The Importance of Core Strength for Sprinters

Core strength is an important component of an athlete's fitness particularly for Sprinters.
By: Steve Cooper PBFit
July 6, 2010 - PRLog -- The core can be defined as the deep muscles surrounding the spinal column, pelvic and shoulder girdles. Whilst the muscles in the limbs produce movement it is the job of the core to oppose secondary movement and maintain stability no matter what position the body is in. Secondary movements are those that happen as a result of primary movement e.g. lateral upper body movement of the trunk as a result of arm and leg movements for a sprinter, or torsion (twisting motion) of the hips produced by a long distance runner’s legs. These secondary movements can sap energy from athletes if they aren’t controlled or place unnecessary strain on areas of the body during movement which could potentially lead to injury.

Another major facet of core strength is for power transference. Spinal Biomechanics expert Stuart McGill discusses how maximal power transference from the arms and legs for optimum performance are limited by the strength of a sprinter’s core. A solid core will eliminate secondary movement ensuring for optimum energy usage. McGill uses the example of a hammer. The legs are the head of the hammer, pounding against the floor and generating opposing force. The handle of the hammer is the core. Imagine the difference in force over a sprint (repeated force application), of a hammer with a handle of steel and that of a hammer with a handle of flexible rubber. The rubber handle will produce inconsistent movement which will be far less explosive and effective with each step. So, all the force produce by strong arms and legs in a sprint can be lost by inconsistent application to the track via a weak core.

Throughout a sprint there are two main phases: acceleration and steady state. More power must be applied to the track in the acceleration stage than the steady state phase to produce the change in speed from stationary to optimum race pace as there is no momentum. During acceleration then, a strong core is absolutely paramount as efficiency is key. The ex-Olympian Michael Johnson echoes this in his review of the movements produced by Usain Bolt throughout a 100m sprint. Bolt, although ridiculously fast, has a wildly inefficient acceleration phase due to large amounts o lateral movement in his technique. Johnson commented and questioned – if Bolt were to strengthen his core and adjust his technique, how fast could the fastest man in the world be?

There are many techniques and even more exercises for training a core of steel. As with all training for sport, any additional muscle mass must be functional and not just redundant bulk. The extra weight that muscle adds must be displaced by the overall amount of power produced. Stability is the primary function of the core so isotonic “holding” exercises are quite effective e.g. the bridge/ plank. Movement however trains control e.g. Russian twists. A mixture of the two will provide a challenging core stability workout that will be functional i.e. forcing the core to work harder during isometric exercise to resist secondary motion. The core can also be challenged through asymmetric resistance exercises which demand good form whilst placing weight on one side of the body, requiring the rest of the body to compensate.

Here is a simple test of core strength:

Hold the bridge position for as long as possible.
• Find a flat, level surface
• Assume a press-up position then adjust the arm position so that forearms are on the floor with the elbows directly below the shoulders
• The legs should be outstretched and should form a straight line with a neutral back position

Sample workout

1 min Squat and press
1 min Gym ball press-ups
1 min Dumbbell lunges
1 min Mountain Climbers
1 min Side Bridge with roll under
1 min Bridge

X 3

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