To attain total fitness, an athlete must possess “core stability” – the ability to use the muscles to keep the body’s separate sections stable. In order to perform ballistic movements – such as running, throwing and jumping – the muscles must have a stable base to start from. Without a stable base injuries, both acute and chronic, can occur. Good core stability also enables stronger muscle contraction, and better agility, recovery and control.
Core-stability training begins with learning to perform the “abdominal hollowing” technique with the spine in the neutral position. To do this, use the following guidelines:
- Start by lying on your back with knees bent
- Your low back should be neither arched up nor flattened against the floor but have a small gap between the floor and your back.
- This is the “neutral” position.
- Breathe in deeply and relax all your stomach muscles
- Breathe out and, as you do so, draw your lower abdomen inwards as if your belly button is going back towards the floor.
- Hold the contraction for 10 seconds and stay relaxed, allowing yourself to breathe in and out as you hold the tension in your lower stomach area.
- Repeat 5-10 times
Remember the following:
- Do not let the whole stomach tense up or brace too hard.
- Do not tense the shoulders
- Do not tilt your pelvis nor flatten your back, as this means you have lost the neutral position you are trying to learn to stabilise.
- Do not hold your breath, as this means you are not relaxed.
- Once you have mastered the abdominal hollowing lying on your back, practise it lying on your front, four-point kneeling, sitting and standing. In each position get your lumbar spine into neutral before you perform the hollowing movement.
Core stability exercises are then progressed under the supervision of a Physiotherapist. Another option is a technique called Pilates, designed to improve stability and control. It involves specific exercises using specialized equipment