Core training is one of the most popular terms you will hear thrown around by coaches and athletes, yet many do not fully understand the actual function of the core. Often only thought of as the abdominal muscles, the core actually includes all the muscles from the shoulder to the hip. The function of these muscles are to transfer energy between the legs and the arms. The stronger the core, the more power an athlete can display – whether it be jumping up for a rebound in basketball or swinging a bat in softball.
Young athletes should focus on basic core training exercises – such as the plank – but for more advanced athletes, these exercises will not be enough. As an athlete grows, they must incorporate more challenging movements into their training, to continue seeing improvement. These exercises should work the body in all three planes of motion – frontal (side-to-side), sagittal (forward and backward), and transverse (rotational).
As mentioned earlier, the role of the core is to transfer energy, not create it. This means that we must train the core to be strong and rigid, so we should avoid exercises that cause the torso to bend (sit ups, side bends, etc.). Instead, core training should involve exercises that allow for motion through the arms and/or legs, while remaining rigid through the torso.
When performing the following five exercises, your focus should be to prevent even the slightest motion in your core. Two cues that will help with this is to imagine a string is pulling the front of your rib cage and pelvis together, while also thinking about squeezing your glutes together. If you are unable to hold this posture during any of these exercises, it is important to reduce the number of reps you perform or to find a less challenging exercise, until you have the strength to perform the movement correctly.