Wilderness Sports Conditioning
Train Today for
Core Training for Sport
If you are reading this article, you are probably involved in a sport that requires you to perform various rotational and bending movements with an upright torso (or, for swimmers, horizontal!) Why not strengthen your core the same way? Your core consists of the rectus abdominus, internal and external obliques, and erector spinaes, all the muscles in your mid-section that allow you to transfer movement and power from the upper body to lower body and vice versa. The following integrated, whole-body movements allow you to develop strength that will carry over more readily to your sport – say good-bye to hundreds of crunches! As always, when first starting a new exercise, try light or no weight for form, and then increase until you've found the appropriate weight. Make sure you are well warmed up and stretched before trying these exercises with weights. Try 2-3 sets of each exercise, 8-12 repetitions each set.
Perform this exercise early (1st or 2nd) in your workout while you are fresh. This exercise works multiple muscle groups at once, and will dramatically improve your form and strength in standard barbell squats, as it trains you how to maintain a vertical torso. It also provides a great stretch for the shoulders and upper back while working wonders for the abs and lower back, which are engaged from start to finish controlling and stabilizing the weight far above you. Treat the first set as your form set; subsequent sets will feel much better as your body gets used to the exercise.
If this is brand new to you, experiment with form using a dowel, towel, exercise tubing or broomstick before increasing to a barbell or pair of dumbbells. Hands should be wide apart on bar overhead, feet fairly wide, toes turned out and knees tracking over toes. Keep arms overhead or slightly behind you, with elbows straight but not locked out. Lower into a squat as far as you can possibly go, keeping the bar level (a mirror helps). If you have knee, shoulder, or lower back problems, limit the range of movement to your pain-free zone at first or see a movement specialist who can help determine appropriate stretches, strength or form modifications your body needs.
This is harder than it looks! Try it with a very light pair of dumbbells in each hand first (much less than you’d use for a side bend with dumbbell down by your legs). Stand with feet shoulder distance apart, knees slightly bent, and arms nearly straight up over your head. Take a deep breath and keep abs tight as you slowly lean directly to one side, as far as comfortable for you, without bending forward or backward. Exhale as you come center, then repeat to the other side. Alternate sides until you have completed desired reps, 6-10 each side.
1-Arm Cross-body Deadlift
Stand with feet shoulder width apart and a substantial dumbbell resting to the outside of your left foot. Squat down to the ground (back flat and chest forward) and grasp the weight with your left hand. Stand up and then draw an arc around the body with palm remaining facing your legs, and lower to set the weight down to the outside of your right foot. Without standing up, grab the dumbbell with the right hand, stand, and set the dumbbell back down to the outside of your left foot once again. Repeat back and forth for desired number of repetitions. Exhale as you lift, keep abdominals tight, and concentrate on driving up with the legs.
Stand as shown with side of body toward cable stack, rope attachment on pulley. Keep a fairly wide stance, straight arms, and abs tight. Exhale and pull the rope out in front of and across the body in an arc, as though you were chopping wood across the body with your "rope axe." Finished position is hands at about knee level, legs slightly bent and weight transferred to far leg. Complete the desired number of repetitions, then repeat to the other side. Make the movement explosive as you rotate down, control as you release the weight back down and hands up.
The woodchopper exercise is especially valuable for kayakers, canoers, rowers, golfers, people involved in racquet sports such as tennis, squash or racquetball, cross-country skiers, and baseball or softball players. Variations include using a high resistance band (such as those sold by Jump Stretch Inc.) attached to a squat rack, or doing the reverse movement holding a dumbbell in both hands.
1-Hand Dumbbell Deadlift
Stand with feet shoulder width apart, and hold a substantial dumbbell in one hand only. Squat down as low as you can, arm straight, chest forward and back flat, until weight nearly touches floor. Keep shoulders and hips squared forward. This variation on the deadlift works the opposing oblique muscles which act to stabilize you so the weight won't pull you off center. Repeat same number of reps to the other side.
Horizontal Dumbbell Swings
Hold a light dumbbell in two hands, with plates cupped as shown. Straighten arms in front of the body, stand with legs fairly wide and slightly bent, and rotate side to side, slowly at first, getting the feel for end range of motion. As you progress, increase the speed so obliques contract harder and harder at end range. Make sure head stays aligned with torso as you rotate. Great exercise for golfers, softball or baseball players, rowers, kayakers, and track/field athletes. If you have access to medicine balls, toss one against a wall in a similar pattern, or work with a partner in a game of catch.
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These sample core exercises are examples of what you might be asked to do in a personalized sport-specific program available to you through your Outdoor Conditioning Coaches at Body Results. Remember, however, that everyone has different needs depending on training age, body type, individual goals, exercise history, and time available. To find out how to get your own personalized program, contact your local Body Results Outdoor Conditioning Coach. Black and white images courtesy of Physigraphe. Model in color photographs is Courtenay Schurman.
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