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Core Strength Training: Core Exercises

This article is devoted to the second component of the four critical areas of exercise training for dedicated athletes. We’ve covered flexibility and are moving on to core strength training. As a reminder, the four physical training components designed to increase speed, size, and power in athletics and include (1) flexibility (2) core strength (3) explosive movements, and (4) the strengthening of the posterior kinetic chain. Combining these components with a sound upper body strength routine will give you an edge on the court, the field or the ice. Let’s discuss the importance of core strength training in athletic conditioning.

Core Strength Training – Significance

Engaging in regular, consistent core strength training movements offers many benefits: it helps an athlete avoid muscular-skeletal pain and injury (particularly of the neck, hips and back); improves body control and stability and tones muscles involved in flexibility and balance. The importance of training your whole core is catching on fast…adopting a sound core strength training workout means engaging all of the muscles encasing your torso, from your shoulders to your thighs. Many fitness experts believe that, on its own, core strength training should be a separate workout component, alongside flexibility, cardiovascular and general resistance training movements. The most misunderstood fact around core strength training is that performing a few sets of crunches (and ignoring the back) does the job. Though research studies connecting core strength training to enhanced performance is in its youth, if you participate in a well-structured core strength training routine twice weekly, don’t be surprised if, after a few weeks, you can shave a full mile-per-hour off your running time.

Exercises that strengthen core muscles involve stretching and balance routines. They are a foundation of the basic fitness principles of dance, yoga and Pilates. Unlike traditional resistance exercises, core strength training does not require large pieces of exercise equipment. Core strength training requires a mat, possibly a stability ball and/or Bosu trainer but these accessories are not required. It is much more important that you are able to focus and perform the movements slowly, to your tolerance, using care not to overload your back. You must concentrate on your muscles and maintaining your balance. Your mind cannot be ‘elsewhere.’

Core Strength Training – Considerations

Gym warriors that consider themselves ‘advanced’ exercisers should start basic. Having a strong upper body and breezing through daily runs doesn’t necessarily mean you have a taut core. Many traditional strength training exercises are ‘forward’ directed (such as lunges and bench presses). Overdoing on these contributes to imbalanced muscular development or underdeveloped back muscles (from shoulders to the buttocks). By balancing out your strength, you can improve your posture, correct imbalances and breeze through functional movements (everyday activities) with a level of comfort and ease you didn’t have before.

In addition to engaging in a series of core strength training movements (for your front and back torso), you can enhance core strength by tweaking traditional strength training exercises. For example, instead of using a bench for stability while working your upper body (chest press with dumbbells), use lighter dumbbells and perform them on a stability ball with the ball supporting your upper back and neck. Keep your body in a ‘bridge’ position with your knees bent at a right angle, feet flat on the floor and pelvis elevated to be even with your chest. The focus of this article is on explaining the importance of core strength training. In the future, look for a sample core strength training routine for beginners. Examples of core strength training movements include bird-dogs, lateral pillar bridges (side planks) and planks (with hands on the mat under your shoulders) with alternating arm extensions.

What is Functional Training?

Functional training, also known as personalized functional training, is a fitness trend originally used by physical therapists. Physical therapists often work with clients suffering from a chronic injury (knee or back). During therapy, the client learns how to exercise without aggravating their condition. The goal is to strengthen the target and surrounding muscles. Subsequently, this improves how the client performs everyday activities. These activities include bending, squatting, reaching and kneeling. This should be a main motivator behind smart strength training.

Functional Training: What is it?

Functional training involves performing work against resistance in a way that improves strength, enhancing the performance of everyday activities. Think of functional training in terms of moving through a series of smooth, rhythmic motions in the three planes of movement (frontal, transverse, and sagital). A frontal exercise would be a forward lunge, a transverse exercise would be a side leg lunge and a sagital exercise would involve bending or twisting in the core area.

Some of the movement activities you may perform during the day include walking, running, jumping, reaching, lifting, bending, pushing, pulling, twisting and turning, climbing and lunging. Functional training is all about transferring the improvements in strength gained (in one movement) to enhance the performance of another movement. Another goal of functional training is to enhance the coordination and relationship between your nervous and muscular systems.

Functional Training: Significance

There is a difference between personal training and personalized functional training programs. Unlike traditional programs, such as boot camp and CrossFit, is that the client does not perform movements until he/she is ready to handle it. It is an alternative option to the standard one-size-fits-all approach to fitness. A client is screened and assessed by a certified personal trainer. After observing the client’s unique movement patterns, he/she develops an appropriate fitness program for that client. The trainer designs the program using a series of ‘purposeful’ movements according to the client’s current fitness level.