Core Strength: Increase Speed with Resistance Workouts
When coaches and trainers talk about generating speed on the track, they often talk about building power and agility in the legs. The hip flexors, glutes, and hamstrings are all indisputable contributors to track and field success. These muscles need to be strong and flexible to build velocity, and track athletes need to focus on proper technique and body mechanics in these areas, as well as in the shoulders, arms, and feet.
But without core strength, these muscle groups are unlikely to reach their full potential on the track. Even the most powerful quads and perfect technique can only take a track athlete so far. To optimize the body’s ability to cover as much ground as possible, as fast as possible, every muscle needs coordinate. And the center of muscle coordination, agility, and pure explosive power lies in the core. Core strength is a vital component of almost every sport, since the core provides essential stability for all aspects of physical motion, even motion in the hands and feet.
So what exactly is the core? Why is core strength so important to success on the track? And what kinds of core exercise moves should track athletes incorporate into a comprehensive resistance training program?
How Does Core Strength Contribute to Speed?
In order to recognize how core strength increases agility and how a powerful core generates speed on the track, it helps to understand what the core muscles are and how they work together. The “core” is not a single muscle, or even a single muscle group. This term refers to four distinct muscle groups that form a cylinder around the lower torso. This cylinder encases the vital organs of the abdomen and also surrounds our body’s center of gravity.
At the front and sides of the core are the abdominal muscles including the rectus abdonimus and the obliques. At the back are the lower back muscles, specifically the multifidis, which cover the kidneys and anchor the base of the spine. The lid of the cylinder is composed of the diaphragm, or the trampoline-shaped muscle that contracts in order to draw air into the lungs. And at the base of the core are the muscles of the pelvic bowl, which form a kind of sling from the front of the pelvic bones to the tail bone area.
As a group, these muscles are arguably the most important strength and stability generators in the body, since they contract every time we move. When we stand up, sit down, raise an arm, or even move our fingers, elements of the core tighten in order to anchor the body, generate leverage and drive the motion forward. As we build core strength with a regular program of core exercise, this automatic contraction happens faster and with greater intensity. When core strength is at optimal levels, almost every motion of the body naturally tightens the muscles around the base of the spine. This means the spine stays automatically aligned, supported, and stabilized. So when we walk, run, breathe, or even sleep, our spine provides a strong, confident anchor for the rest of the body and our core muscles generate energy that radiates from that anchor point.
What does this mean for track athletes? It means that as core strength increases, proper technique comes more naturally. A powerful core increases overall control and optimizes the explosive strength in the muscles of the legs.
Build Speed on the Track: Core Exercise
All core exercise moves benefit track and field athletes, from planks to push-ups to balance beam exercises. But to build core strength fast, a few simple core exercise moves with the KB Powerbands can isolate the key muscle areas and generate a concentrated burn in the torso.
This video offers a simple core exercise that can track athletes can customize to meet their individual resistance needs. Start by attaching the handles of the KB Powerbands with the colored band that offers the lowest level of resistance. The track athlete in the video begins with the green band, which he wraps around a sturdy anchor point, in the case, the squat rack.
To position the body properly, track athletes should hold the handle in both hands and stand a few feet away from the anchor point. The body and the line of the extended bands should stay on the same plane, so the bands don’t touch the body during the move. The feet should be a bit wider than shoulder width apart and the body should be slightly lowered into squat position.
Once in position, the track athlete then rotates his entire body to the right in order to extend the bands up into the air over his right shoulder. Note how he turns his foot inward in order to stay stable, protect his knee, and concentrate the tension in his core. He also keeps his arms straight at the elbow (but not locked) in order to generate core strength.
Track athletes who execute this move should try to stay explosive on the upward swing and controlled on the return. Extend the bands with speed and intensity, then release them at a slower pace. After eight to twelve repetitions of this core exercise, track athletes should be feeling a strong burn in the torso, hips, and obliques.
Track athletes should finish at least eight reps on one side, then turn the body so the bands are now coming up over the left shoulder instead of the right. Again, the arms should stay straight, the hips low, the foot should rotate inward, and the upward motion should be fast and explosive. Between each transition, track athletes should rest for about 30 to 45 seconds.
As core strength increases, track athletes can feel free to add additional resistance by clipping tighter bands to the handles of the KB Powerbands. As resistance increases, the forces at work intensify, so make sure the anchor point is stable and safe. Complete four total sets of this core exercise to optimize the benefits.
For more information on using the resistance bands to build core strength and increase velocity on the track, reach out to the track and field experts at Kbandstraining.com.
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