The Year-Round Core Workout
Is your conditioning program still only focusing on the big three: strength, size and speed? If so, you're missing an essential fourth "S" to complete your training package: stability—more specifically, core stability. Why is core stability so important for optimizing sports performance? A strong core prevents common sports ailments like stiffness in the lower back and strained muscles. It also makes you more efficient in sport-specific movements like twisting and turning. (Take this test: How Strong is Your Core?)
To really train for the season, your workout needs to involve all four "S" components. Try this challenging full-body workout that incorporates core stability into every exercise.
The Four "S" Workout
Sets/Reps: Perform two consecutive sets of each exercise combo, with no rest between sets. This will also boost your muscular endurance, another key sports-functional modality. Rest 30 to 45 seconds and hydrate between exercise combos.
Elevated Push-Ups and Prone Plank Combo
Push-Ups develop upper-body size and strength by targeting the triceps and chest, and the shoulder and upper, middle and lower back muscles. Prone Planks enhance core stability, effectively strengthening abdominal, lower and middle back muscles.
- Place feet atop a bench or chair and perform 10 Push-Ups
- Take three seconds to lower and one second to push up
- Immediately follow with a 60-second prone plank
Med Ball Side Lunges with Twists and Sprints
Side Lunges with Twists advance core stability, especially in the oblique and groin areas; they also build lateral leg strength. 40-yard sprints magnify speed.
- Holding a 10- to 12-pound medicine ball with arms extended at chest level, perform 10 right side lunges while simultaneously twisting and moving the ball across your body to the right
- Raise ball overhead and sprint forward 40 yards
- Backpedal to start and do 10 left side Lunges/Ball Twists
- Follow it up with 40-yard sprint
Single Leg Dumbbell Squat and Overhead Presses with Single Leg Cross Rows
This lower- and upper-body exercise combo improves balance by forcing core muscles to stabilize during each movement while also stimulating size and strength gains for the legs, hips, back, shoulders, triceps and biceps.
- Begin by holding one moderately heavy dumbbell (70 to 80% RM) on your right shoulder while standing on your right leg with knee bent
- Left foot should not touch ground throughout exercise
- Squat and press dumbbell overhead for five to 10 reps
- Without pausing, switch to left leg with dumbbell on left shoulder for five to 10 reps
- Proceed to Single-Leg Cross Rows by balancing on right leg while holding dumbbell in left hand and bringing dumbbell down and across body toward right ankle for five to 10 reps
- Switch to left leg for right arm Cross Rows for five to 10 reps
Superman and Multidirectional Sprints
This effective exercise combo is particularly beneficial come game time, when you need to get back up on your feet and accelerate in different directions. Supermans reinforce core stability while also building lower back and shoulder strength. Multidirectional sprints enhance speed for spontaneously changing direction on the court, field or ice.
- Start the Superman exercise in a prone position on stomach with arms extended in front of your head and legs extended
- Simultaneously raise your arms and legs up, pause for a second contracting your abdominal muscles, then lower in two seconds back to start position
- Perform 10 reps
- Make sure your stomach remains on the ground while lifting only your arms and legs throughout exercise
- After completing your 10th rep, immediately rise and sprint diagonally 10 yards, then laterally 10 yards, forward 10 yards, reverse 10 yards and backpedal to start