At the Core of Sports is…Core

When you’re hitting, you want to be as stable as you can and use the three-dimensional aspect – the rotation of your core – to actually translate to power.

Evan Longoria

I’ve been writing lately about HIIT training and its relationship to fight training. In the past, I’ve written about HIIT training and hockey. Short version, if you want to be good at sports, you have to develop your core strength.

A few years ago a yoga buddy went to motorcycle racing camp, a weekend at the Indianapolis Speedway with some of the top bike racers in America. He told me that on day two everyone was in class, waiting for the morning seminar, most of them moaning about how sore they were from day one. One of the event hosts came in, heard the complaining and told the group, “You pussies need to do more yoga.”


Because, like pretty much every other sport, bike racing required tremendous core strength. The harder you want to go into the turns, the more your body must move as a single piece in order to maintain the balance of man and machine. To move your body as a single piece you need to be able to lock your core to prevent movement.

This is both the opposite of what Evan Longoria said in that quote above, and essentially the same. It doesn’t matter if you want to lock your core to move your body as a single piece (racing) or to rotate your core to develop rotation power to hit the ball. In either case, the stronger your core, the greater the benefit to your sport.

It is here that core training applies to the fighting arts, any and all of them. My kung fu teacher taught us to move as a single piece, and strike as a single piece. In my boxing/kickboxing days we did approximately a billion sit ups to harden our cores to both deliver a punch and to take a punch.

Want to take a slapshot or hit a baseball? The more you rotate as a single piece, the greater the power you deliver.

Want to sink a fadeaway jumper? If your body is moving in a single piece, your arms and wrists have a more stable platform to launch the ball. Same goes for throwing and receiving a football.

Want to kick a soccer ball harder and more accurately? Drive off the tee farther? Smash a tennis ball, volleyball or badminton birdie? Hold the tuck on a dive from the high board?

Core strength is at the core.

How then, to develop the core? The old school method is as mentioned above, sit ups (or crunches). This approach suffers two basic problems.

The first problem is spinal flexion. Your lumbar spine has a natural, inward curve and sit up/crunch type exercises flex your lumbar spine outward. Lumbar flexion is a natural movement, but doing it dynamically, fast and too often puts you at high risk of injury. Nerve, muscle and disc injuries in your spine are painful and detrimental to your quality of life in general, and also to your ability to exercise.

The second problem is that they only work the muscles in the front, and only in one direction. You can have the most amazing, 6-pack abs, hard as a rock, and still be at risk of injury. If you’re not training dynamically, and not training the entire core (not just the 6-pack in front), you’re risking injury due to rotation, and injury from weaker muscles to the sides, and back.

So, what to do about it? There are many exercise regimes that work the entire core, while training it for dynamic (including rotational) force. Yoga and/or Pilates are two of those exercise regimes.

For a non-sit up type exercise that works the entire core, dynamically, I wrote a little primer on an exercise called Dead Bug here, with more advanced options here.

Core. It’s at the core.