If the Army is ditching Sit-Ups because of the increased risk of spinal injury, maybe it's a good idea for you to ditch them as well. You might think the risk of a spinal injury is farfetched, since most of you probably do Sit-Ups without hurting yourself. But Sit-Ups place constant wear and tear on the lumbar spine by flexing an area that's not designed to move in that way.
Plus, the primary purpose of the abs is not to flex the torso. Rather, the abs are tasked with preventing the lower back from extending. In strength and conditioning circles, this is called anti-extension.
This is just how a single core muscle functions. But the concept applies to other groups as well. Each core muscle attempts to prevent the spine from moving by creating a rigid torso. So instead of doing old-school exercises in which you move through your core, it's better to train the anti-core. The core is designed to hold the trunk stable while the extremities move around it. If you cannot stabilize your core, you end up rotating with your lumbar spine, thereby putting yourself at a greater risk of injury.
This has implications for your performance. If you have a rigid core, you will move more efficiently in your sport and reduce your chance of injury. Also, more of the power you produce from your legs and hips will contribute to your skills, because you will waste less energy with unnecessary movements.
And let's not forget the weight room benefits. Having a rigid core that prevents movement allows you to perform almost every exercise more effectively and safely. For example, a stronger core allows your body to safely handle more weight on the Squat and Deadlift.
Below are five exercises that should be a part of nearly every athlete's workout to get the benefits of anti-core training both on the field and in the weight room.
Think about keeping a straight line from your knees to your hips to your shoulders. Keep your back flat, and don't let your core sag. To make this movement easier, start by using a Swiss ball. Progress to an ab wheel with a limited range of motion, like in the video above.
Pick up two heavy kettlebells, or two dumbbells, and go for a walk. Keep the best posture you can, and brace your core. If you're very strong, you should be able to carry the equivalent of your body weight (half in each hand) for the length of a football field.
3. Pallof Press
Get into a half-kneeling position with your inside knee down. Position your body perpendicular to the cable machine with the handle at mid-chest height. Keep your shoulders and hips square and press both hands away from your body. Do a set facing each direction.
Start by holding a low Plank on a Swiss ball. From there, keeping your legs straight and back flat, rotate your arms in a circular motion. Do a set clockwise and then one counterclockwise. The bigger the circle, the harder it'll be. A wider stance with your legs makes this easier.
5. Body Saws
Using a set of floor sliders or a towel on a wooden floor, start in a low plank position with your toes on the sliders. Move your body backwards without compromising the plank position. For a more challenging version, perform in a push-up position or by lifting one foot off the ground.
If you master these five exercises, you will be on the fast track to creating true core strength for the summer.
For more tips and tricks about training and sports performance, check back for more information or email me at Strebelp@gmail.com.
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