A strong core supports breathing, sprinting, and throwing. Under conditions of extreme fatigue (e.g. tournaments), core strength becomes even more important. Core strength allows for better efficiency of movement and acts like an amulet that protects against exhaustion.
With every stride of a sprint, momentum is being transferred from the ground to your center of mass. If your core is weak, the transfer of momentum into forward motion is less efficient, meaning it costs you more energy. Each stride has a bigger energy leak.
If your core is strong, the energy leak is smaller. Over the course of a tournament, the strength of your core plays a large role in how you feel, how long you can keep going, and how well your throwing form can maintain itself late in the day.
Doing exercises in a circuit means that we are doing one exercises right after the other with no rest in between. Circuit training if great for strength endurance. The high proportion of slow twitch muscles of the core are built for endurance. Since the primary purpose of the core is to provide stability as your limbs are moving in relation to one another, the muscle group responds best to endurance training. Your core should be spending a longer time under tension than what would be used for training your quads or glutes.
What types of exercises?
If you’re working towards better performance on the field, forget the six pack and crunches. Your training should address the great number of muscles in your core, not just beach-bod basics. We want to challenge the core from a variety of angles and in a variety of modalities. We want to challenge the core in a variety of planes. Some exercises should emphasize stability or resisting movement. Some should emphasize generating movement or providing stability while the hips generate power. All of this means putting together a circuit that gets you moving in different ways, instead of trying to plank until you drop.
Complete core training will feel different than six pack building exercises. You might not “feel the burn” during this type of core training (but if you haven’t been including core work consistently, you should still expect to do some sweating). Instead you’ll notice that life just feels more difficult.
Example Core Circuit
Doing exercises in a circuit means that you go straight from one exercises to the other with no rest in between. To start off, try five repetitions of inchworms, 20 seconds on each side for side planks, six repetitions of reverse crunches, and repeat the circuit three times.
This exercise challenges both core and shoulder stability. Be sure to pause for a count or two at the bottom of the movement.
Start with five repetitions and work your way up to 10 repetitions. Increase the pause at the bottom for even more of a challenge.
Now we’re challenging stability from a different angle.
Start with 20 seconds on each side and work your way up to 35 seconds or more.
This challenging exercise targets the lower abdominals. A small range of motion prevents compression of the spine. Start with 6-8 repetitions and work your way up to 15.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes by leaving a comment below!
Core work like this can be done almost every day as you build up your endurance. Start with 2-3 days per week, stay consistent with it, and you’ll notice a difference on the field.
Thanks to Ren and Kira for modeling these exercises!