Core stability, discover the secrets for developing a harmonious physique!

Training & Technique
Written by: arena coaches at 18 June '15 0
You are reading: Core stability, discover the secrets for developing a harmonious physique!

Core stability is now a key term in modern sports jargon. It may be defined as stability in the “centre, heart or nucleus” of the body, but in the sports world it refers to a part of the body composed of two muscular systems: the stabilising system (local muscles) and movement system (global muscles) .

Very often the “core” is referred to as if it were just the abdominal muscles. In actual fact the core affects over 90% of any athlete’s movements, because, being the nucleus and link between the upper and lower parts of the body, it is constantly active and, hence,  acts as a supporting column for most of the technical movements involved in all sports.

For your core to function properly, you must keep to two key rules:

1. Alternate isometric and dynamic exercises. Isometric exercises are all those that help develop muscular tension without the muscle needing to be extended or, in other words, static exercises (e.g. front plank). Dynamic exercises, on the other hand, are those that require movement to develop strength (e.g. 90° crunch).

2. Use the same movements involved in the sport you are training for. It is very important to train by performing the same technical movements involved in your own specific sport, in our case in the water. Such as the freestyle swim stroke. Visualise the correct movement you will be performing in the water and then reproduce it by means of the exercise suggested below (alternate plank).

Here are some functional exercises for swimming training. Learning how to perform them properly will give you better control over your movements, improve your posture and prevent injuries:

  • Plank, also known as isometric abdominals in a prone position resting on the tips of your toes and forearms. Make sure your body is straight and you are looking down at the floor so as not to over-strain your neck. Your knees should also be completely straight.
  • Alternate plank. Starting from the position described above, first lift up one arm and then the other. Once you have learned this movement properly, try the more advanced exercise lifting first your left arm and right leg and then vice-versa.
  • Reverse plank. Isometric abdominals in supine position. Place your shoulders and head on the floor, looking upwards so as not to over-strain your neck and then lift your bottom off the floor with your knees bent and your feet on the ground. Try and keep your abdominals tensed and in line with your hips. Once you have learned this movement you can try and raise first your left leg and then your right leg.
  • Side plank with a twist. Resting on one arm, raise your other arm (that is along your side) above your head, performing a slight twist of the chest.

All these exercises may be performed with the aid of a Swiss ball (also known as a fitball, an unstable inflatable spherical piece of equipment with a non-slip surface of varying diameter chosen according to the height of the person using it). The important thing is to perform the exercises properly.

The following is a circuit of six exercises alternating static and dynamic exercises. Perform all the suggested exercises one after the other taking a 1’/1’30” rest at the end of the sixth exercise.

Gradually increase the length of each exercise starting with 3 sets of 20”. You can then lengthen the exercises to 45”/60”:

1. Front plank.

2. Side plank.

3. Crunch (abdominals performed on your back) on a Swiss ball. Take a Swiss ball and lie on it, keeping your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Perform movements using your abdominals while keeping your neck relaxed and raising your shoulders gently off the Swiss ball. Keep careful control over your lower and oblique abdominals.

4. Front plank on a Swiss ball. As described above only placing the Swiss ball between your chest and stomach.

5. Front plank on a Swiss ball. Your forearms rest on the Swiss ball instead of the floor, but the position is the same as described above.

6. Alternate reverse plank.


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arena coaches

Swim coaches, trainers and experts will give you all kinds of tips for performing at your best in both training and races.