Friday, August 29, 2014

Core strengthening

With the Beast only a week away, core strengthening is the key to a strong finish.  You may be wondering, “How are my abs going to help me?”  Core strengthening is frequently used in the general population, although what does it really mean?  Core strengthening focuses on more than your abdomen; it includes strengthening the muscles of the pelvis, lower back, hips and even the diaphragm.  

An obstacle race course such as the Beast consists of climbing walls, ropes, large piles of sand, walking across nets, crawling through pipes and scaling across monkey bars.  At first glance, participates may think that these obstacles primarily require upper and lower training and neglect the core.  But a strong core provides a solid base, allowing the arms and legs to function with precision while working in sync.   

Core strength is important for walking across rope ladders and climbing events. The core prevents the torso from rotating and allows individual limb movement with a fixed torso and controlled movement at the hips.  Running in sand for 10 miles is a challenge all by itself, although a powerful core can be the world of a difference.   Strong hips and pelvic muscles stabilize the lower extremities leading to improvement in balance and flexibility, allowing each stride to be effective.  With a weak core, lower extremities are constantly adjusting to the disorganized trunk movement.  With a ground surface such as sand there is an increased potential for injury.  A strong core is essential in crawling courses, by coordinating movement between the spine, arms and legs.

Here are some core exercises that are great for the advanced athlete:  Performing 2-3 sets with 10-12 reps, 3-4 times weekly. 

Prone Bridge:  Trunk and pelvic muscles. 

The goal is to maintain a straight line on tiptoes and elbows.  Hold for 30 seconds.

Seated Russian Twist: Abdominal muscles

While seated on the floor with feet lifted off the ground, the medicine ball is rotated from side to side.  This exercise can also be performed while seated on a physioball. 

Side Plank:  Muscles of the entire core particularly lower back and the deep abdominal muscles

Lie on the right side with knees straight out.  Lift upper body on the right elbow and forearm.  Raise hips unit body forms a straight line.  Hold for 30 seconds then repeat on left side. 

Do not be afraid to dive into these core exercises.  There are multiple variations for different levels – from easy to difficult. 


Afzal H. Khan, MD
Saint Vincent Sports Medicine Resident

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