Sunday, August 7, 2011

Approaches to Core Training

As an incoming college freshman, I was sent a manual through the mail with my football team’s workouts for the summer ahead. The manual was about 75 pages of mostly strength routines and information about the testing we would undergo once we arrived for pre-season training camp. The only core routines were hand-jotted at the bottom of the typed lifting program sheets, on a single line reading, “Abs: 250 reps”. Even at 18 years old, with no formal training in exercise, I remember thinking... Gosh, there’s got to be more to it than that!

What Are the Goals of Core Training?

As with every area of strength and conditioning, the common answer, “To Enhance Performance, and Prevent Injury” applies here. A performance goal of core training is to strengthen and support the middle of the body for improved coordination of the body as a whole. Many coaches aim to prevent injury by adding support to the mid-section’s structural beam, the lumbar spine, by using draw-in and bracing techniques, emphasizing stability exercises (i.e. planks), and ensuring that training does not compromise the natural anatomical arch of the low back. Other considerations may include improving hip mobility or scapulothoracic stability, depending upon how broadly the core is defined in your program.

A Movement Balanced Approach

This approach is about being anatomically balanced in all movement planes. Historically, exercise menus of various sit-ups, crunches, and twists have focused on building the endurance of the abdominal and oblique muscles. The erector spine, quadratus lumborum, and transverse abdominis, for example, have been more often neglected by traditional core routines. There are a few ways to create balanced core routines, either by incorporating all movements of the torso into each core program, or by equally dividing the movements throughout the training week. Here is a list of core movements to build exercise menus upon:

o Flexion: (e.g. Sit-Ups)
o Extension: (e.g. Superman)
o Lateral Flexion and Extension: (e.g. Side Plank Hip Lift)
o Rotation: (e.g. Medicine Ball Side Tosses)
o Low Back Support: (e.g. Supine Dead Bug Progressions)
o Hip Mobility: (e.g. Quadruped Hip Abduction)
o Scapulothoracic Stability: (e.g. Front Plank Scapula Pinch)

The goal is to diversify the types of core exercises being performed, as no one method of core training has been deemed most beneficial in scientific literature.

Rotational Core Training:

There are two predominant approaches to rotational core training: (1) Rotational Power-Endurance, and (2) Anti-Rotation. Rotational power-endurance exercises are dynamic in nature and most often include twisting movements using resistance. Some examples include medicine ball (MB) side tosses, MB standing torso rotations, “Russian twists”, and supine “knee-up” low trunk rotations.

Anti-rotation, or rotational stability, exercises include stability movements of the torso against rotational forces created from the momentum of the limbs. Common examples include, Grey Cook’s kneeling chop and lift exercises (from his menu of FMS corrective exercises), Convertaball twists, cable core presses, and Keiser push-pulls combinations.

What’s the difference… Rotation vs. Anti-Rotation? Rotational exercises train the concentric and eccentric nature of the twisting torso, while anti-rotation exercises are focused at stabilizing the rotation of the spine to best maintain the upright posture of the body. For example, there are anti-rotational elements to many functional single limb weightroom exercises (i.e. one-leg squats or deadlifts, lunges, one-arm presses, etc.). While rotational power-endurance exercises (i.e. MB throws) are excellent to develop rotational range of motion and explosiveness, developing anti-rotational stability should first be addressed to ensure the body can handle the force production of repetitive twisting.

Eric McMahon, M.Ed., RSCC
Minor League Strength and Conditioning Coach
Texas Rangers

1 comment:

  1. Core workout, as the most effective to flatten your stomach, consist of ahead flexion exercises, side flexion workouts, rotational exercises along with cardio workouts.