The distribution of weekly torso training should be done as follows: For two-day programs or in-season programs, combine both medicine-ball throwing and conventional abdominal exercises in the same day’s workout. Each session should include one or two medicine-ball exercises and one or two conventional abdominal exercises.
In a three-day program, use an ABA pattern one week and a BAB the next week, alternating a medicine-ball day (A) with a conventional abdominal day (B) for a total of three medicine-ball workouts and three conventional abdominal workouts over a two-week period.
In a four-day program, alternate conventional abdominal work on one day with medicine-ball work on the next day for a total of two medicine-ball days and two conventional days per week.
How to progress torso work is a difficult subject, but progression must be done in the program. Three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions of most conventional abdominal exercises are done initially. Rotation and lateral flexion exercises are done 10 times on each side. Stabilization exercises generally start with three sets of 15 seconds’ duration. Stabilization exercises that require alternating from right to left are held isometrically for five seconds before changing positions. Physical therapist Al Visnick introduced this concept to me with the statement: “If you want to train the stabilizers, you have to give them time to stabilize.” One-second holds cannot work the stabilizers as effectively as a five-second contraction. You can use time instead of reps to determine the length of set. Twelve reps take approximately one minute. These are general guidelines and can be adjusted based on the athlete’s age and experience.
For any exercise using body weight, progress over a three-week period as follows:
Week 1: 3 X 8
Week 2: 3 X 10
Week 3: 3 X 12
After week 3, progress to a slightly more difficult version of the exercise, reduce the number of repetitions, and again follow the same progression.
Remember that torso work must be taught and coached like any other portion of a program. Simply doing torso work at the beginning of the strength program rather than leaving it until the end is not enough. Coaches should teach torso work as well as or better than any other facet of the program. A properly taught torso program aids in injury reduction, strength improvement, and speed improvement by improving the ability to maintain trunk position in strength exercises, jumps, and sprints. In addition, a well-designed torso program can markedly improve performance in striking sports. These benefits cannot be overstated.
This is an excerpt from Functional Training for Sports.