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Swimming Strength, Personal Training, Sports Performance – Does Core Stability Help?

The trunk is the region of the low back and pelvis. It has important roles including the transfer of energy and the connection of movements between the lower and upper body. There are many muscles within the trunk. Many characterize theses muscles as local and global depending on their anatomical orientation and function. Local muscles have more direct or indirect attachments to the lumbar vertebrae. These are grouped with the segmental stability of the lumbar spine. Global muscles attach to the hips and pelvis. These are related to torque production and to transfer of load between the thoracic cage and the pelvis. The interdependency of the osseoligamentous structures, trunk muscles, and neural control of the muscles is needed for optimal trunk stability (Imai 2014). Trunk stability is the ability to control the position and motion of trunk during dynamic loading and movement conditions.

Often times swimming strength programs, personal training, or general fitness programs focus on convention trunk exercises. These exercises include sit-ups, leg lifts, and crunches. Although these exercises are common, are they best? There is a trend in physical therapy and swimming strength/sports performance towards trunk stability exercises, this paper compared these two programs.

Core Stabilization and Conventional Core Training for Swimming Strength and Sports Performance

The purpose of this study was to investigate the training effects of trunk stabilization exercises (SE) and conventional trunk exercises (CE) on balance and athletic performance in youth soccer players. Many athletes perform trunk stabilization exercises (SE) and conventional trunk exercises (CE) to enhance trunk stability and strength. However, evidence regarding the specific training effects of SE and CE is lacking and there have been no studies for youth athletes. Twenty‐seven male youth soccer players were assigned randomly to either an SE group (n = 13) or CE group (n = 14). Before and after the 12‐week intervention program, pre‐ and post‐testing comprised of a static balance test, Star Excursion Balance Test (SEBT), Cooper’s test, sprint, the Step 50, vertical jump, and rebound jump were performed. After pre‐testing, players performed the SE or CE program three times per week for 12 weeks. In this study, the SE program used the front plank, quadruped exercises, back bridge, and side-bridge. This was performed three times per week for 12 weeks.  Paired t‐tests revealed significant improvements of the posterolateral and posteromedial directions in the SE group. Although other measurements did not find group‐by‐time interactions, within‐group changes were detected indicating significant improvements in the static balance test, Cooper’s test, and rebound jump in the only SE group. Vertical jump and sprint were improved significantly in both groups, but the Step 50 was not improved in either group. Results suggested that the SE has specific training effects that enhance static and dynamic balance, Cooper’s test, and rebound jump.

The results of this study suggest that the SE program is effective in improving static and dynamic balance, aerobic performance, and explosive power. This provides us with information in order to plan trunk exercise programs using the SE. Balance, but did not improve athletic performance (Imai 2014). The results of this study demonstrated not only the improvements in balance but also the improvements in athletic performance.  The period of 12 weeks could be beneficial for improving both balance and athletic performance. Previous studies used the both SE and CE. The results of this study suggested that the SE produce superior benefits to CE, including improving balance and athletic performance in youth athletes (Imai 2014).

Core Training for Swimming Strength Sports Performance at COR

When we train everyday people or athletes at COR, the first area we test on is trunk and core stability. COR provides everyone with trunk and core exercises that we will teach to re-activate these weak muscles. COR personal training will you improve your overall core strength, endurance, and stability. This combination helps prevent injuries and improve coordination, also known as motor control. Our programs also analyze where an athlete is weak, then addresses it. If a swimmer has poor flexion or motion during their dolphin kick, then we improve their swimming strength in this motion with more conventional core training. However, if they wiggle when they swim or pitch, we would provide stability exercises.

Overall, core stability and conventional core training are mandatory for maximizing performance. Make sure you incorporate both in your program, but focus on your weakness.

Here are a few of our most common core exercises at core, if you want more exercises checkout our Swimming Core Training ebook and video database or if you are looking for individualized training, checkout our personal training:

1. Imai A, Kaneoka K, Okubo Y, Shiraki H. Effects of two types of trunk exercises on balance and athletic performance in youth soccer players. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2014 Feb;9(1):47-57.

Written by Chris Barber, CPT