Crossroad Corner

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BALANCE VS. CORE

Regardless of one’s athletic discipline, there can be little doubt that the development of a solid core is paramount to both the maximization of performance and the prevention of injury. Less clear is the definition of a well-developed core, or the most efficient methods by which to achieve optimal development. All too often, athletes mistakenly consider the presence of a “six pack” as the badge of superior core function. In truth, the rotational power provided by well-developed obliques, and the stabilizing foundation provided by well-strengthened lumbar, hip and pelvic floor musculature are often more critical.

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A well-honed core allows an athlete to remain physically centred to the task at hand and resistant to external loads imparted by an opponent’s body contact, often delivered with the intent of moving the athlete off his/her centre in efforts to compromise performance. Powerful and precise arm and leg movements essential to high-level athletics, such as sprinting, jumping, and throwing, require a stable core around which to perform. Furthermore, a strong and stable core is essential for the development of superior balance, as demonstrated by the strength and control of a wrestler or gymnast who must achieve and maintain balance whether supported by his/her hands or feet. In fact, balance and core stabilization do not function independently, but rather in concert. When designing a program targeting both core strengthening and balance, it is essential that we train both parameters together as a system.

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In order to combine both core strengthening and balance training, one should employ the use of specialized functional training equipment, examples of which are the Bosu ball, Theraball, mini tramp, medicine balls, heavy ropes and power sleds.

A knowledgeable trainer, athletic therapist, or physiotherapist can design a safe and effective strengthening program that targets, in a progressive manner, both balance and core stability systems. Once a proficient level has been achieved, it can be very beneficial to introduce a resistance-training component to the core/balance program in order to develop functional strength and power while reinforcing sport-specific motor patterns, or to provide specific stimulation required to fully recover from injury. Resistance training alone cannot provide such development.

When recovering from injury, the athlete must prepare meticulously to ensure that all facets of physical recovery have been achieved, heavily emphasizing core strength, balance, and sport specific flexibility. His/her return to sport should never be defined merely by one’s recovery to pre-injury form, but rather as a bold statement to coaches, teammates and competitors alike, that the athlete has returned stronger and fitter than ever before. As the physical demands of daily activities often parallel those of sport, these principles hold true for each and every one of us. Rehabilitating one’s injuries can often be very challenging, both physically and mentally. One’s true strength is seldom realized until living strong is the only option.

Rust never sleeps. 

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