Tuesday, July 8, 2014

How Strong Does Your Core NEED To Be?

Core training is obviously a very important aspect of a training program. Without a strong and stable core your athletes will have a tough time transferring power from their hips into any sort of ballistic movement. Instead, they will end up flaccidly flopping around and looking like a turd rather than an athlete.

I will finally concede that simply doing your basic barbell lifts is NOT adequate for core training. I will tell myself that doing heavy front squats, presses and pulls will help you develop a strong core (they will) but at the end of the day you need more than that ::sigh::.

So now that I will admit to needing more core training, what should you be doing? I've written before about my thoughts on core stability training rather than training your core dynamically. You should be training your core with standard planks, bodysaws, various anti-rotation presses and isometric holds, stir-the-pots, heavy farmers walks and long farmers walks (uni- and bi-lateral, overhead, etc). I could go on and on, but I don't want to. The point is that there are a ton of appropriate exercises to be doing, you just need to pick the right ones for you/your clients and athletes and apply them. If your athlete can't hold a standard plank without a ton of lordosis then they probably shouldn't be doing a stir-the-pot or ab wheel rollout quite yet.

This brings me to the actual point of this post: how strong does your core NEED to be? I'm asking an actual question, not setting myself up to make some grand point. Is there an upper limit to the efficacy of some of the core exercises that we can all see out there? Does training yourself to go from a bi-lateral standing rollout to a contra-lateral standing rollout significantly increase your performance in any fashion? Or is it just fucking cool? I feel like once you've increased your core strength and stability to being able to do a hand walkout on two PVC pipes, you should be pretty much good to go regarding your core strength, right? I've seen some circus tricks being passed off as core exercises and just can't find a time or a place that I'd ever actually consider putting them into a program for someone.

As I sit here and right this, I wonder if I'm not approaching it with too much of a civilian attitude. I use Mark Bell's phrase "strength is never a weakness" pretty often, and maybe I just need to remind myself that it applies to core training as well. If you're still able to make your core stronger through exercises that look ridiculous, then maybe it's still worthwhile.

I'm conflicted. Once athletes are able to perform certain core exercises without any level of difficulty I often find it difficult to continue programming any serious amount of core work. I'll still include a few exercises, but I'd much rather use that time to focus on something else that they can continue to see solid improvement with (conditioning, body comp, power, technique).

It's a question I've been pondering in my head for quite a while, and I've mostly made up my mind. However, I love learning and I'm interested to hear anybody's thoughts on the subject! Let me know what you think! Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!

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