Prevent Energy Loss By Building a Strong Core

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No matter how strong you are on traditional exercises like the Squat or Bench, if your core isn't trained, you will lose valuable energy and your performance will suffer. For high-level performance, strength, force and power must be transferred from the lower body to the upper body. Thus the core, which facilitates such energy transfers, is critical for success in athletic competition.

When we think of the core, we usually think of the abdominals. But the core is actually made of muscles that run from the chest down to the knees and wrap all around the body.

The lower core generates the power you need to walk, jump, trot, hop, skip, twist, etc. In other words, the lower core allows you to move. The upper core transmits this power up to the arms, shoulders and hands, and then out to a bat, a ball, a hockey stick or your unfortunate opponent. The lower and upper core must work together to prevent energy leaks.

Athletes need to understand that simply building up muscle might not help with body movement or enhance performance. Bodybuilders have great physiques and tight muscle tone, but that doesn't mean they can perform athletic movements or develop athletic skills. Training a single muscle and joint, as in doing Bicep Curls, is different from performing complex exercises and drills that train multi-joint movement. Complex exercises enable different muscles and body parts to work efficiently together, creating energy transfer.

To fully function in life and sports, we use complex movements. So our training programs should be set up to work in a similar fashion. When properly performing core training, we are not just working our abs, we're engaging all of the muscles involved in moving the spinal column.

Kinesiology of Exercise, by Michael Yessis, Ph.D., explains terms relating to how our core muscles work to move our torsos:

Flexion: Forward bending of the spine, in which the front surfaces of the vertebrae move closer to one another [Crunch/Sit-Up]

Extension: The return from Flexion to a neutral position [Back Extensions]. Going beyond the neutral position [bending backward] is called Hyperextension

Lateral Flexion: Bending sideways to the right or left [Side-Ups]. The shoulders move toward the hip, or the hip moves toward the shoulders [when the hips are in a non-support position, meaning your feet are not in contact with the ground]

Shoulder Rotation: A twisting action around the spine [Rotational Throws]. In this movement, the shoulders are in motion. However, if your lower body is hanging and supported by your upper body, you can use the same muscles to rotate your hips to the right or left even though your shoulders remain stationary

The basic movements of the core show that spending hours doing Crunches will be of little benefit. By training the muscles of the spinal column in multiple movements and directions, you will enhance your core's performance, support, protection and appearance.

When training the core correctly, you work all the major muscles, creating a "team" or "unit" for advanced performance levels!

Upper Body Core Work

Leg Lifts and Lowers
Back Raises
Chops and Lifts

Lower Body Core Work

Leg Lifts and Lowers
Chops and Lifts
Single-Leg Step Downs
Side Planks
Ankle Band Lateral Walks

The exercises listed below focus on specific movement patterns. These will help you focus on weak areas.

Bent-Over/Extension: Hinging at the Hip
Chop/Lift: Diagonal Plane Movements
Twist: Side-to-Side Movements
Slam/Scoop: Down and Up Skills
Curl: Hyperextension of Trunk
Pillar Core Stability With Dual Limb Mobility in Multiple Planes: All Vectors

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock