The Foundation for Athletic Performance

The Foundation for Athletic Performance

As a Doctor of Physical Therapy in the Sports Rehabilitation Field I come into contact with athletes from an array of different backgrounds & sports: body building, powerlifting, MMA, boxing, ju-jitsu, strongman competitions, you name it- the more I see a multitude of athletes with “True Core” weakness.

Core Training, abdominal strengthening, and core “stiffness” are all components for pain control, performance enhancement and injury prevention.

What are the 4 components for optimal athletic performance?
  1. Proximal stiffness (meaning your lumbar spine and core) enhances distal (meaning your arms and legs) athleticism and limb speed.
  2. A muscular guy wire system is essential for the flexible spine to successfully bear load. 
  3. Muscular co‐activation creates stiffness to eliminate micro‐movements in the joints that lead to pain and tissue degeneration.
  4. Abdominal armor is necessary for some occupational, combative and impact athletes. 

How does core stiffness enhance extremity speed and agility?
Consider an example with the shoulder and the pectoralis major muscle – The pectoralis major attaches the rib cage at its closest end, crosses the shoulder joint, and attaches to the humerus (big arm bone) of the upper arm at its furthest end. When muscles contract they try to shorten. Consider the specific action here – pectoralis muscle contraction flexes the arm around the shoulder joint moving the arm from muscle shortening at the furthest point. But the same shortening also bends the rib cage towards the arm at the closest end of the muscle – in other words bending the core. Thus simply using the pec muscle would not result in a fast nor forceful push or punch. Now stiffen the proximal end of the pectoralis muscle attachment – meaning stiffen the core and ribcage so it can’t move. Now 100% of pectoralis muscle shortening is directed to action at its distal end producing fast and forceful motion in the arm 

Muscular Guy Wire System
An engineer cannot design a structure to be good at both. A steel beam that is straight and stood on its end is stiff, and can bear loads that try to compress, shear and twist it. So the beam can bear load but it can’t move. A flexible rod that allows movement will bend and buckle under load, but absorbs shock. Our spines do it all ‐ they bend and allow the lungs to fill with air, and even allow us to dance. The spine is this beautiful structure that is flexible and allows flowing movement, but requires a 3‐dimensional guy wire system to stiffen and stabilize it when it is required to bear loads. Analysis of the muscular system, together with its associated fascia sheets reveals a clever guy wire system that creates balanced stiffness eliminating the possibility of buckling and injury. The concern is that modern living does not “tune” and train this guy wire system. In many people it lapses into complacency. 

Back Injury Causes Joint Laxity
Injury to the disc causes it to loose height allowing joint micro‐movements. The micro‐movements irritate sensory nerves resulting in back pain and radiating pains. Spine stiffness from co‐contracted torso muscles minimise the micro‐ movements and control pain. Note this co‐contraction is “tuned” to create sufficient stiffness. This requires flexion moment training (core stiffness), not the actual movement of bending forward.

Surviving Kicks and Blows to the Stomach
Athletes who require abdominal armor to survive kicks and blows need abdominal training. Typically, they have trained high repetition situps to build armor, but eventually develop back pain ending their careers. The key to educating them is to change the flexion movement approach to flexion moment (core stiffness) by having them perform exercises such as “stir the pot” or McGill’s Big 3 for core stiffness. No motion occurs in their spine. Their strike speed can thus be enhanced, and their training tolerance can be restored. Their careers can be salvaged as well as maintaining longevity in their sport. 

  • Are you an athlete dealing with pain that is preventing you from training?
  • Do you feel your power/speed is not as great as it should be with all of your training?
  • Is your body feeling worn down and exhausted from training more than normal?

If so, contact us below to schedule your appointment!

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