February 8th, 2012
As an athlete and an overall human, something that is drilled into our heads young is how important it is to have strong abdominal muscles to improve performance and overall sexiness. We all have probably done millions of crunches, whether consciously or in daily activity (ever count how many times you crunch on a 3 hour double pole? I bet it would suprise you). Now let’s back up a step or two. Being skiers, we know there is a difference between muscular strength and muscular endurance. Being able to do medicine ball slams with a 20 pound ball is different than being able to hold your upper body completely stable during planks. Knowing this difference is helpful when an athletic trainer or physical therapist says to you “You need to improve your core” and you scoff and say “Have you seen this six pack?” Having a six pack doesn’t mean you have a stable core. Having a stable core is often the solution to a lot of problems with athletes. Our body has a kinetic chain, sometimes the best course of action is treating the injury directly but backing up and solving all links of the chain. Here’s an example: You’ve been diagnoised with Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome because you have a weak gluteus medius in your butt, because your gait has changed and you can’t keep a good posture. Stabilizing the core helps to assist with proper mechanics and could be the first step with a rehabilitation plan. Don’t think your athletic trainer/physical therapist is crazy when you come in with an ankle sprain and they start making you exercise your core. With that being said, here is a good test of how awesome or how horrible your core stability is.
Sit down on the ground with your knees bent, like you just sat up from doing crunches. Focus on straightening your back, shoulders, and have good posture. Imagine drawing your belly button into your spine (not sucking it in) but just giving yourself a strong core. Now, without bending at the spine or shoulders, maintain that good posture and strong core. Start to lower your body down to the ground only using your core. See how far you can get before your feet lift off the ground. No cheating! Ideally, you should be able to lower yourself down without having your feet ever come up. Got a bad core? Here’s some exercise to help you out!
Exercise #1: Find a fitness ball that is well inflated. Sit directly in the middle. Prepare yourself by sitting up straight, drawing your shoulder blades back, and flattening your core and drawing it into your spine. Once this position is held without wobbling on the ball, extend your left leg out. Hold your leg in this position for a slow count of 5 seconds. Return to the start position and repeat 5 times. This exercise is pointless if you can’t keep your balance on the ball, or start to slouch. Focus on your core. Repeat with the right leg.
Exercise #2: Starting from a sitting position, walk yourself out until just your shoulder blades are resting on the ball. Bring your hips up so that you are imitating a table, everything should be flat. Don’t let your butt sag to the floor. Focus on flattening your core towards your spine. Hold this table top position for 10 seconds, relax by either rolling up to a sitting position or letting your butt drop. Repeat at least 5 times. This exercise helps to prepare for #3
Exercise #3: This exercise is based on the previous. Get into the proper starting position with a good table top. Then, extend your left leg. Make sure everything is level, that you don’t drop your hips or rotate to try and compensate for balance. This exercise is difficult and may take a lot to master. Try to hold the leg extended for 3 solid seconds before dropping the leg back down. Repeat 5 times on each leg. As you get better, hold the leg extended for longer.
I hope this is helpful for you! If anyone has any other suggestions, corrections or questions feel free to ask!