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The Fitness Zone

Everything You Need to Know About Rotational Core Conditioning
March 19, 2014

A solid core will keep your back healthy, enable you to maintain good posture, and minimise the chance of injury from our repetitive lifestyles and workout patterns. But are we approaching our core workouts as we should, asks Rory Litchfield, Australian Institute of Fitness WA Fitness Coach.

Your core consists of multiple muscle groups that work together to efficiently support and move the kinetic chain. The core is the link between the upper and lower body it transfers forces and power generated by the moving limbs.

If our core is weak your performance in the gym or on the sports field will suffer. Yet, dynamic, movement-specific core training is all too often overlooked. Too often, strong, athletic, conditioned athletes are prone to injury and deliver poor performances due to a weak core.

To understand why, we need to review, which muscles make up the core'. Modern day sport and exercise science experts agree that the core consists of the following important muscle groups:

  • Rectus abdominis
  • Erector spinae
  • Internal and external obliques
  • Diaphragm
  • Pelvic floor
  • Hip flexors
  • Gluteals
  • Multifidus

Are our core workouts conditioning ALL of these muscles? If the answer is yes, are your progressing your client in the correct sequence?

Are we addressing the need for static stabilisation as well as dynamic stabilisation? Are we educating our clients to understand what a neutral spine is and how their bodies are designed to handle load?

Traditional Core Exercises: the Past and the Present

Traditional core exercises are helping clients maintain correct posture, prevent injury, keep the back healthy and reduce unnecessary stress through the Lumbo-Pelvic Hip Complex (LPHC), but too often rotational core exercises are left out by even the most experienced, knowledgeable Personal Trainers.

A well designed, safe, functional core workout should focus on flexion, rotation, lateral flexion and the posterior core to address the need for our bodies to move efficiently in all three planes of motion; transverse, sagittal, and frontal.

Poor rotational strength and conditioning is often seen as the weak link in even elite strength and conditioning programmes.

Notes: always make sure your client has developed basic core strength before progressing them towards more advanced core exercises. Also important is the emphasis on a neutral spine, with the abdominal braced and engaged BEFORE movement occurs.

Integrated Core Training Workouts: the future

Let's look at how to design an integrated core training programme that integrates the core stabilisation and core movement systems.

A well-designed core training programme follows the following systematic progression:

Phase 1: Stabilisation

Phase 1 involves exercises with little or no motion through the spine and pelvis. Sample exercises include:

A) Supine marching (heel to floor)

B) Floor Bridge

C) Floor Prone Cobra

D) Prone Iso-ab (Plank)/Hover

Phase 2: Strength

Phase 2 exercises involve more dynamic eccentric and concentric movements of the spine throughout a full, natural range of movement. The exercises are designed to improve dynamic stabilisation (in all three planes), which is so important if we are to avoid that weak link' in our kinetic chain.

Sample exercises include:

A) Fitball crunch

B) Fitball back extensions

C) Reverse crunch with fit ball

D) Cable rotations (fitball, medicine ball, etc.)

After clients have safely negotiated and progressed through stabilisation and strength phases, we move onto phase three.

Phase 3: Power

Exercises are designed to increase the rate of force production (power) of the entire core musculature. The key focus here is to get the client to dynamically stabilise and generate force at a more functional speed (core rotational power).

Sample exercises include:

A) Horizontal rotation chest pass (MB)

B) Fitball/MBpPullover throw

C) Front medicine ball oblique throw

D) Woodchop MB throw

A Sample Core Training Programme Applying the Above Principles

Core Systems

Level

Phase (S)

Exercise

Number of Exercises

Sets

Reps

Tempo

Rest

Stabilisation

Stabilisation

1

See Stabilisation exercises

1-4

1-4

12-20

Slow

(4/2/1)

0-90secs

Movement

Strength

2

See Core Strength Exercises

0-4

2-4

8-12

Med

(3/2/1- 1/1/1/)

0-60 secs

Movement

Power

3

See Core Power Exercises

0-2

2-3

8-12

Fast

As can be controlled

0-60 secs

This content is not intended to be used as individual health or fitness advice divorced from that imparted by medical, health or fitness professionals. Medical clearance should always be sought before commencing an exercise regime. The Institute and the authors do no take any responsibility for accident or injury caused as a result of this information.

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