TOP TIPS: 5 CORE EXERCISES TO MAKE YOU A STRONGER ATHLETE


Every movement we make originates from our inner core muscles. Whether we are reaching to push open a door, standing up from a chair or pushing through the down stroke as we cycle, our internal abdominal muscles contract a split second before any other muscle. If these muscles are weak then every movement that follows will be weakened, destabilised and slowed. In short to reach your potential as an endurance athlete you need to have a cast iron core!

There are four muscles that make up the deep abdominals: the diaphragm, the transverse abdominis, the multifidus and the pelvic floor muscles. Their job is different to the other more external core muscles as they do not flex, rotate or side bend the spine. Instead they stabilise the lower back and pelvis, providing a foundation to power every other movement. As they are different, they need to be trained differently. Traditional stomach crunches just simply wont do the job.

Here are five of my favourites to get you started:

HORSE STANCE DECOMPRESSION

Start Position:

Kneel down on all fours.  Adjust the knees so that they are directly underneath your hips and your wrists so that they are directly under your shoulders.

Tuck your chin slightly towards your chest and position your elbows so that they are pointing backwards and slightly bent.

Adjust your spine so that it is parallel to the floor. To achieve this position, imagine you have a broom resting along your spine, this broom should touch the base of the skull, the mid thoracic spine and the sacral base. There should be enough room between your lower back and your spine so that your hand can just fit between the two.

Take a relaxed diaphragmatic inhalation, exhale then engage your inner unit. To engage your core draw your rib cage inwards and hold it in place with your diaphragm. Engage your pelvic floor up towards your ribs and your transverse abdominis inwards - think belly button in towards your spine.  You should be able to complete this engagement without moving your spine or any other part of your body.

Action:

Slowly unload one hand / knee just enough to slide a piece of paper underneath – keeping your body and the dowel rod still.

Hold this position for anywhere between 10 to 60 seconds, keeping everything else static and then lower and repeat on the other side.

DEAD-BUG

Start Position:

Lie on your back with your legs lifted so that there is a 90-degree bend in both your hips and your knees. Your knees should be slightly wider than hip width with your feet slightly medial of your knees. Adjust your spinal position so that it is as neutral as possible.  Please place a cushion behind your head, if needed.

Place two fingers of either hand just to the inside of your hipbones and gently press them into your stomach.

Take a relaxed diaphragmatic breath and as you exhale draw your rib cage downwards and hold it in place with your diaphragm. Engage your pelvic floor upwards and your TVA inwards. You should feel the muscles tighten under your finger tips.

Once you have activated your core muscles lift your arms up over your chest.

Action:

Slowly extend one arm over your head and at the same time straighten the opposite leg away. The aim is to use your inner core muscles to stabilise the lower back and stop the back arching away from the floor.

Repeat, alternating from right to left.

Start by aiming for 10 repetitions and build up to three sets of 20 repetitions.

SWISS BALL SEATED POSTURE TRAINER

 

Start Position:

Sit on top of the Fit ball with your feet placed a hip width apart with one foot resting on top of a medicine ball. Adjust your spinal position to a good neutral alignment. To help you achieve this, please imagine that a broom handle is placed along your spine. This broom handle should rest on the back of your head, in between your shoulder blades and on your pelvis.

Engage your inner unit by completing the following:

Take a relaxed diaphragmatic breath and as you exhale engage draw your rib cage downwards and hold it in place with your diaphragm. Draw your pelvic floor upward and your TVA inwards.

Action:

Lift your arms up so that they are level with your shoulders, then lift the foot which is resting on the floor up slightly.

Use you inner unit to keep your body still and your spine in a perfect postural position.

Lower your foot and your arms back to the floor and repeat starting back from engaging your inner unit.

Start by aiming for 10 repetitions on both sides and build up to three sets of 20 repetitions.

KNEELING PLANK ROLL

      

Start Position:

Start in a kneeling position, with a Fit ball in front of you. Adjust your spinal position so that it is in a neutral position. Imagine the broom is along your back, resting on the back of your skull, in between your shoulder blades and on the base of your spine. The gap between your lumbar spine and the broom should be no more than the width of your hand.

Place your hands onto the Fit ball and engage your inner unit.

Engage your inner unit by completing the following: 

Take a relaxed diaphragmatic breath and as you exhale draw your rib cage downwards and hold it in place with your diaphragm. Engage your pelvic floor upward and your TVA inwards.

Action:

Slowly roll the Swiss ball away from you, use your deep abdominal muscles to maintain the position of your lower back and stop the lower back arching towards the floor. Return back to the start position and repeat.

If you feel your technique going at any time, stop and return back to the start position.

Start by aiming for 10 repetitions and build up to three sets of 20 repetitions.

S-L-B-R          

Start Position:

From a sitting position roll down the Swiss ball so that your head and shoulders rest on the apex of the ball. Your feet should be placed directly under your knees so that there is a right angle at the knee joint. Using the muscles of your bottom push your hips up high so your body is horizontal – think ‘table-top’. Imagine there is a glass of champagne filled to the brim resting on your belly button aim to complete this exercise without spilling a drop! 

Hold your arms out to the side of your body, in line with your shoulders and your chest, then place your palms facing upwards.

Engage your inner unit by completing the following:

Take a relaxed diaphragmatic breath and as you exhale draw your rib cage downwards and hold it in place with your diaphragm. Engage your pelvic floor upward and your TVA inwards.

Action:

From this position step your feet to the right while rolling your body laterally so that your shoulders stay in line with your hips.

Technique is vital to getting the most out of this exercise, it is important to keep your hips level at all times, (remember that glass of champagne!) and your arms parallel to the floor.

Hold this position for anywhere between 10 to 60 seconds, keeping everything else static before repeating on the other side.

 


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