Your Butt is a Steering Wheel, Make Sure It’s Got Power!

Female Athletes Need a Strong Core for Stability, Mobility, and Strength

(This is one in a series of articles about how women can improve their performance with endurance sports based on the revolutionary book by Dr. Stacy Sims called Roar.)

I’ve written a lot about core strength here, especially the evils of crunches and sit-ups.

And Dr. Stacy Sims says that a strong core (abs, obliques, glutes, hips, and back) is essential to staying injury-free as well as perform your best.

Women generate the majority of their power through their hips, and core strength is often weak, says Sims.

Your butt is the “steering wheel” for your legs. If you don’t have a grip on the wheel, your legs will go all over the place. 

So your glutes need to be strong to keep your pelvis steady and help your quads go where they’re supposed to, rather than falling inward. 

Female athletes need a strong core core to keep everything solid and tight.

Plus, the older you get, the more important a strong core is for balance and movement.

What are the Best Exercises for Core Strength?

To strengthen your core, planks are the most effective exercise. 

Female athletes need a strong core (abs, obliques, glutes, hips, and back) to stay injury-free as well as perform their best.

Crunches and sit-ups, though, are not. They do nothing for your glutes and back. 

Research has clearly shown that when women focus on strengthening glute and core muscles, they prevent a large number of injuries, due mostly to muscle imbalances and poor movement patterns. 

Female athletes can get a strong core through:

  • Walking Lunge. Step forward and lunge, dropping your back knee, and keeping your front knee over your shoelaces. Push off the front leg and lunge forward with the back. Control your knees.
  • Single Toe Raise. Stand with your hands on your hips. Bend left knee up, contract your right glute, and rise up on your right toes. Do one side at a time. 
  • Alternating Hip Bridge. Lie on your back with your knees up. Lift your butt off the ground. Raise your right leg off the ground. Make this harder by using only one leg to lift your butt off the ground. 
  • Plank with Knee Dips. Do a full plank position on your hands. Pull your abs in and slowly drop and tap the floor with your left knee. Straighten leg and repeat on the other side. To make it harder, start with an elbow plank.
  • Side Plank. Lie on your right side with your elbow under your shoulder. Raise your hips until you form a straight line. Modify the exercise by dropping you right knee to the ground and hold the pose. You can also line up your feet one after the other or stack your feet for more difficulty. 
Female athletes need a strong core (abs, obliques, glutes, hips, and back) to stay injury-free as well as perform their best.

Brace Yourself for a Strong Spine

1. Position your feet under your hips. Exert force outward from your hips to screw your feet into the ground. 

2. Squeeze your butt. Activate your glutes, then reduce tension to maintain neutral pelvis position.

3. Inhale and lock. Take a big breath in and lock your pelvis (glutes squeezed) and ribcage in place.

4. Exhale and balance your rib cage. Exhale and tighten your belly (not squeeze). Stiffen your belly into place as you exhale.

5. Neutralize head and shoulders. Rotate your shoulders back, open collarbone and chest, and open palms forward (mountain pose). Center your head over your shoulders and  look forward. Align your ears over your shoulders, hips, and ankles. 

6. Fully braced. Let your arms fall to your side so your thumbs point forward and your shoulders remain externally rotated. Stand with your ears over your shoulders, rib cage over pelvis, hips over knees and ankles, fully braced. 

Core Strength Through Hollows and Superheroes

Two other effective exercises for building core strength are the Hollow and Superhero.

The Hollow is a take on bracing. Lie on your back with your knees up. Bring your arms up and point at the ceiling.

You’ll feel your lumbar spine, the hollow of your back, curve up. A Hollow is simply pressing that hollow into the mat and squeezing.

To make the exercise more difficult, bring your arms over your head, and/or bring your chest off the mat, and/or keep your feet and legs just off the mat.

The Superhero is the opposite. Lie on your belly with your arms extended above you. Lift your arms and chest off the floor and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Then lift up your legs. Squeeze your glutes and your lower back.

Core Strength Workouts

You can try the core strength exercises listed by Sims, some different ones listed here, or try this whole workout at home.

Female athletes need a strong core that is a critical part of a strength program that helps build performance for cyclists and runners, including a strength workout like this.

Contact me and we can talk about what kind of individualized strength program you need for your sport.

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