Core Stability Session at Body Limits

A core stability talk, demonstration and practical session was held at Body Limits Gym on Saturday 15th November. Mark Booth led the session giving attendees an idea of some of the most valuable exercises that you can do.

Core stability should be an integral part of every athletes training regime. It enables the limbs to move in relation to the trunk with optimal efficiency. This leads to better form on the swim, bike and run and ultimately better performances. It works by improving flexibility and range of motion, reducing the risk of injury and improving balance.

The programme we followed with some pictures of Lisa demonstrating are as follows:

SWISS BALL

Abdominal workout

First find your balance point with your back on the ball. It is often about with your belly button at the centre of the ball, further back than you'd expect. If you are in balance you should be able to lift your feet from the ball quite easily and balance on the ball, with feet not contacting the ground (not easy).

Lisa is in the correct position below demonstrating the first exercise the crunch. Keep the head and neck aligned with the trunk looking at the ceiling and make a small movement upwards. You may find the neck muscles sore after doing these initially. This is a sign that your muscles supporting your head could benefit from being stronger! Obviously if you have nothing up top you may find this exercise a little easier! 

CIMG0270

The second exercise was going side to side with hands by the side. This works the transverse muscles which many people ignore. Push arm down on one side while the other naturally raises up your body. The pic below shows Lisa pushing her left arm down.

CIMG0272

The third abs exercise is the transverse crunch. In this you hold hands together with fingertips of each hand touching each other. This ensure that one shoulder is raised more than the other, bringing your oblique muscles into play. Make a small crunch movement from this position.

CIMG0271

Finally to test your balance to the full the fourth exercise is the 1-leg crunch. This isn't pictured here, but leave one leg on the floor and straighten out the other one. You'll find this hard to do initially. You may need somebody to help ensure you don't fall over. Bear in mind the harder it is to balance, the more benefit you'll gain by mastering it!

Legs Workout

Place the swiss ball on the wall behind you. The first exercise is the squat. From standing squat to a position where your legs are just above 90 degrees as shown below.

CIMG0276

This exercise can be repeated about 30 times. Then do the second exercise - pulses. This is from the position pictured above and involves little movements up and down keeping the back straight. Again 30 reps is a good start. Finally the third exercise is heel tapping. In the position shown above tap the right heel 30 times and then the left. After all this your quads should be burning. If not do a load more.

Arms workout.

Lying with your neck and shoulders on the ball as pictured below there are 6 exercises that can be done which challenge your core stability while you are moving your arms (much as happens when you are swimming). 15 repetitions is a good number to use for toning and conditioning the arms. If it is too easy than increase the weight.

The first exercise is arm walking as Lisa demonstrates below:

CIMG0274

A second exercise is the triceps extension. With the trunk in the position pictured above point your elbows at the ceiling and with weights extend from shoulder to the sky and back.

A third exercise is the dumbell flies pictured below. You take your arms from a position with arms outstretched like Count Dracula to the position shown. The starting position has hands facing upwards and elbows slightly bent.

CIMG0275

Fourth exercise is Fly pulses. In the starting position for the dumbell flies move the weights up and down a few inches.

Fifth exercise is biceps curls. With elbows by your sides move the weights from your thighs to above your elbows and back again.

Final arm exercise is external rotation. As Boothy was keen to point out (prompted by some of the girls) this is a good exercise for the breasts and manboobs! Start with elbows by your sides bent to 90 degrees and with weights above the elbows. Drop weights down so that your forearms are pointing sideways (elbows still touching the sides) and then return to the starting position.

WOBBLE BOARD

Don't forget this piece of equipment. A useful exercise that Mark showed us was the one-leg squat with your foot over the half of the board nearest the floor. With this sort of squat you are looking for your knee to remain steady and not to wobble from side to side. This is a great exercise to improve the knee joint.

CIMG0277

Move slowly and deliberately when using the board to ensure your nerves get conditioned to balance you in all positions. As Mark pointed out people with hypermobile ankles often have no permanent ligament damage but simply have not trained their nerves sufficiently to compensate automatically when the ankles goes off balance. This known as proprioception, when your sensory and motor nerves work together without relaying information to the brain first (a relatively slow process).

POWERPLATE

Finally Mark showed us 5 minutes on the power plate. These are very useful machines for improving flexibility. They are best used at lower frequencies. Stay as relaxed as possible when using these machines to utilise them most effectively. Mark demonstrated touching your toes. He held a position and the vibrations literally stretched the ligaments and tendons in his back and legs until the stretch extended without Mark making any deliberate effort.

A great exercise to do for tight ITBs, hips and gluts is crossing your legs, holding the powerplate handle and leaning away from the machine.

Another is a lunge forward with only your back knee on the machine. This helps loosen your iliopsoas and any pressure you feel in the groin area.

Calf stretching is another useful one to have a go at on the machine.