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Want to Do Everything Better? Build A Strong Core
By: Dianne Villano

Core strength and stability is increasingly recognized as a vital part of fitness. So what is it and how do you go about getting it? The past five years have seen growing interest in resistance, or weight training programs, aimed at achieving core strength and stability. While some of us might think apples when we hear the word 'core', the word certainly doesn't refer to a throw-away aspect of fitness.

What is core strength? The muscles of the 'core' are primarily those of the trunk and pelvis. The core muscles stabilize the spine and effectively move the body with varying loads. If the trunk muscles are weakened, then posture and movement can be affected significantly. The core muscles are necessary for effective transfer of energy from large to small muscle groups - especially when performing sports-specific movements. In recent years there has been a shift to an emphasis on 'functional' training, i.e. making training as realistic as possible so it has direct applicability to a particular sport.

This type of training attempts to anticipate and mimic movements that occur during sport, such as twisting and turning. It is believed that training for core strength and stability can lower the risk of injury and increase power application for sports performance. Strengthening the core muscles of the trunk and pelvis provides a stable platform for the actions of the shoulder, arm and leg muscles. Pilates exercises are a popular and effective way to develop core strength and stability.

Muscles of the trunk and pelvis - Some of the most important muscles of the core are the deeper abdominal muscles that wrap and protect the spine; the abdominal muscles that run along the front and sides of the abdomen; the erector muscles of the lower back; and the muscles of the pelvic floor and hips. Having a so-called 'six pack' of abdominal muscles does not necessarily mean having good core strength and stability. Some of the most important 'core' muscles actually lie underneath the six-pack and, together with the erector muscles of the spine, help maintain good posture and balance during daily activity. This means that just doing sit-ups for the abs will not usually be enough to develop core strength.

Training for core strength and stability The major aim of core strength training is to perform exercises that closely resemble specific movements during a particular sport. Emphasis should be placed on diagonal and rotational movements, and promoting balance and strength by performing exercises standing or sitting on different (including unstable) surfaces such as balance beams, wobble boards, foam rollers, and fit balls. Training should emphasis a balance between developing agonist (prime movers) and antagonist muscles. In many sports, movements are performed while balancing on one leg, or shifting the body weight from one leg to another, and so exercises mimicking these actions should be incorporated into the training program. Examples include a kicking a football while on the run and pushing hard while cycling up steep hills.

Exercises to improve core strength Since there are several different trunk, back and pelvic muscles that make up the 'core', it is important to perform a variety of exercises that target these muscle groups. Core strength can be developed by performing:Pilates exercises, Standard abdominal exercises (such as sit ups and crunches) Fit ball exercises (including roll outs, walk outs, sit ups, leg lifts, and jack knifes) Resistance training exercises with an emphasis on deadlift, squat and lunge exercises, as well as 'power' exercises using 'Olympic'-style lifts (cleans, clean and press, and push press)

Medicine ball training (overhead throwing to a partner, side throw, rugby passing, lunge exercises holding the medicine ball above the head) Balancing exercises on a wobble board, balance beam, or foam roller (standing on one or both feet, walking forwards and backwards, with eyes open or eyes closed). Although not absolutely necessary, these exercises provide another level of stimulation and are encouraged whenever there is access to such specialist equipment

About The Author

Dianne Villano is a personal fitness instructor certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine with over 17 years experience. Dianne specializes in weight loss programs and programs for beginners. For more articles or free fitness tools visit www.custombodiestampabay.com.

Copyright 2002-2004 CUSTOM BODIES, INC. All Rights Reserved.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/


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The Power of Stretching    - Dave Snape

 

Your muscles ache from a good stretch. This is quite
normal and is part of the process. Stretching has
seemingly been with us and particularly with athletes
since the beginning of time.

A very key point to good stretching is to hold the
stretch for at least seventeen seconds. This is a
pearl of wisdom gleaned from a ballet teacher a few
years back. She said that any stretch under 17
seconds was just not effective.

The 17 second rule is exceeded in the high intensity
Bikram's yoga where stretches are held for about 30
seconds. Don't forget the high level of heat that is
used in Bikram's to extract that last little bit of
stretch out of your muscles. An interesting twist that
is not necessary to gain benefits from stretching. But,
it can't hurt, right?

So what kind of benefits can you expect from
stretching? That's an easy one. Have you ever seen the
movie, Blood Sport? Did you know that Frank Dux could
truly stretch his body to the extreme. The actor that
played him was quite elastic as well.


Great elasticity is also something you might see in
well trained Spetsnaz (Russian) agents. They often work
out with Russian kettlebells too. They are for superior
strength gains and the ability to withstand ballistic
shocks.

Why are stretching and flexibility considered important
to these people? Stretching gives one the ability to
have explosive power available at one's fingertips
without the need to warm up. Of course most of us are
not martial artists or agents. But, you'll be happy to
know there are plenty of other benefits.

Let me give you an example. After learning to sit in
the full lotus position for long periods of time, my
ankles became very flexible. One day I was walking
along and my left foot fell into a pothole. This mishap
pushed my ankle sideways to about 90 degrees from it's
normal position.

Amazingly, this didn't even hurt, not one bit. If my
ankle hadn't been so flexible, I may have suffered a
sprained ankle. At the very least, it would have hurt
for days.

Key point: stretching helps you to avoid injuries.
Not only that but if you do have a muscle, tendon or
ligament injury it should heal faster, theoretically
speaking.

Stretching actually grows the ligaments, tendons and
muscles being stretched. They really grow longer over
time.

Check with your physician before undertaking any type
of exercise, including stretching.

Here is some good instructional material on stretching:
http://tinyurl.com/6c6kq
 

Dave Snape

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