In most areas of athletics, the personal record is an important aspect of goal setting and accomplishment. PR’s motivate us to work harder and push ourselves to greater levels of strength and conditioning. It is easy to focus on the PR at hand, whether it be more pounds on your squat, taking a second or two off of your 500m row, or whatever the goal is. The general idea is that if you want to squat more weight, you need to squat multiple times per week and with heavy weight. This is true, but sometimes its easy to miss a very important part of hitting PR’s… the core.
The core of the body is an incredibly important area. It stabilizes us, helps initiate proper movement patterns and can often times tell our body when something is too much. All of the tiny nerves surrounding the spine are constantly giving feedback to the brain. If that feedback is good, you will be able to push yourself harder, go faster, add more weight, etc., but if that feedback is poor, your brain might say enough is enough. Pushing through this can be dangerous and may lead to injury; won’t be hitting any PR’s on the injured reserve list.
Spinal alignment and proper intersegmental motion is an important part of elite-level core strength. This is where a good chiropractor comes in. Chiropractors can detect misalignments in the spine and poor spinal movements and work to correct them. The spine is so important because it protects the spinal cord. This is where all that information is traveling so when you need those muscles to fire, your spine better be doing its job.
Creating stability in the core takes work. By simply recognizing that we don’t engage our core properly throughout the day should help us be more proactive in getting our core stronger. Think the next time you go from sitting to standing. Engage your core prior to standing up. You will begin to make this a habit, and retrain your brain and body to engage the core more often.
With the PR’s in sight you must make time to deliberately train the core. This means doing some of those exercises that we often don’t make time for. Planks and side planks. It seems too static, not enough resistance, but if you engage your core properly and hold a plank for 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, etc. You will start moving closer and closer to hitting those PR’s. Straight leg raises starting with core engagement, slow and controlled, will help teach the core to stabilize first before big muscles move. Hollow body rocks, superman exercises, deadlifts (proper form), and L-sits are all great movements for the core. For the more advanced athletes, back extensions with resistance, evil wheels, and GHD sit-ups are great ways to add strength and stability to the core.
Keep training hard. Set PR goals and work to achieve them. Remember, if you have hit a plateau, your body might just be telling you that your core strength needs to go to the next level.