Core stability is defined as the ability to control the position and movement of the trunk over the pelvis to allow optimum production, transfer and control of force and motion to the terminal segment in integrated athletic activities (Kibler, Press & Sciascia, 2006). According to their study, core muscle activity is best understood as the pre-programmed integration of local, single-joint muscles and multi-joint muscles to provide stability and produce motion. Furthermore, conditioning programs should include training of the core itself, but also include the core as the base for extremity function.
Triathlon involves moving in a straight line, that is, using our arms and legs to move forward as efficiently as possible. Our core strength couldn’t affect this, right? Wrong.
Throughout all three components of our sport, forces created and applied by our extremities must pass through the abdominal region, lower back and hips – the core. Thus, if these areas are weak some of the force will be dissipated and lost. Training the core strengthens these muscles which allow forces that are applied by the arms and legs to be efficiently transferred – thus increasing efficiency of body movements. Functional adaptations result in increased synchronisation and recruitment patterns (Friel, 2009).
Such conditioning is effective in increasing strength and efficiency in swimming and cycling, by improving body position and recruitment abilities in these positions. For example, a stronger core allows one to adopt a flatter body position (on top of the water, with higher hip position) thus decreasing drag and increasing speed at a given intensity. Core strength is most effective in reducing injury risk in running. One such example is the effect of a strong core allowing the neutralisation of the pelvis (Friel, 2009). A neutral pelvis means correct form can be maintained and likelihood of overuse injuries decreases.
Endurance athletes must be able to generate large forces whilst maintaining a high range of motion. Perhaps of most interest to triathletes, a strong core will result in increases to power output and muscle efficiency – thus improving power: weight ratio – which along with a high VO2max, is a key characteristic of elite level triathletes (Sleivert & Rowlands, 2006).
For more information on core conditioning contact an ETPA coach. Alternatively contact Evolution Cycles to enrol in their triathlon specific strength and conditioning program. The key to you swimming, cycling and running faster may stem from your core!
Here are some exercises to get you started:
Single Leg Kick – 3 x 10 on each leg – lying face down, bend knee to lift foot off the bench, bringing the knee to about 90degrees; from here push upwards, lifting the entire knee off the bench; hips should not move; utilise gluteus only; keep rest off body still and relaxed
Single Leg Squat –3 x 10 on each – balance on one leg, keeping head up, shoulder and hips level and straight; knee should track over little toe; aim for a smooth movement; keep body still and straight;
Prone Stabilisation into V position – 4 x 8 – start in prone stabilisation position (aka: plank, prone hold), then push hips upwards into a V position keeping shoulders and elbows still; hold for one sec at the top and one sec at the bottom
Prone front raises with hip extension –3 x 12 – lying on a bench, extend legs upwards using the gluteals and raise arms from the shoulder using very light hand weights; hold contraction for one sec
Alternating arm and leg raises – 4 x 12 – lying with your back on the floor start with knees up (in line with your hips) and your arms straight up; lower one arm behind your head whilst lowering the opposite leg until both are parallel to the floor; as you bring them up, lower the opposing arm/leg; all movements are slow and controlled; small of your back must remain on the floor (remove arch)
These exercises should be used as a guide only. Please complete them with extreme caution or under qualified supervision. For more information contact ETPA or Evolution Cycles directly