Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Core Stability for Soccer

Core stability refers to the balance between stabilizing and mobilizing muscle actions. Most emphasis is placed on the muscles directly engaged in movement at a joint, the agonist  and the antagonists which relax to permit the desired movement to occur. These muscles are located superficially towards the surface of the body. The stabilizers secure the integrity of the joint and are located deeper than the mobilizing muscles.

Core strength provides a base from which soccer-specific actions can be developed. The trunk stabilizers are the trans versus abdominis and the lumbar multifidus. An example of an exercise for core stability is where the player assumes a press-up position but with the lower leg supported on a large inflated gymnasium (Swiss) ball. In this posture the abdominal stabilizers work isometrically to keep the body stationary.

Core stability (or core strengthening) has become a well known fitness trend that has started to transcend into the sports medicine world. Popular fitness programs, such as Pilates, yoga, and Tai Chi, follow core strengthening principles. Broad benefits of core stabilization have been touted, from improving athletic performance and preventing injuries, to alleviating low back pain. The core can be described as a muscular box with the abdominal in the front, para spinals and glutenous in the back, the diaphragm as the roof, and the pelvic floor and hip girdle musculature as the bottom.Within this box are 29 pairs of muscles that help to stabilize the spine, pelvis, and kinetic chain during functional movements. Without these muscles, the spine would become mechanically unstable with compressive forces as little as 90 N, a load much less than the weight of the upper body.

When the system works as it should, the result is proper force distribution and maximum force generation with minimal compressive, translational, or shearing forces at the joints of the kinetic chain. The core is particularly important in sports because it provides ‘‘proximal stability for distal mobility’’. In fact, core stability exercises appear to be especially important in cases of spinal instability. Gross spinal instability is an obvious radio-graphic displacement of vertebrae, often with associated neurological deficit and deformity. However, functional or clinical instability is not as easily defined. The spine stability system consists of the following interacting elements:
Neuro-muscular control (neural elements) & Passive subsystem (osseous and ligamentous elements) & Active subsystem (muscular elements).

In other words, stability of the spine is not only dependent on muscular strength, but also proper sensory input that alerts the central nervous system about interaction between the body and the environment, providing constant feedback and allowing refinement of movement . Thus a complete core stabilizing program would consider sensory and motor components related to these systems for optimal spinal stabilization.


1. A Strong Core Reduces Back Pain:

Abdominal get all the credit for protecting the back and being the foundation of strength, but they are only a small part of what makes up the core. In fact, it is weak and unbalanced core muscles that are linked to low back pain. Weak core muscles result in a loss of the appropriate lumber curve and a sway back poster. Stronger, balanced core muscles help maintain appropriate posture and reduce strain on the spine.

2. A strong core improves athletic performance:

Because the muscle of the strength and torso stabilize the spine from the pelvis to the neck and shoulder, they allow the transfer of power to the arms and legs. All powerful movements originates from the center of the body out, and never from the limbs alone. Before any powerful rapid muscle contractions can occur in the extremities the spine must be solid and stable and the more stable the core the most powerful the extremities can contract.

3. A strong core improves postural balance:

Training the muscles of the core helps correct postural imbalances that can lead to injuries. The biggest benefits of the core training is to develop functional fitness ; the type of fitness that is essential to daily living and regular activities.

Exercises for core stability:

1. Seated Oblique twist:

  • Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Contract your abs and sit at about 45 degrees angle.
  • Hold a ball (soccer ball is good) with both hands directly in front of you.
  • Contracting your abs, twist slowly from your torso to your right and touch the ball to the floor beside you.
  • Quickly, but smoothly contract your abs and twist your torso and touch the ball to the other side.
  • Repeat the desired number of reps.
2. Hip lift:

Begin by lying on your back with your arms by your side, palms facing up. Raise your legs so they are straight up toward the ceiling and perpendicular to your torso. Pull your navel toward your hips and lift your hips a few inches off the floor, keeping you legs pointed straight up. Then slowly lower your hips back to the floor.

3. V-sit abdominal exercise:

  • Begin in a seated position contract your abdominal muscles and core, and lift you legs up to 45 degree angle.
  • Reach your arms straight forward or reach up towards your shins as you are able.
  • Maintain good core posture and a strong spine.
  • Hold this "V" position for several seconds to begin. As you get stronger, hold the position longer.
  • Return to your starting position slowly.
  • Just before you reach the floor, stop and hold the position for few seconds.
  • Repeat it several times.
4. Bridge exercise:

  • Lay on your back with your arms by your side, your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Make sure your feet are under your knees.
  • Tighten your abdominal and buttock muscles.
  • Raise your hips to create a straight line from your knees to shoulder.
  • Squeeze your core and try to pull your belly button back toward your spine.
  • If your hips sag or drop, lower yourself back on the floor.
  • The goal is to maintain a straight line from your shoulders to your knees and hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
You may need to begin by holding the bridge position for few seconds as you built your strength. Hold right position for few seconds rather than holding wrong position for longer time.

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