The importance of the Core muscles
The stability of the locomotor system is of great importance in carrying out movement activities, especially in endurance sports (cycling, running, swimming, triathlon, Nordic skiing, biathlon…) to maintain most efficient technique and low level of injuries. Functional stability significantly influences the movement technique in the sports. Any deviation in mechanics and the very technique of a given sport from the so-called biomechanical optimum may result in poor body posture/hold, a greater number of compensatory movements (excessive energy-consuming movements, which do not have an overall positive impact) that may lead to injuries.
Therefore, the basis for a rationally effective and safe movement a stable support and strength and muscle control of the middle part of the body is necessary – Core. Poor core leads to poor technique and increases the risk of injury, which is why strengthening this part of the body is more important than the strength and appearance of larger muscle groups.
By core muscles we consider the lumbo-pelvic complex within which, from a biomechanical view, lays body’s center of gravity, or from which any movement begins (from a motoric view).
The muscular system belonging to the core determines the efficiency of the swim, bike and run technique - the weakness of this part of the body leads to compensatory movements, disturbance of rhythmicity, and thus even lower efficiency, especially on mountain bike riding. If the arm and leg muscles are strong, but the core is weak then there is not enough body stability to support an effective movement of the arms and legs.
How to strengthen the core muscles?
Exercises are divided into three levels - the first level are stabilizing exercises, the second level are those for strengthening, and the third level of exercise is called the power level. Exercising starts from the level at which a person can maintain stability and neuromuscular control. Prior to this, the person must be informed and aware how correctly perform these exercises.
For these exercises you can use Pilates (Swiss) ball, balance or semi-circle balls, as well as expanders - tires that effectively simulates natural movements within a particular sport. Take a little and apply better approach to training and see for yourself how these exercises can get you exhausted (if they are performed properly).
Three exercises for strengthening core muscles:
Plank – lean on your elbows while the feet are in the width of the hips. Tighten the abbs and straighten your back. Hold this position for 45-60 seconds, and in time you will be able to gradually increase the duration as you get in better shape and become more fit. Beside this ordinary plank, there are also several variations – on the side, with an extended arm or leg, with the pilates ball, etc.
Number of repetitions: 3-5
Engaged muscles: core, shoulders, gluteus
Jackknife with the pilates ball – take the push-up posture (the arms are extended), while standing on the pilates ball with your feet. Tighten the abbs and the lumbar part of the back. Roll the ball with your feet until your knees get to your chest. You can perform the exercise in a more difficult way by combining it with the classical push-ups between the repetitions.
Number of repetition: 10-12
Engaged muscles: core, shoulders
Reverse plank – lean on the forearm to the floor, tighten the abbs and the buttocks, lift the hips up from the ground and form a straight line with the body from the shoulder to the ankles. Hold 45-60 seconds. As you become more and more fit, gradually increase the time.
Number of repetition: 3-5
Engaged muscles: core, gluteus, lower back, shoulders