Today I’m writing about one of the most debated topics in the fitness industry over the past 10 years, core training. Long gone are the days of banging out a couple hundred sit ups during the off season to “tone up the abs”. Studies have shown that repeated flexion cycles (such a sit-ups) are non-optimal for improving core function and furthermore can be harmful to your lower back. Here are 4 alternate core training exercises that we like to use with our players throughout their summer training program:
The first exercise, known as the bird dog, helps teach brain how to co-contract the glute, obliques, rectus abdominal (6 pack muscle) and lower back muscles all at the same time. It is crucial for beginners, intermediate and even some advanced lifters to incorporate this exercise into their program before starting to lift some serious weight. Start with 3 sets of 5 reps on each side, make sure to hold each rep for 5-10 seconds.
The next exercise is as alternate for sit-ups because it targets the same muscle, your rectus abdominus. A big advantage to this exercise is it keeps the spine in a neutral posture thus minimizing the risk of a lower back injury. I call these one “ring supermans”. For beginners it is better to start this exercise from your knees and then work your way up to doing them on your feet. You can use Olympic rings, a TRX or if you don’t have either of those simply walk your hands out as far as possible without collapsing. Perform 3 sets of 8-10 reps; this exercise is a much more challenging core workout, but has many benefits. Line yourself up in a pushup position with hands directly underneath the shoulder joint, flat back, head in line with spine and squeeze your glutes. From here you are going to reach your arms out in front of you as far as you can go without letting your hips drop or your upper body slide forward. You’ll notice that as the arms reach out in front, the upper body remains still and the core stays contracted the whole time.
The last exercise is a very hockey specific exercise known as rotational medicine ball tosses. Rotational exercises such as this one can be very beneficial in improving ones overall wrist shot and slap shot power. When performing this exercise it is imperative that the rotation comes from the hips and not the lower back. Perform 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps on each side. This exercise requires a lot of power from the obliques and hip flexors. It can be performed with a partner or up against a hard wall. Start off by standing approximately 10 feet away from the wall with feet shoulder width apart, slight bend in knees and back up tall. You are going to shift your weight into your back leg as you reach and twist to the side. Then you are going to rotate that back leg forward as you pivot and throw the ball against the wall. All the power here is coming from the hips and core muscles so make sure not to try and over power them with your arms. This is a very explosive exercise and should be done using maximal force.
Give these a try and let me know what you think. Stayed tuned for my next blog post which we’ll be titled “If I could only use 5 exercises to create an off-ice program which would they be?”.