Top five exercises for improving core power
Abbey Wills, DPT, ART-Cert.
Sports Medicine Physical Therapist
Performing Arts Medicine Specialist
Core activation and strength is important for many athletes of varying disciplines. The job of the deep core group is to hold the spine in position while you are using other parts of your body whether reaching for a jump shot or pushing off the wall while swimming. These muscles can also improve lower body positioning with weight bearing exercise while decreases stress in hips, knees and feet. For athletes that rely more heavily on using upper body, good spine/core control can enhance shoulder mobility and decrease postural limitations and pain.
Strength is important, however the key is learning to keep your core turned on while other parts of your body are active and moving. This can lead to compensations and position changes that can change mechanics or alignment and cause injury.
Top 5 core exercises to improve activation in sport:
1. Planks with movement: Typically, planks are static (held without movement). These planks are designed to engage the core with upper and lower body movements.
a. Front planks: alternate upper body reaching forward and/or leg lifts
b. Side planks: hips dip to floor then return and/or lifts with top leg
c. Back planks: alternating leg lifts off ground
d. Perform two sets in each direction with upper or lower body focus continuously for 20-60 seconds
2. Leg lifts on Wall: stand with back to the wall and push spine flat against surface (from shoulders to hips). Step out a few inches from the wall. One leg lifts to 90 degrees and slow lower down while keeping spine from lifting off the wall.
a. Repeat 10 times, two sets on each side (perform on both sides)
3. Plank position: Ball ABC’s
a. On both knees lean forward with elbows on ball
b. Line hips and shoulders up, do not let lower back lag while leaning forward
c. Perform 2 sets of letters all the way through- moving the ball with elbows to trace letters.
4. Stability ball hamstring curls
a. Lay on back with legs on the ball
b. Lift hips up, squeeze gluteals
c. While keeping hips lifted, bend and straighten knees
d. Perform 3 sets of 10-15 reps
5. Pelvic tilt
a. Lay on back with knees bent and feet on floor
b. Straighten spine into the floor (push)
c. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps with 5 second hold
d. Add leg movements such as knee drop outs to side or marching to increase difficulty (continuous movement for 3 sets 30 seconds)
-Concentrating on breathing though the exercises while holding core helps to ensure that they are being used properly. Do not hold your breath!
-If you catch yourself doing exercise without core activation: pause, reset and continue
-Doing the above exercises prior to athletic activity such as participation in sport, biking or running can help increase core use!