Your “core” is made up of your pelvic girdle and trunk, and the deep muscles of your spine and abdomen. When properly trained, these muscles provide a stable base for generating force and power. As an athlete, you can enhance your performance on the court by training your core stabilising muscles.
Research indicates that by developing a stable base, you can:
- Increase strength
- Increase momentum
- Increase control and endurance of your extremity muscles (arms and legs)
- Improve posture
- Increase racket head acceleration
A weak core may cause injuries
Without a stable “core” your muscles are not at their optimal lengths, your body creates substitution patterns, injuries may develop and your shoulder, arm and wrist are overworked because they generate the power instead of your trunk!
The “core” may be weak in athletes for a number of reasons: It may be ignored in the conditioning program, the athlete may have suffered a previous injury that has left a deficit, or he/she may be performing stability exercises but they may be too advanced for the player’s capabilities.
A Sports Medicine Therapist / Trainer (SMTT) or Physiotherapist can evaluate you individually and determine which core stability exercises are best for you. They will help you progress safely and effectively through each stage of exercises and tell you when YOU are ready to advance.
It is important that you progress through the exercises at a rate according to your increasing strength and control in order to prevent injuries.
Tips for great core work
* Learn how to effectively activate and control your deep stabilising muscles, and incorporate this muscle stabilisation into your normal strength training activities.
* The quality of movement is most important – you want a submaximal contraction.
* You want to activate (switch on) the muscles, not increase their strength.
The key muscles to activate for core stability are the deep local stabilisers:
1. Transversus Abdominus (TA) - This muscle acts like a corset, stabilising deep inside your abdomen.
2. Multifidus - Deep low back stabilising muscle.
3. Pelvic Floor, Diaphragm and Psoas - All important deep core muscles that can be trained.
These muscles work together to stabilise your spine. They work together with the more superficial, larger stabilising and movement around your trunk. Good core stability occurs when all these muscles work together to keep your body and joints in the best and safest alignment while you play Beach Tennis or participate in any other activities.
The following exercises are just a few examples of many that you can perform to enhance your core stability.
However, first ask a SMTT to check out what stage you are at and prescribe exercises suitable for YOU! The SMTT will make sure you are doing the right exercises for your level in the correct way.
Activate Your Transversus Abdominus
Step 1: Lie on your back with hips and knees bent, with feet placed flat on the floor. Place your fingertips on the inside of your hipbones, just below your ribcage. This is where you will feel the Transversus Abdominus (TA) contract. You will feel a slight bulge under your fingers when you are correctly contracting this muscle.
Step 2: Flatten your stomach by pulling your belly button in towards your spine. Your belly button should go straight down, and not up towards your ribs. You should be able to hold this position for 10 seconds, and continue breathing while contracting your TA.
You should perform Steps 1 and 2 during all of the exercises listed below. This will be the “primer” to the exercises. It will make sure that your deep muscles are activated first. You can repeat the exercises until your muscles become fatigued (5-10 repetitions).
- Continue pulling your belly button into your spine, and slowly lift one leg into the air.
- Lift your leg so that your knee is at a 90-degree angle.
- Keep breathing while contracting your TA muscle.
- Keep your pelvis (hips) in a straight line (level from side to side and up and down), don’t let it twist or rotate.
- Slowly lower your leg, until your foot touches the ground, and keep your pelvis level.
- Alternate by lifting the opposite leg.
- Get on your hands and knees with your head, shoulders and hips in a straight line.
- Your knees should be at a 90-degree angle.
- Pull your belly button in towards your spine to activate your TA muscle.
- Slowly lift the opposite arm and leg, while you keep your belly button pulled in.
- Make sure to keep your pelvis level.
- Don’t forget to Breathe!
- SLOWLY lower your arm and leg, and alternate by raising the opposite arm and leg.
- This exercises your multifidus muscle to help strengthen your lower back.
- Sit on a therapy ball with your hips and knees at a 90-degree angle.
- Feet shoulder-width apart.
- Imagine a string being pulled towards the ceiling from the top of your head, and sit up tall. Pull your belly button in towards your spine to activate your TA muscle.
- Place your hands on your hips to monitor your abdominal muscle contraction. While maintaining this sub-maximal contraction, slowly go from sit-to-stand from the ball.
- Keep your spine straight when getting up. Don’t lean forward. Don’t let the ball move back.
- Don’t forget to breathe!
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Imagine the string pulling you up from the top of your head. Keep your shoulders down and back. Pull your belly button in towards your spine to activate your TA muscle, and keep it contracted throughout.
- Hold a ball in front of you, and then move the ball up and across your body, so that it is up near your ear. Make sure not to let your trunk and pelvis rotate!
- When you reach this position, slowly lower the ball down and across your body towards your opposite hip.
- Eventually, you can progress this exercise by increasing the speed and frequency.
- Don’t forget to breathe!
Remember: these exercises are presented as examples only. Please see a SMTT to check which core exercises are suitable for you. The SMTT can prescribe an individual program that will target your weak areas and enhance your performance.
The information provided above is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, psychiatric, psychological, health care or health management advice. If you have any health or related questions or concerns, please contact your medical advisor.
Reproduced by kind permission from the WTA Tour.