best core work for sprinters

there are many compelling arguments that address what are the best ab/core workouts for sprinters. I read recently that side crunches serve very little purpose for a sprinter but rather use the side plank or straight back plank.

Who wrote about it and why was it argued?

Considering your hips rotate as you sprint, why do you want to teach your abs to Stabilize as in Bridges?

I’ve read the obliques are your primary movers of the ab muscles, so I reckon side planks throws that out of the water. Or does it?

Rectus Abdominus
Flex the spine (bringing the rib cage closer to the pelvis). This is seen in the abdominal crunching movement. When the movement is reversed, the Rectus Abdominus acts to bring the pelvis closer to the rib cage (e.g. with a leg raise movement).

Transverse Abdominus
Acts as a natural weight belt, keeping your insides in. This muscle is essential for trunk stability as well as keeping your waist tight.

Internal and External Obliques
Work to rotate the torso and stabilize the abdomen.

I think these exercises are used to teach “anti-rotation” of the lumbar spine a la Stuart McGill’s approach where a neutral spine is emphasized with good hip mobility. I actually think this approach makes some sense; even though I know it flies in the face of the Charlie Francis system where hip and spine mobility are emphasized in the core/abdominal movements.

Couldn’t this type of stabilization exercises be a valuable exercise for a novice runner/athlete who over “rotates” when sprinting?

Also, since the spine loads are less in the plank/bridge exercises they may be a bit safer than taking the lumbar spine through flexion and flexion/rotation combination exercises which are challenging to the intervertebral discs. Comments, opinions??

Bridges are actually really easy - i find them so. My clients who are just normal everyday people find em hard, for a short while, it dont take much to get used to em. A 60sec hold really only takes around 2-3wks for the fatest weakest person to master really.
Whip out the wheel of death - or on a smooth round board. Thats sorts out those with weak abs.

How about Running A’s drills - underrated abs exercise that is very specific to running.

Try during them for 2mins.

what is wrong with simply 30sec on 30sec off x 10 after each workout varying the exercises?:confused:

When do you stop…
I don’t mind doing them from time to time,
i would rather like John says, do a large variety every 20-30sec or so than just doing Crunches, or bridges or one style. Do a lot of style, work them all, Work all forms of abs and you’ll be fine.

haha, speaking of bridges, the amount of people i see in the gym doing them completely wrong, their lower back is swaying under, their abs not even contracted…

The only person I’ve tried this with is myself so take it with a grain of salt.

I’ve found that if I do lots of flexion movements like sit-ups my planks will improve even without practicing them, but the opposite isn’t true. Only doing planks seemed to have no carryover to crunches.

Im working on some of the sources CF but I have heard more from PT and CPTs in the recent past about which core exercises are relevant to sprinters. When I locate one that I’ve read I will share.

I too questioned the relevance of planks. I have found greater success with “supermans”. (thats when you lie on your stomach, spread arms and feet up and apart and balance for 20-30secs. It does seem that planks work the glutes a bit more tho.

Let me also apologize to you guys for referencing a source without giving the source. That was a bit amateur of me:o

I guess the better question is, how many sprinters do the PT’s and CPT’s train and what are there results?

It’s all interesting but I just don’t like limiting training options unless there’s a good reason.
Over-rotation in sprinting is corrected by correcting arm action rather than through exercises that limit the ability to rotate.

IMHO, core work should encompass:

  1. Stability (isometric holds in neutral spine)
  2. Anti-rotation or thoracic rotation (diagonal patterns, which occur in sport, i.e. chops, reverse chops, BB swings, etc)
  3. Plyometrics (the ability of the core to transmit elastic force: repetition MB throws, slams, explosive throws…)
  4. Some strength or strength endurance (curls, reverse curls, plate raises, roll-outs… etc)

However, it is questionable how much from this is actually psoas/iliacus (hip flexor) strengthening and how much is actually rectus/obliques work, especially in the strength group.

Regarding core training I take a lot from Michael Boyle and to be honest I don’t like too much CF approach toward core work, but this is just me. Anyway, I’m very flexion intolerant and my low back really cannot sustain too much flexing, bending and twisting. Please note that I do do chops, side bridges, hip flexion, MB throws and roll-outs although in neutral spine and sometimes I do plate raises, explosive MB throws and classical curl and reverse curl.

Just my 2 cents

CF: In no2, I think Duxx means counter-rotation.

Under the anti-rotation term I mean stabilizing the low back against forces that produce twisting torque, and diagonal forces that goes from opposite shoulder/opposite hip. Are we thinking on the same Charlie?

Also, rotation in upper back/thoracic spine may happen and the mobility of this segment is something that can cause low back problems and shoulder problems. What I usually see, there is the problem with thoracic ‘dome’* or kyphosis that limits normal thoracic spine movement and even breathing (sometimes breathing work may help: the breathing is the connection between motion and emotion; if you don’t breath well you cannot move well, if you don’t move well you cannot breath well)

  • Please see the following papers, part one and two:
    A model of movement dysfunction provides a classification system guiding diagnosis and therapeutic care in spinal pain and related musculoskeletal syndromes: A paradigm shift
    Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies (2008) 12, 7–21.

Duxx, i think we are on the same page as both stabilization and counter-rotation are involved

I agree with Charlie regarding keeping options open. If you really read McGill’s work in detail, his emphasis on side bridges, curl ups and the bird dog is within the context of minimizing spinal compression and shear forces in a clinical setting. His recommendations are conservative because they assume he is dealing with someone with pain or dysfunction. However, he also allows for the use of more stressful core exercises depending on the capabilities of the individual. Much of his book on performance training is devoted to evaluating who can withstand more stressful exercises.

McGill has stated in several places that there is a difference between training for optimal back/spine health and training for maximum performance, and the two goals might contradict each other at times. The key question is whether the individual can handle the training. As a practical matter, fit athletes are not going to have much trouble tolerating traditional ab exercises. Millions of athletes around the world have used old school traditional ab exercises for decades without causing back problems.

There really isn’t any reason why you can’t combine the static hold exercises used by McGill with more dynamic movements like the ones Charlie and others use. I think the static holds are nice warmups. And if you watch any of the videos of the ab exercises used by Charlie, a lot of them do not involve flexion or rotation of the lumbar spine, most require movement in the thoracic spine. Some do involve lumbar movement, but again, if the athlete can tolerate the motion, it shouldn’t be a problem. This is training, not rehab.

As far as making the side bridge more challenging, try this: from the side bridge position, rotate forward until you are essentially in a front plank position but only stay on one arm, do not put the other one down, then rotate back to the side position. This turns the plank into a dynamic exercise. Trust me, you’ll feel the ab muscles engage.

I think the more relevant question of core training for sprinters involves loading parameters rather than specific movement selection.

Well said on all fronts, Flash.