Athletes in nearly any sport can benefit from having well-functioning core musculature.
Having a solid core allows us to avoid injury. Whether you are taking a slap shot, rebounding a basketball, swinging a golf club or picking something up off the ground, your core is there to support you.
The core is made up of a group of muscles around your mid to lower torso. These muscles include the rectus abdominis, external oblique, internal oblique, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum and the set of gluteus muscles. This group of muscles act in concert to support your spine during movement to maintain functional stability.
The main goals when working on this core group of muscles are to increase endurance and strength, and allow you to exercise in a safe manner for your spine. I do not recommend traditional sit ups or crunches for athletes, as this puts a tremendous amount of strain through the joints and discs of the lower back (lumbar spine).
To get started, often what’s known as “the big three core exercises” from spine researcher Dr. Stuart McGill are given. These are safe core exercises for your lower back.
First, the modified sit up. While lying on your back, one knee is bent and the other straight. This locks your pelvis into a neutral position. The athlete will stiffen the abdomen, then lift the head and shoulders as a unit off the ground two to three inches while keeping the chin tucked. During the movement it is important to maintain the arch in the lower back.
Second, the side bridge consists of stiffening your abdomen while in a side propped position on your elbow and feet, then lifting your hips off the ground. It is important to keep your body and spine straight while maintaining the natural spinal curve.
Third, the bird dog starts in the hands and knees position. Start again by stiffening the core, maintaining a neutral spine. Lift your right arm directly in front of the shoulder, followed by lifting the left leg directly behind and level with the hip. Alternate this motion from side to side while maintaining a neutral spine.
Dr. Andrew Fagan is a licensed chiropractor, kinesiologist and clinical acupuncture provider. You can reach him at email@example.com or 905-885-5111