Sure, it's great to have solid lower- and upper body strength, but your core is the pinnacle of your training. It directly affects everything from your breathing, posture and stability to your total body strength. (Read why in The Athlete's Core.)
People get too caught up in the glory of having a 6-pack. No amount of Sit-Ups and Crunches will strengthen your core. In fact, they probably won't even get you a 6-pack. (See Death of the Crunch.)
Even athletes with 6-packs can have weak cores. That's because the core is more than the abdominal muscles. It's also comprised of the hip abductors/adductors, hip flexors and lumbar spine.
How do you know if your core is truly strong? Take the following test to see how your core STACKs up.
When performing this exercise, if you're unable to lift your arms and legs at least two inches off the ground, your core is weak and you need to do this exercise every time you work out.
- Lie on your stomach on a mat or the floor.
- Face your head down with your toes on the ground.
- Lift your arms and legs as high as you can while keeping them as straight as possible.
- Tighten your glutes and your lower back as much as you can.
- Hold the top of the position for two seconds before coming down.
- Repeat for 12 to 15 reps.
To increase the intensity, alternate lifting only your right leg and left arm (and vice versa) for 12 to 15 reps.
If you are unable to perform a Plank for one minute, your core is weak and you need to perform this exercise every time you work out. If you can hold a Plank for one minute, try performing it for shorter intervals with little rest between them.
- Lie face down on the floor or a mat.
- Position your elbows under your shoulders and plant your feet on the ground.
- Raise your body off the ground and bear all your weight with your forearms and feet.
- Keep your body in a straight line. Your butt and hips should not sag near the ground.
- Tighten your stomach as much as you can.
- Hold this position for at least one minute.
To increase the intensity, extend your right arm and lift your left leg and hold for 20-30 seconds (and vice versa).
Stability Ball Reaching Plank
- Grab a 55cm stability ball and place your hands on the side of the ball.
- Keep your body upright. Your chin should be right over the ball.
- Keep your feet on the ground and your legs together. Your body should be in a straight line.
- For 30 seconds, move the ball backward and forward without changing your upright position. The only thing that should be moving is yours shoulders.
- If you are unable to balance your body, then your core is weak and you should do the exercise on your knees.
To increase the intensity, bring your right knee toward the ball as you move it; switch sides after 15 to 20 seconds.
These exercises are good for testing your core strength. Don't get caught up in the 6-pack craze. Strengthen your entire core. Your whole body will get stronger and your performance on the field will improve dramatically.