Core training is a very important component of any training programme; at the same time, it involves one of the most sensitive parts of the body and should be observed carefully.
Many people associate core training with abs training (sit ups), but core training is much more than just doing simple sit ups.
Let’s start from the beginning.
What is the “core”? The human body is similar to a wheel. The centre of a wheel is the hub, which is connected to the rim by the spokes. The hub of the human body is the trunk; the connecting arms and legs (the limbs) are the spokes.
The hub is the centre of the wheel’s stability and the spokes distribute the stability to the periphery. This is also the case in every athlete’s body. The better the stability of the core, and the individual’s awareness of his core system, the better it is for the arms and legs (“the spokes”) to perform all types of athletic movements. For example, throwing anything, shooting a ball or jumping high. The core muscles are very important for all types of movements. They give the needed stability for any type of high performance activity.
How do we train the core system?
Many athletes expect or associate a “good” training session to be performed with high speed or high intensity, a burning muscle sensation, or a painfully intensive training session to be adequate. This is an incorrect assumption. This misconception consequently leads to many people performing their core training with high speed. Doing hectic sit-ups or other types of “exercises”, are all part of this misconception.
The core muscle system consists of stabilisers, which are made for stability work with long muscle endurance capabilities, as well as prime mover muscles, designed to move specific limbs. You cannot train these muscles efficiently by performing exercises with speed and lack of control. It is better to perform a core exercise slowly with full awareness and control, than with high speed and incorrect technique.
Considering the position of the pelvis.
Coaches and athletes need to consider the position of the pelvis, because the core system is not properly activated when the back is hollow. We often see people performing their plank exercises with a hollow back and they are surprised to end up with lower back pain after their training session. In this situation it is helpful to start the core training with a “preparation-exercise” together with a training partner or coach. This exercise helps to activate the core muscles and to learn how it feels when these stabilisers are working well.
This is how to perform the preparation exercise. The athlete lies flat on his back with the feet flat on the floor, and the legs bent at about 45 degrees. The coach places a towel under the athlete’s lower back and the athlete starts to press the lower back down to the floor, squeezing the towel. At the same time the coach checks to see if he is able to carefully pull the towel from under the athlete. This should not be possible, as the towel should be firmly fixed between the lower back and the floor. With the force of the core muscles system, the towel will not be released and the athlete learns the correct location and control of these core muscles. This type of learning exercise is already a very good way to train the core muscles system.
As soon as the athlete is able to perform this “preparation exercise” easily, that will indicate that he is able to control the position of the pelvis and activate the specific core muscles. He is then ready to start the core training with other exercises and functional movements!
Skipping this preparation work is not a good idea, because starting with high intensity work or complex functional movements, without having the core system properly prepared, will lead to a high risk of injury. Any type of coordination or agility training, with a well prepared and well trained core system, will lead to a higher quality of execution.
Good posture and postural control need to be reinforced in all types of core training.
The core components of the core training should be:
- Correct activation.
- The proper total awareness.
- An appropriate level of intensity!
Keep on moving!