Core Series: Part III
By: Caitlyn Caldwell, DPT – SUMMIT Claremore Clinic
In the first two parts of our Core Series, we discussed the basics of the core, its revelance in everyday activities and importance in the treatment of low back pain or during pregnancy. Cathey gave us a starting point for working on our core with the TA activation. So where do we go from there? In Part 3, we will take core training beyond the TA and basic daily activities to higher level training and the athlete.
- The Kinetic Chain
Our body is a complex machine with many different parts. Each and every one of those parts needs to work effectively for our body to function in the correct and proper manner. Our arms and legs are made up of a series of joints, and movement at one joint affects movement at the joint above and below. This series of joints is called the kinetic chain. Movement at the ankle will affect the knee, the hip and ultimately– the core! A weakness at any part of the chain can place stress on another part of the chain. Over time or with greater level of force this can cause injury.
- The Core and Athletes
Identifying and eliminating weakness in the kinetic chain is important with any patient– but is especially crucial for athletes who will be returning to high levels of function. Research has shown that core training has an important role in the rehab of athletes with lateral ankle sprains, knee injuries, hamstring strains, as well as throwing athletes. Take a baseball pitcher for example– he generates momentum all the way from his feet on the ground to releasing the ball from his hand. Researchers have found that pitchers with UCL tears (candidates for Tommy John’s surgery) have decreased single leg stance balance and core control. This is a perfect example of how weakness in one part of the kinetic chain results in overuse and injury in another location. Studies have also shown that implementing a core program can increase control at the knee and ankle and prevent re-injury for patient’s with ankle sprains, hamstring strains, patellofemoral pain, and ACL tears.
- Core Training Progression
So how does core training differ for athletes? Well– all core training is based upon the same position and some principles we have already discussed. Here are 3 principles of training: Static –> Dynamic, Single Plane–> Multiple Planes, and Stable –> Unstable
Core training starts with static stabilization– the TA maneuver. We start with stabilization in one plane in a stable enviroment– a good example is TA activation when lying on your back and marching your legs up and down. From there, we can add in movement in multiple planes and take the training to less stable positions: sitting, standing, single leg stance, or on top of a ball! After you have trained your core to stabilize in all planes of movement, it is time to take training in a dynamic direction. This means adding actual movement at the core instead of just stabilizing. Your core needs to be able to stabilize your spine and pelvis, but also needs to be able to help your body move.
- Sport Specific Training
The final principle that we need to employ when training and rehabilitating athletes is sport specific training. I can’t tell you how many times I heard this growing up during many a softball practice– “You play like you practice”. This is also true during rehab and core training. It is important to train the body doing the specific functional activities the athlete performs in his or her sport. Don’t get me wrong, for an athlete is important to have a strong stable core in all directions. The athlete is constantly reacting quickly to conditions in his or her sport and will need to be strong and powerful in all directions. However, it is important to specifically train in the way the athlete plays. Let’s take our example of baseball pitchers– core stability and dynamic strength in single leg stance positions and trunk rotation would be especially important to train for this athlete.
- This concludes Summit’s 3-part series on “The Core”! We hope you have been able to learn a little about how important the core is in daily function whether you are a competitive athlete or enjoying the relaxing retired life. Please feel free to leave a comment or question– our SUMMIT PTs are here to help!