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Importance of core conditioning in martial arts

Fitness and conditioning are key to success in competitive sports. Often at lower levels of competition the fittest competitors are the most successful, with an improved capacity to work masking the potential short falls in skill capability. At elite levels, that extra capacity to work can provide the 1% or 2% difference which allows for a successful competitive edge. In all martial arts conditioning, and although it is often overlooked, no area of the body is more important than the core.

What is the core?

The core of the body is composed of a multiple muscle groups including the abdominals; lower back muscles; diaphragm; pelvic floor muscles; gluteals; hip flexors; and latissimus dorsi. These muscles work in concert to stabilise the spine and pelvis during movement.

Simply the core is a bridge between the lower and upper body. The core area transfers force and power between the lower and upper body. In striking martial arts and combat sport, such as boxing,mma, karate and tae kwon do the core needs to be functional and effective to appropriately transfer forces to the working muscles. The consequence of an ineffective core is ultimately to place more inappropriate load on muscles and connective tissues which can result in overuse injuries.

Further the central stabilising function of the core is critical for optimal performance in all movement within striking. The muscles of the core collectively function to stabilise the body’s centre during movements which require a high degree of balance or body control. With this in mind,effective core stabilisation is a fundamental to the generation of power in striking, balance and efficient movement.

Go beyond cunches…

The body exists in three main planes of movement (sagittal, frontal and transverse), with most if not all complex movements existing with all three planes. Strengthening and conditioning the body within just one plane of movement (which is what happens if your idea of core conditioning is a high volume of sit-ups) is to create an in-balance and relative weakness in all other planes of movement.

The movement we need to make within striking definitely fall into the complex movement field. The core conditioning programme we perform therefore needs to reflect this. Yes, we need to focus on sit-ups (spinal flexion) but also we need to invest time in movements that challenge our bodies in rotation, extension and focused stabilisation. A balanced routine that looks at movement and postures that will challenge the abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis, TVA, internal and external obliques); low back and spinal muscles (erector spinae, multifidus, QL), glutes (including piriformis); and hip flexors is critical.

We also need to go beyond the thought that all core conditioning is done on the floor. Core conditioning in movement using bands, cables and other external resistors is essentially important to the development and maintenance of a functional core. Equally, training the deep core stabilisers synergistically within progressive strength training exercises such as squats, lunges and deadlifts if also of real transferrable and functional benefit.

Where to start...take our 30 day challenge!

All our training programmes focus on a healthy and effective core. Martial arts and boxing training is a great way to functionally and efficiently develop a strong core, which will be beneficial to all activities of daily life.

What’s more we invite you to try our 30 day core challenge. Progressively building up a volume of repetitions across 30 days, using the exercises within our plan, will provide you a great way of introducing a core conditioning element into your exercise programme.

Give it a try and let us know how you get on!

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