Harness the Hidden Power of Your Core

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In my first blog post, I discussed the importance of understanding the core as an energy transfer hub, and the need to behave athletically during every aspect and facet of training. Here I examine how core conditioning and training can lead to greater gains on the field.

Dan Gabelman, the newly-named head of strength and conditioning at Union College and a former co-worker of mine at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning, used to like to get right in the faces of athletes during their dynamic warm-up and simply ask: "Are you athletic?"

Coach Gabelman challenges his athletes with "Earthquake Tests"—random shoves meant to test their athletic readiness. Athletes with conditioned cores instinctively flex their hips, lower and stabilize their center of gravity and assume a swivel position with their head—all athletic movements necessary to pass the Earthquake Test. If an athlete's core is not properly engaged, he or she falls over or loses position. Through repetition and constant exposure to such tests, every athlete under Gabelman learns to behave athletically. With control of the core and athletic behavior, they are truly ready to compete—and win!

It might seem hard to believe that by simply conditioning yourself to fire your glutes, brace your abs [think "standing tall," or Harry Houdini resisting punches to his abdomen] and resist force, you can greatly improve your athletic performance and wins-to-losses ratio—but you can. The body is a unique mechanism in that every part works in conjunction with other systems to perform synchronized movements. If any system misses a beat or relies on another system to pick up the slack, efficiency is lost. We refer to this as an "energy leak." If an airplane leaks fuel, it not only sacrifices usable energy, it also runs the risk of crashing if it runs out. If our bodies leak energy, not only are our movements less athletic, but we risk injury due to faulty movement patterns or compensations. A fine-tuned hub of energy transfer prevents such leaks. While injury prevention doesn't sound terribly sexy to young athletes, enhanced power output certainly does.

People often wonder how 5'9", 160-pound U.S. Open Champion Rory McIlroy can consistently hit the ball more than 330 yards off the tee, or how, despite a rather small, unintimidating stature, Pedro Martinez became a high velocity pitcher through many All-Star seasons. It isn't the size of the man or woman that determines the amount of energy transferred through the core. The ability to transfer force from the ground is what makes the difference in power output. This is exactly what our personal "hub" accomplishes when it is functioning properly. We use gravity to our advantage by harnessing this natural force and applying it through our bodies to whatever action we are attempting to accomplish. A properly functioning core signifies the ability to transfer force faster and at a greater speed.

Check back soon for exercises that will enable your core's power.

Photo:  zimbio.com

Chris Doherty, a performance enhancement and certified strength and conditioning specialist, currently trains clients in Boston. Doherty interned as a strength coach for Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning, where he honed his coaching abilities and trained top high school and collegiate athletes in numerous sports. His favorite sports are basketball, football and golf. When not training, he can be found booking a weekend getaway to Las Vegas.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock