Core development is essential for any combat or martial arts athlete. Dedicated fighters understand its importance in increasing explosive power, improving overall strength, maximizing mobility, reducing stress on the body and minimizing your injuries.
Core training is often overlooked my most fighters or minimized to basic plank exercises. But if you want to strengthen you core and abs then you will have to introduce more exercises into your training.
In this article we will look at what the core is, it’s function and benefits to fighters and look at some exercises that you can introduce into your workouts immediately.
If you want to achieve and maintain superior fitness and improve overall athletic performance then including exercises designed specifically to build a stable core needs to be top priority in your strength and conditioning program.
What is the Core?
The core is a collection of muscles, which stabilize, rotate and move the spine.
Close to the spine and deep inside the abdomen is the inner core, which is comprised of the diaphragm, pelvic floor, multifidi, deep cervical flexors, and transverse abdominis. These strange-sounding muscles engage first during movement or breathing to protect the spine.
The outer core muscles are also responsible for stabilizing and protecting the spine, and include the lats, spinal erectors, glute complex, , and hip flexors.
The anterior muscles (abdominals) are the most well-known members of the outer-core assembly.
Function of the Core for Fighters
The core is also the most important factor for transferring explosive powerful movements.
When the core muscles that support the spine are weak, your nervous system puts the brakes on any explosive movements as a protective mechanism.
This means if you are throwing a strike or a kick, your energy will not make it into your strike. If you are core is strong then when your fist lands, the core stiffens so that the force is transferred not just into, but through your opponent with minimal recoil reverberating back through himself. Generating the knockout punch.
Also when you have insufficient core stability strength, it will set you up for injury and limit your mobility.
A nice throw for example begins from the ground up. The force is generated from the legs and then through the core. The core, when it is strong and stable, allows the body to function as an integrated unit and compete the throw with force. If the core is weak the bridge will collapse and the extremities will, in turn, be weak.
Another place core stability is vital is in a Muay Thai clinch. With your goal being to deliver knees, elbows and throws, to keep your opponent in check, you need to develop your core stabilization strength to better take advantage of this position.
Having good rotational and anti rotational core strength is important as well. Let’s take grappling for example when you opponent wants to pass your guard by throwing your legs to the side, if you have good core strength it can help you repulse the guard pass.
Rotational strength will also help with striking and kicks when you rotate from your hips and shoulder to add extra speed and power.
Basically every athletic movement that a combat athlete needs to perform will need a strong and stable core region.
Now you understand the importance of developing a strong core, let’s take a look at the type of exercises that will help you to achieve this.
Check out these great Core Strength exercises:
Anti-Flexion and Core Stability Exercises
The goal of anti-flexion exercises is to resist flexion, or bending, through the lumbar spine. The key when performing these movements, however, is to keep your low back neutral and squeeze your glutes at the midpoint of the movement. Exercises like planks and back extensions can help.
The goal of anti-extension exercises is to resist extension through the lumbar spine. You must keep the spine in neutral, and not allow your lumbar spine to hyperextend. Exercises such as the abs wheel or stability ball roll outs can be used.
Anti-Lateral Flexion Exercises
The goal of anti-lateral flexion actually is to resist lateral flexion, or side bending, through the lumbar spine. The key is to lock your spine into place and not move it.
Using exercises like side planks, farmers walk or just holding a dumbbell in one hand for time without allowing side bending is great.
Anti-Rotation – Rotational Exercises
With anti rotation exercises, the goal is to resist rotation through the core and lumbar spine. The key here is to lock the core down and not allow any rotation through the core and lumbar spine. Exercise like the Pallof press or Anti Rotation bad holds are great exercises.
For rotational exercises the goal is to rotate through the thoracic spine. These movements can help with general mobility and striking power. Exercises like medicine ball throws and band rotations are great.
Hip Flexion Exercises
Hip flexion exercise need to be done with a neutral spine, without rounding the lower back. The goal of these exercises is to keep your core and low back in a neutral position, while simultaneously flexing your hips.
Performing exercises like jackknifes on a stability ball and hanging leg raises can help.
So now you have an understanding of how important core training is to your overall athletic performance as an combat athlete, start dedicating core training session into your overall strength and conditioning program.