of us, it is our core.
This link determines your potential power and performance level in all sports, including individual sports like running and swimming. The core determines your level of athletic skill and sports-specific development. A weak abdomen and back will also limit an individual’s ability to train at a higher level. A well-conditioned core offers many benefits, including improved balance, strength, endurance, power, speed and core control.
Abdominal exercises used to be only crunches, twists and sit-ups. Today, full core training involves improving abdominal strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, body awareness and balance through a variety of exercise options. Those options include using medicine balls, Swiss balls, Pilates and a variety of functional mat, bench and floor work.
There are no shortcuts to developing your core, no gadgets or 5-minute abs. It takes a disciplined work ethic and a well-designed program with variety.
If you want to take your sport performance or fitness to another level, consider investing more time in a comprehensive core training program. Seek out a professional to assist you in tailoring a complete program to your needs, and make sure you are using proper form and technique.
Start slowly if you have not engaged in a current core program, and check with your doctor before starting any fitness or athletic program. A good core workout program will develop your body’s “power center.”
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