Dude, Where’s My Core?
The importance of core training for athletes
What do you think of when you’re asked about “core exercises”? Sit-ups? Planks? Mountain Climbers? Are these good examples of exercises to strengthen the core muscles?
Absolutely. When performed correctly, by an athlete with excellent core stability these exercises can certainly help to improved core control. There has recently, however, been a change to the way that sporting teams approach core training. We now have a better understanding of the need to assess the deeper abdominal, back and pelvic muscles and make sure that they are doing their job. For some players, this means going back-to-basics with specific stability or pilates style exercises prior to commencing higher level core strengthening. This approach is now a mandatory part of athlete preparation at many clubs.
Your “core muscles” are the deep layers of muscle in your tummy, back and pelvis. “Core stability” is the ability of these muscles to maintain control of the area around your back and hips while you are moving. It is important that your core muscles are activating in the correct way. If they are not, it will mean that other structures, (such as your hamstrings, hip flexors or your lower back) might end up doing more work that they are designed to do, making you more susceptible to injury.
Soft tissue injuries to the lower limb are common in sport, and often result in having to rest or modify training until the injury heals. Hamstring injuries, for example, are currently the largest cost to the AFL of all injuries. Recurrence of such injuries can be particularly frustrating. As well as strengthening the area of injury, we now understand the importance of a thorough core muscle assessment and training program to prevent more time spent on the sidelines.
Improving your core stability can not only be an effective way to reduce injuries, it can also assist in improving sporting performance. By teaching the core muscles to do their job – i.e. stabilise the trunk- other muscles are free to play their roles more efficiently- enabling you to run faster, jump higher and kick or throw further.
Healthfocus Physiotherapists are specially trained in assessing your core muscles using a Real Time Ultrasound Machine, so that you can actually see the muscles on the screen and ensure that they are switching on correctly. Your physio can then use this information to design a functional training program that you can use in conjunction with your usual fitness regime to help prevent injuries and maximize sporting performance. If you have suffered with repetitive injuries or persistent tightness around your back and legs, an individualised core program might be just what you’ve been missing!