The Business of Core Training

As Strength and Conditioners/Sports Scientists working with athletes, we program everything from conditioning and gym-based work to core development. In theory, there should always be a rationale for anything we do based on evidence from previous experience or academic research. It has been stated that the development of the trunk region or “core” (the more common term) is ‘a vital part of strength and conditioning (S&C) and general fitness programs for athletes and non-athletes’ (1,2,3). The implementation of core training has been cited to potentially have a positive effect on sporting activities and daily living (4,5,6). Now before we dive further, we must cover the following from a business perspective as ultimately, it is our business to look after our athletes/clients in regards to physical training.

  • What is the core?
  • Why do we train it?
  • When do we look at training it?
  • Whom do we train it with?
  • How do we train it?

What is the core?

Among the research, the core has been stated as the connection between the upper and lower extremities (3,7). It refers primarily to the muscular structures around the trunk region and has been split into 3 groups: 1) global core stabilizers (e.g., rectus abdominus), 2) local core stabilizers (e.g., transverse abdominus), and 3) upper and lower extremity core-limb transfer muscles (e.g., latissimus dorsi, glutes) (8). Putting it in simple terms, the core is nipple to knee and everything in-between!

Why do we train it?

Strength and stability around the trunk region through the use of core-based training has been very popular in recent years, but are we doing it for the right reason? Research has shown that the use of such training has a potential effect on sporting performance (1,2,3), but this has been debated in a few empirical studies also (9,10). The use of core training as a method of reducing injuries of the lumbar spine and lower extremities has also been suggested (2,5,6,11). It has been noted that the use of localized isometric trunk work around the lumbar region can potentially reduce lower back pain (LBP) (3,12).

When do we train it?

In regards to when to train the core, it really does depend on your environment and circumstances. If you are limited for time, there are various options to can use to ensure you get what you require out of your athletes.

  1. Player led prehab – This is prehab work that your athletes carry out without you being present, although I would recommend that a coach is present for the first few weeks of preseason to ensure players are performing the exercise correctly.
  2. Warm-ups – You can easily implement trunk-based exercises in the warm-up, especially on lower intensity days such as MD+2.  You can also flip this and perform the exercises as part of a cool down. Literature in recent times has noted that the use of an active cool-down is largely ineffective; therefore, you can gain some valuable time here.
  3. Gym rest periods – Placing exercises in between rest periods during your gym sessions is every effective as it keeps athletes switched on for the whole course and did not take any extra time. 

Whom do we train?

This section is pretty self-explanatory, but with working with athletes in regards to core training, your focus is on all athletes but in particular those who are suffering from recurring LBP. Athletes and general populations with trunk weaknesses are your main area of concern. 

How do we train the core?

The use of isometric based core training, which uses exercises such as the front plank and the Pallof press instead of exercises that require repetitive flexions such as the sit-up or crunch, is recommended. Academic work by Stuart McGill has outlined this, and I would recommend reading into his work on this area (2). The rationale of using such exercises is to promote stability in the area and not mobility (which occurs through repetitive flexion); therefore, it would be deemed wise to use isometric based exercises such as the deadbug or front plank. Mike Boyle, in his fantastic book Functional Training for Sports, also outlined that core training is about motion prevention and not motion creation (14).

Now since we have covered which type of exercise to perform, we need to talk about where exactly. As mentioned previously the core is from nipple to knee and all around, so it is essential you target all; therefore, you must focus on the front (anterior), side (lateral), and the back (posterior). With this in mind, one must ensure they are programming at least one of each to keep the core training balanced. In regards to programming, keep it simple stupid (KISS) – meaning start easy and gradually build up.

Core training is about motion prevention and not motion creation.

Here I recommend the following training guidelines as a simple starting point:

ExerciseWeek1Week2Week3Week4
Deadbug (Anterior)10 reps x 3 sets12 reps x 3 sets15 reps x 3 sets20 reps x 3 sets
Side Plank (Lateral)20 sec x 3 sets30 sec x 3 sets40 sec x 3 sets50 sec x 3 sets
Glute Bridge (Posterior)10 reps x 3 sets12 reps x 3 sets15 reps x 3 sets20 reps x 3 sets
     

Food for thought.

Till next time, Stay Stoic,

SSC

Return of the Gym

2020…..was it the year of the virus, or was it the year you started to focus on your gym training? Hypertrophy is a fancy word for building muscle, and we all know is quite difficult to do. This post will not go into the science but will give you guidelines on the what and the how.

2020…..was it the year of the virus, or was it the year you started to focus on your gym training?

The following are guidelines in which you can implement straight away

  • High training volumes are required (8-12 reps)
  • Have split routines will allow up to 4 sessions per week
  • 6-8 exercises per session
  • Rest Period – 2 mins
  • Use the 3:1 ratio when periodising. This involves 3 working weeks, followed by a deload week. A deload week is a reduction in volume, intensity or both to aid in recovery.  

Not sure about how you train that Core?

Food for thought.

Till next time, Stay Stoic,

SSC

Don’t feel like Squatting?

Squatting is a fantastic exercise for the lower body. It works everything from the quadriceps, adductor group, and glutes to the hamstrings and erector spinae. The squat is considered the number one bodybuilding movement pattern.

Squatting is a fantastic exercise for the lower body. 

With this in mind, one should always try to implement a squat pattern in their resistance training programs. Now you may be saying to yourself, ‘Does that mean I need to back squat every time I am working out?’. Not at all, there are plenty of options out there in regards to exercise selection for the squat. The following list is created so you can spice up your sessions while keeping the basics in place

Enjoy!

Barbell ExercisesDumbbell/Kettlebell ExercisesBodyweight Exercises
Barbell Back SquatGoblet SquatPrisoner Squats
Barbell Overhead SquatKettlebell SquatSquat Pulses
Barbell Front SquatDumbbell Squat and ReachWall Sits
Barbell X Front SquatOverhead Kettlebell SquatBasic Bodyweight Squat
Range of Squat Exercises

Food for thought.

Till next time, Stay Stoic,

SSC

Strength Training

What is it all about? Well, if we go to the research, the term strength means ‘the ability to apply force.’ Now you may be wondering, why does that concern me? The main reason we are recommended to strength train is to get stronger. The reason why we want to be stronger is, it aids in our ability to move freely the older we get and helps combat ageing.

Strength training helps build bone strength, meaning that it helps reduce breaks and falls later on in life. This type of training is also good for our mental health, with studies showing a positive link to our mental wellbeing.

But how?

Here are the 6 key points to need to strength train effectively.

  1. Use big compound exercises. My personal favourites are the Back Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, Overhead Press, and the DB Row.
  2. Keep the rep ranges between 4-6.
  3. Keep the set to a maximum of 3
  4. Perform each exercise with the full range of motion (ROM)
  5. Increase the weight every 3 sessions by 1.25 or 2.5kg.
  6. Ensure your technique is assessed by a trained professional to make sure you are performing the exercise correctly.

Food for thought.

Till next time, Stay Stoic,

SSC

Core training – Are we making it too complicated?

Core training or trunk training is utilized by all, from athletic individuals to general populations, but are we creating more work for ourselves when we program it?

Nevertheless, why do we program for the core in the first place?

The core has been outlined as the kinetic link between the upper and lower body, which coincides which the idea of it aiding in sporting performance (1). Performance enhancement is one side of the coin, with injury reduction being the other. Now before we go any further, the idea of ‘Injury Prevention’ is not plausible. As practitioners, we have to accept the fact that our athletes/clients may get injured at some stage. The key is to try to reduce such injuries, so they occur less and less often hence the word ‘injury reduction’.  The use of core training has been outlined as a method to address weakness in the trunk region, increasing core stability, thus reducing recurring lower back pain (LBP). So you could argue that the use of such modalities does enhance performance as it allows one to perform at their maximum, reducing the risk of injury.

Core training or trunk training is utilized by all, from athletic individuals to general populations, but are we creating more work for ourselves when we program it?

Number one, I am a firm believer in the isometric based training, which uses exercises such as the front plank and the Pallof press instead of exercises which require repetitive flexion such as the sit-up or crunch. Lots of academic work by Stuart McGill has outlined this, and I would recommend reading into his work on this area (2). The rationale of using such exercises is to promote stability in the area and not mobility (which occurs through repetitive flexion); therefore, it would be deemed wise to use isometric based exercises such as the deadbug or front plank. Mike Boyle, in his fantastic book Functional Training for Sports, outlined that core training is about motion prevention and not motion creation (3)

Now since we have covered which type of exercise to perform, we need to talk about where. Well, the core is from nipple to knee and all around, so it is essential you target all; therefore, you must focus on the front (anterior), side (lateral), and the back (posterior). With this in mind, one must ensure they are programming at least one of each in order to keep the core training balanced. Now let us get on to the programming side of things – the fun bit. In regards to programming, keep it simple stupid (KISS) – meaning start easy and gradually build up. We recommend the following training guidelines:

Exercise 1 – Deadbug (anterior)

Exercise 2 – Side plank (left and right – lateral)

Exercise 3 – Glute bridge (posterior)

Frequency (Twice per week)

Week 1 – 3 sets of 20sec

Week 2 – 3 sets of 30sec

Week 3 – 3 sets of 40sec

Week 4 – 3 sets of 20sec – change/increase exercise difficulty and repeat process.

I hope this was helpful and stay stoic,

Stoic Strength Coach.

References

  1. Willardson, J. (2014). Developing the Core: NSCA-National Strength & Conditioning Association.
  2. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Stuart_Mcgill
  3. Boyle, M. (2016). New functional training for sports. Human Kinetics.