Why a Strong Core is Critical for Athletes

Why a Strong Core is Critical for Athletes – written by Amelia Chandler

 

Developing core strength is often an afterthought for athletes. Many want to build a strong midsection but for the wrong reasons. Yes, having a six-pack is attractive but it’s much more beneficial for an athlete to focus on building functional core strength rather than visible abs. 

A strong core reduces likelihood of injury
The Abs Company has stated before that a weak core can cause aches and pains or even injuries. But before we get into that it’s important to know that the core is not just the ab muscles. The core is made up of muscles from the torso, the pelvic floor, deep muscles in the belly and the back, side muscles or obliques and even the muscles that support the shoulders are considered part of the core complex. 

Notice how these muscles surround and ultimately work to protect the spine. Having a weak core contributes to improper posture whether you’re just sitting down or performing an exercise. In the world of sports, poor form is a major cause of injury. Work on building core muscle strength in order to prevent further pain or injury.

A strong core improves stability and balance
When you watch golf, notice how athletes rotate their torso as they swing. Fitness advisor Ben Shear explains that golfers move in three planes: forward and backward, side to side, and rotationally. Developed core muscles increase balance as a golfer performs these movements, which in turn produces a more accurate and powerful swing. 

It’s the same concept when it comes to sports such as martial arts where rotational forces are essential. It’s also evident in sports where balance is key like cycling or gymnastics. When Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles springs up and lands in an inversion, it’s not her arms that are keeping her stable but mostly her impressive core strength.

A strong core produces more power.
Aside from the limbs, Livestrong notes how a strong core is key for swimmers. The torso connects the upper body and the lower body, which facilitates the transfer of energy from top to bottom that propels a swimmer forward. The stronger the midsection, the more power is generated and the faster an athlete can swim. 

The same idea applies to sports on dry land, where force is generated from the ground up. Think of basketball for instance. Men’s Journal shared one of LeBron James’ exercises which involves balancing on a physio ball while holding kettlebells. Trainer Chris Powell explained that what this is doing is ‘training his core to react to an unstable environment and fire rapidly’. This is because the core transfers the forces to the limbs to yield a more powerful movement, while adapting to quick changes in stances. The LA Lakers star is known for being meticulous about his training, especially with his core, since having experienced back problems in the past. His efforts are continuously being rewarded as James is arguably the wealthiest basketball player in the world, not to mention the most popular. His core strength is unbelievable, and it shows in his impressive performances, despite his recent groin injury.

A strong core is good defense
Lastly, a solid midsection provides good defense against physical contact. For example, boxers constantly have to guard themselves against punches from their opponents. Well-defined and trained muscles enhance that protective layer as well as improve their stamina. 

So, while having defined abs can be a major confidence-booster, if you want to take your athletic performance to the next level, focus on strengthening your entire core.

 


Success Planning

It is no secret that many people start out each new year with the age-old New Year’s Resolutions.  It is also no secret that by the end of January most of these resolutions have gone by the wayside. People have reverted back to their old ways and have lost the motivation for whatever new thing they were going to accomplish this year. Though we are all capable of change, the fact remains that change is hard and takes a tremendous amount of discipline.

Personally, I take a different approach at the start of each year. I don’t start by sitting down to make a list of business and personal goals that I want to accomplish. I start by creating what I call my annual success PLAN. This is simply a set of 3-5 principles that I will live by this year that will help me to accomplish my goals - whatever they may be. 2019 was no exception. At the start of the year, I implemented a simple 3 step process and am now slotting my business and personal goals into it. The steps are, THINK, PLAN, EXECUTE.

1. Think

It sounds simple. The fact is that it is, and it isn’t. Thinking is actually hard work which is why people don’t make the investment of time and energy that it requires. Too often we jump to what we want to accomplish but we haven’t really put the time in to figure out WHY. As with most things, a strong why will be the thing that pushes us through the tough times when it doesn’t seem like we are making progress towards our goals. It is also important to put thought into the specifics of what we want to accomplish and the time frame by which we want to accomplish it. For example, a common resolution at the start of every year is to lose weight or to get in shape.

Our minds can’t get behind goals like this because they are vague and not linked to a specific outcome. We’ve all heard that goals must be specific and measurable but we must also tie them to something bigger. If you are working with clients this year that have these goals encourage them to THINK deeply about them and get to the root of why they want to accomplish them. Is it to have more energy so they can be active in their children’s lives?

Perhaps they have a vacation coming up and they want to feel confident as they walk down the beach. Whatever it is, creating the link between the goal and the why is powerful and will keep them motivated when the inevitable road-blocks appear. To summarize, when setting goals in the new year, or at any time, put in the time to really THINK about the specific outcomes, potential obstacles and the true reason behind WHY the goal is important. The investment on the front end will pay off big down the road.

2. Plan

Once we have put the proper thinking in place around our goals it is time to make a PLAN. This is the next reason most people fail. They simply don’t have a solid plan. It sounds good to say you will accomplish this or that but specifically HOW are you going to do it? What are the 3 -5 things you must do every day in order to reach the goal? What is preventing you from accomplishing the goal right now? Time, money, effort, will power?

If you can identify the obstacles to success you can put a plan in place to overcome them. It is also important to plan the time frame that you will accomplish the goal by. For example one of the members on my team had a goal to write a book last year. Anyone that has set out to accomplish such a task,   or even just write a blog, will tell you that it’s daunting to open up your computer and see a blank screen staring back at you!

Once he got clear on the what and the why he laid out a plan for the how. Five days per week he was going to write 500 words. That is the equivalent of 1 page per day which turned into a book with over 250 pages by the end of the year. Had he not been so specific in his plan, his chances of success would have been greatly diminished. Significant accomplishments do not happen by accident. They require a real plan but the plan is what makes them manageable.

3. Execute

The final step in the process is to actually go out and do the work! Undoubtedly this is where the majority of people will fail. Accomplishing our goals is hard work. It’s supposed to be. That is largely where the satisfaction comes from. If you’ve ever set out to accomplish a goal and reached the finish line I’m sure you can remember the feeling of looking back and remembering all that it took to get there. The journey in many aspects is as rewarding as the destination.

Needless to say, you can put in the time to think through your goals. You can put together the best plan in the world but if you don’t go out and put in the work, it simply doesn’t matter. It simply won’t happen. Too many people will make the excuse that I don’t know how to do this or that. Or I tried before and it didn’t work out. Recognize that these are simply excuses to avoid the work. Get to work! Other people will start out doing the work and then start to cut corners, start looking for the quick fix. People who do this ultimately fail. Get to work! At the end of the day, one of two things will happen. You will accomplish your goal or you won’t. What  I can guarantee you is that if you really put in the hard work, you will be further down the road than if you just sit around talking about it. GET TO WORK!

There you have it. A simple 3 step approach to accomplishing your goals this year. One word of caution. Do the steps in the order they are written. Think. Plan. Execute. Often times people want to jump right to execute before they have a plan. Other times they just want to sit around thinking and never take action. Follow the system, it works. Cheers to your success in 2019  and beyond!