The group of muscles that stabilize the spine and allows increased force generation by arms and legs. Includes transversus abdominis, internal/external obliques, etc.
Key exercises, like swimming, cycling and running themselves, should involve core stabilization, independent limb movements, and cooperation among several muscles that are centrally involved in swimming and pedaling stroke and running stride.
Core Strength Training and Athletic Performance
Because the muscles of the trunk and torso stabilize the spine from the pelvis to the neck and shoulder, they allow the transfer of powerful movements of the arms and legs. All powerful movements originate from the center of the body out, and never from the limbs alone. Before any powerful, rapid muscle contractions can occur in the limbs, the spine must be solid and stable and the more stable the core, the most powerful the extremities can contract.
Training the muscles of the core also corrects postural imbalances that can lead to injuries. The biggest benefit of core training is to develop functional fitness – that is, fitness that is essential to both daily living and regular activities.
Core strengthening exercises are most effective when the torso works as a solid unit and both front and back muscles contract at the same time, multi joint movements are performed and stabilization of the spine is monitored.
No Equipment Core Strength Exercises
Body weight exercises are very effective for developing core strength. They are also the type of exercise many athletes and coaches rely on for regular core training. They include:
Plank – Prone Core stabilization: balance all your weight on your knees and forearms. Keep your back as straight as possible. Maintain the weight on your forearms while you slowly lift your knees off the ground. Hold for 30 seconds – 3 sets.
Side Plank – Core Stabilization: Balance all your weight on your forearm and side of your knee. Keep your hips straight up and down – push bottom pelvis forward and the top of your pelvis back. Keep your body as straight as possible and do not let your hips sag toward the ground. Level 1 – on the bent knee. Level 2 – lift up on the side of your foot. Level 3 – Lift top of foot toward ceiling without dropping hips. 30 seconds – 3 sets.
Bird Dogs – On all fours with hands under shoulders & knees under hips, spine is neutral. Keeping neutral spine, simultaneously reach left arm in front of you (thumb up, at about 45 degree angle, only up to shoulder level at highest) while reaching right left up and out behind you (contract glut and reach leg only to hip level, think about making your leg as long as possible, not reaching as high as possible). Contract abs throughout to keep spine neutral. Alternate opposite arm + leg extensions.
Bicycle – Start with your knees and hips bent at 90°. Your lower back should not lift off the ground. Push your belly button to the ground. Bring your left leg to the ground, but do not let your heel touch the ground (about 1 inch from ground) while your right knee remains bent, then bring your left knee back to bent. Alternate – one on each side represents one. Total 25 reps (50 total).
Leg Drops – Lower Abs Stabilization: Start with your knees and hips bent at 90°, then extend legs to a 180° angle. Your lower back should not lift off the ground. Push your belly button to the ground. Slowly lower legs to a position where you can hold them off the ground for 15 seconds without lifting your back from the ground. Total 5 reps.
Leg Raises – Supine (on your back) Core Stabilization: Balance weight on the forearms and heels keeping your back, hips, and legs straight. One leg at a time – lift the right leg about 4 – 6 inches off the ground and hold for 15 seconds. 3 sets
Fire Hydrant – Start on hands and knees. Extend your right hip while keeping your knee bent. Push foot toward the ceiling without arching your back. All the movement should come from your hip, then move to outside then across the body (3 positions, middle, outside, and inside). All three movements make up 1 rep. 10 sets on each leg.
Superman – Lying face- down on the ground with arms straight out and palms down. Begin by lifting legs and arms off the ground. Hold so that legs (from knees down) and arms are off the ground. Movement should be relatively minor with constant stretch felt. Hold for 15 seconds – 3 sets.