Why a Strong Core is Critical for Athletes

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.