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Why is “Core” So Important? Part 2

Where we last left off, I introduced the topic of Core training, and why it is so important for rotational based athletes. The idea is that we use the body as a “giant whip” from the ground up to propel ourselves or an object with maximal force. The legs can be considered the big “V8 engine” that is responsible for starting the acceleration process. This emphasizes that a large amount of force is being pushed through the ground. From there, the core is next to engage and represents the connection point between the lower and upper extremities. Without a strong connection point, the energy will sub-maximally be transferred, and thus the athlete will not maximize their potential power.

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At 5’10” 170 lbs, Jamie Sadlowski is a prime example of how a powerful core can propel an athlete. He has won two World Long Drive Titles, despite being “under-sized” for the sport. 

Before we touch on the specifics of proper rotational strength training, however, we have to understand how we approach this from a functional standpoint. The “Joint-By-Joint Approach” is something I explicitly follow when it comes to training athletes to be functionally stronger. This approach explains how each joint from the ground up must alternate between mobility and stability. For instance, the ankles must be mobile, the knees stable, the hips mobile, etc. When an imbalance occurs in this chain and a joint inappropriately either loses or gains mobility, the other joints in the chain will inappropriately have to compensate for the imbalance. This, undoubtedly, can lead to injuries. With this in mind, as we work up the chain, this approach demands that the Lumbar Spine must remain stable, while the Thoracic Spine must exhibit mobility.

This is such an important concept when it comes to rotational strength development. It is all too easy to put an athlete in a position where they are putting rotational stress through the Lumbar Spine. A prime example of this is a “Russian Twist.” How can the athlete possibly complete this drill without mobilizing the Lumbar Spine? The emphasis of tapping each side of the body forces the athlete to reach, round the shoulders, and inherently round their spine. The stress and “work” of the movement works its way down the rounded spine and falls directly on the Lumbar section. Even worse, the athlete is usually encouraged to use a medicine ball, which creates an added load and adds to the stress of the Lumbar Spine. So, while the athlete is gaining strength in the appropriate rotational based core muscles, they are promoting an imbalance in their mobility.0

This leads us to the absolute truth, that rotational based core training must promote rotational specific strength, AND promote the combination of lumbar stability and thoracic spine mobility. Strength without range of motion is useless! In fact, strength without range of motion, is an injury just waiting to happen. Next time, we will continue to dive into the specifics of this very particular type of training. Every athletic movement pattern can be classified by both the strength of the movement, and the speed of the movement. Stay tuned as we go over progressions, and how to effectively program for power gains.

Coach Kyle Richter, CSCS, USAW, TPI

USC Baseball Alumni- BA Human Performance

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Why Is “Core” So Important? Part 1

1092672031_5a3196371cToday’s discussion is centered around core training for rotational athletes and why it is such a crucial aspect of athletic development. The definition, (and even translation) of “Core” has been lost in this digital age of fad fitness, and mis-information. The “Core” does not comprise of just the abdominals, but rather defines the entire thoracic region. In this discussion we will start by focusing on the the trunk. In later discussion we will get into the importance of the Gluteals, Lower back muscles, and pelvic/ hip muscle groups which all contribute to the efficiency of the core. The “trunk” consists of the Rectus Abdominus muscle group, Transverse Abdominals, Internal and External Obliques, Intercostals, Rhomboids, and Erector Spinae.

core-strength-for-golfingAs a society we have gotten caught up in the development of the Rectus Abdominus muscle group which almost exclusively works the sagittal (linear based) plane. If we are being honest with ourselves, we spend our effort on this muscle group for the classic “six-pack” look that will come from concerted effort. While an athlete with a “six-pack” will certainly look the part, and be very strong in that linear plane, they will undoubtedly have deficiencies when it comes to developing rotational force.

troutweb28s-webThe Core is the undeniable connection point between the upper and lower body. When we talk about movement patterns, and strength development, I always like to put it into perspective of how the athlete is developing force through the ground. Whether it is a sprint, a squat, a lunge, or a jump, from a bio-mechanical point of view we are looking at how much force is being produced in the ground, and in which direction it is established. The entire body is involved in this process, which is a point that is commonly over-looked.

Also, in terms of a rotational sport specific point of view, the entire body is used as a giant whip. The force is developed through the ground, up the legs, through the core, and finally out through the upper extremities. Without the engagement, strength, and ability to conduct this force effectively, the core serves as the weak link that is holding back the rotational athlete. Going back to how we defined “core,” this means the athlete needs to pay attention to the other smaller muscle groups (especially the external obliques) which are involved in producing rotational power. Not only do we want to build these muscle groups, but we want to do so through the transverse plane, and without engaging the lumbar spine.

example_hipsrotatingbeforeshoulders_timlincecum_2007_035The ability to maximally transfer energy from the legs through the core in a transverse (rotational) plane to the arms, is arguably the most important factor of development in rotational athletes. This ability can make a substantial difference when we start talking about power numbers and velocity gains. At Champion’s QUEST we focus on the details, which means there is no guess work in how we train our athletes. Stay tuned for Part 2, where I will begin to spell out the details of this rotational specific core training.

Coach Kyle Richter, CSCS, USA-W, TPI

USC Baseball Alumni- BA Human Performance