Last month, I began the conversation about core stabilization and its importance.
Every lift must start with a tight and stable core that must also be maintained through the entire lift, not just the beginning. Abdominal bracing is the activation/contraction of the muscles surrounding your core and torso. This is not only important with the ability of transferring force through your core and out to your extremities, but in protecting your spine and preventing injury.
Once your athlete is able to start isolating their core and can independently activate their muscles, that doesn’t mean stop their core stabilization program. This means start building upon the base they have established and continue making progressions more functional. Not only does it enhance athlete performance with movements and lifts, it helps prolong an athlete’s career in the gym. Injuries are inevitable, but injury prevention should be one of your top values in your programming.
Once your athlete has accomplished the posterior pelvic tilt while lying supine, it is time to start adding in some extremity movement while still remaining supine. Remember, pelvic stabilization is achieved by a posterior pelvic tilt and squeezing the muscles surrounding your core.
Start with movement from the lower extremity, followed by the upper extremity. Once pelvic stabilization is consistently maintained while moving the upper and lower extremities independently of each other, begin to start moving both extremities at the same time, or use one extremity to stabilize while the other moves.
So, let’s back up. What does this all mean? The ability to maintain core/pelvic stabilization is key during dynamic movements. Yes, it is beneficial if we can isolate our core, and find a pelvic tilt while supine, but if we cannot maintain that position with movement, we are out of luck.
In order to train the muscles, and create neural pathways, we start with little movements. You can be as creative as you want here. From using resistant bands and Thera bands to weights, you can create so many different ways to train your athlete’s core. At the beginning of any core stabilization program, I always start out with what I call supine marches and straight leg raises. Though simple, they help train the neural pathways and allow the athlete to learn how to hold and breathe at the same time.
When that has been established, we can add in short isometric holds of the upper or lower extremity progressing to holding those positions for longer times and with added weight.
Isometrics will enhance the body’s ability to stabilize while also helping all the muscles to work together to maintain a position. In a lift, your muscles work eccentrically and concentrically. When we train, we typically focus on training only these contractions, but training isometrics will also benefit your lifts and can play an important role.
For example, let’s take a five second pause squat. While at the bottom of the squat, everything is contracted without moving any amount of distance. Your quads, hamstrings and core are just some of the muscles that are contracted to help you maintain position. When you get stuck “coming out of the hole,” you are holding an isometric contraction and your ability to work through that position and ultimately overcome that position is what drives you out of the “hole.” Within a corrective exercise program, we can mimic these same situations while also building muscular endurance and connections from the core to the extremities.
Always be on the lookout for athletes who struggle to maintain a pelvic tilt and tight core.
An individual corrective exercise program can be done at the gym or at home. The important thing to remember is every athlete can benefit from pelvic stabilization. Exercises can easily be added into any warm up or prep work.
Core stabilization for those athletes who can already maintain a pelvic tilt can add variations as a super set when working strength. For example, instead of just a five sets of five front squats, add a superset of a 10 second dead bug hold. You can even make core stabilization a cash out at the end of a workout: four rounds of a banded resisted hollow hold. Working stabilization under fatigue makes muscles work harder to maintain position and will ensure as the athlete fatigues in a workout, they will still be able to maintain the position they need to.
Personally, some of my favorite core stabilization exercise variations are with dead bugs. These progressions help to create neural pathways through your core out to your extremities by forcing the core to maintain a pelvic tilt with upper body stabilization and lower body movement.
From supine, you can the move your athlete to performing movements against the wall and then ultimately an unstable surface. What does an unstable surface provide? Added proprioception and added stabilization. An unstable surface can be a half foam roller, a full foam roller or a physio ball.
To recap, every athlete can benefit from a core/pelvic stabilization program. Have fun when creating these programs and be creative. Remember, one of the most important aspects about core stabilization is injury prevention. Injuries will happen, but by integrating injury prevention into your programming, you can help athletes stay healthy. The stronger your core, the stronger your lifts.