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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
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)
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
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
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