Exercise your abdominals
Brendan Rolfe, DipA, PTS, NWS
Core strength is the most essential component of any complete physical training program
Core strength is the most essential component of any complete physical training program. Without it, athletes lack functional strength and leave themselves open to fatigue and injury. Whether professional athlete or weekend warrior, gym rat or home exercise buff, add core-specific exercises to your program to maximise strength and stability. The core is defined as the muscles used to stabilise the pelvis and spine. It is composed of five main muscle groups: the pelvic floor, transversus abdominis (TVA), internal and external obliques, erector spinae and rectus abdominis. Each muscle group is as important as the next for strength and stabilisation, and each requires proper care and attention to get the most out of your athletic performance. Pelvic floor The pelvic floor is the easiest muscle to activate, although it may be difficult to engage at first. To practise engagement, simply employ the same muscles used to stop peeing. It’s so easy, you can do it at your desk and no one will ever know. Transversus abdominis (TVA) Imagine the transversus abdominis (TVA) as the girdle of your body. It wraps around the midsection from spine to belly button and is the source from which any athlete draws functional strength, power and stability. To activate the TVA, imagine you are being given a giant hug around your waist, nice and tight. If you are still having trouble, cough. That tightness around the abdomen is your TVA being activated. Contracting the TVA increases intra abdominal pressure and has been shown to be critical in stabilisation of the lumbar spine, which is vital to everyone, especially athletes in contact sports such as rugby, football or hockey. Internal and external oblique muscles Our third muscle group, the internal and external obliques, is the first of our visible core muscles and is the driving force in trunk rotation. These are the V-shaped muscles that constitute the visible lower abdomen and follow the shape of our hip bones. Strengthening these muscles will help you change directions faster while maintaining balance. Your lower back will also be protected from stress and injury caused by sudden trunk rotation, crucial for rotational sports such as tennis or downhill skiing. Erector spinae The erector spinae are often ignored, but they won’t be denied. One of the most universal complaints, especially among those with sedentary jobs or lifestyles, is back pain. This muscle group runs along the spinal column and helps keep you upright and in proper posture. For swimmers and cyclists, the erectors are key in extension of the spine. Strong lower back muscles are crucial to proper form, which equates to greater speed. Rectus abdominis The rectus abdominis is the star of the show. It is the sleek and sexy muscle that graces the packaging of every well-meaning fitness product and is the head turner at the beach. It is also the muscle that volleyball players rely on for ball-splitting spikes and that runners depend on for endurance and significant improvement of running times. Now it’s time to put these muscles to work in some functional strengthening exercises. Once you master these, your performance on and off the athletic stage will show amazing improvement.
For more information on core-revealing nutrition, take a moment to visit your local health food shop. If you are looking for a way to enhance your game or get more from your body, don’t ignore your core. If you take care of it, it will take care of you.