Three Reasons Everyday Female Athletes Should Build a Strong Core
- A strong core drives your hips, which produce power on the bike or while running.
- A strong core prevents injuries from imbalances.
- A strong core helps keep your torso, arms, and legs all moving in the right direction and with the right purpose.
In her book Roar, Dr. Stacy Sims says that a female athlete’s hips are the steering wheel that drives her performance.
Women generate the majority of their power through their hips, says Sims.
But if the core (abs, obliques, glutes, hips, and back) is not strong, a woman’s hips won’t be able to do what she wants.
Plus a strong core is essential for staying injury-free.
Female athletes need a strong core for stability and movement
A woman’s butt is the steering wheel for her legs, Simms says.
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 quadriceps and knees go where they’re supposed to, rather than falling inward.
Everyday female athletes – and male athletes too, for that matter – need a strong core to keep everything solid and tight to deliver power from the hips.
Plus, the older you get, the more important a strong core is for balance and movement.
A strong core means back, belly, and hip strength
To strengthen your core, isometrics are among the most effective tools.
Crunches and sit-ups, though, are not since they can often create lower back issues.
Research has clearly shown that how women get a stronger core by focusing on strengthening glute and core muscles.
This prevents a large number of injuries, due mostly to muscle imbalances and poor movement patterns.
Female athletes can get a strong core with these six exercises:
- McGill Crunch
- Elbow planks
- Side plank
- Super Heroes
- Bird Dogs
The key to building a strong core is bracing
One way female athletes get a strong core is through isometric strength work like bracing.
Bracing is the idea of pulling your belly button into your spine and squeezing.
A Hollow or McGill Crunch takes the idea of bracing a step further by pressing the lower back into the mat to create more isometric stress.
I also use bracing when I work with people in my studio gym.
I call the bracing technique a “Squeegle”!
A Squeegle is when you squeeze your butt and belly at the same time as you do a kegel.
For instance, when we do a deadlift, we inhale on the way down, do a squeegle at the bottom to keep everything tight, then drive upward as we exhale.
Deadlifts and other exercises build strong hips
A deadlift, or picking something heavy off the ground, is a really effective way of building core strength.
First of all, you build glute and hamstring strength as you pull the weight off the ground.
Second, your back has to stabilize your torso, and third, your shoulders have to keep your arms straight and locked.
Deadlifts, when done with appropriately heavy weights, should be done in two to four sets (depending on the time of year) and five to 10 repetitions (again, depending on the time of year).
I recommend doing sumo deadlifts like this to also develop glute stabilizer muscles.
Also, doing chest pull exercises like these will build back strength to make your core strong.
One of the best overall core strengthening exercises is an elbow plank rotation.
Get in an elbow plank position, then rotate your torso to lift one arm off the ground and point your hand in the air.
You can make this more challenging by starting in a regular plank, do a pushup, then do the rotations.
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Paul Warloski is a:
- USA Cycling Level 3 Coach
- RRCA Running Coach
- Training Peaks Level 2 Coach
- RYT-200 Yoga Instructor
- Certified Personal Trainer