By Greg Brittenham and Daniel Taylor
Illustrations: Approx. 456
Available: June 2014
In new book, elite conditioning coach Greg Brittenham reveals the core of real athletic success by stressing the trunk’s crucial role
The typical “throw harder, jump higher, run faster” training programs utilized by coaches and athletes aren’t nearly enough to improve sport performance. Conditioning regimens should instead be focusing on a functionally trained core region. According to former New York Knicks conditioning coach Greg Brittenham, an athlete’s legs may appear to drive his or her movement, and the dexterity of the arms is obviously crucial, but in reality all force generated by upper- and lower-body musculature either originates, is stabilized by, or is transferred through the trunk and low torso and thereby demonstrates the vital role the trunk plays in athletics. Be it a football lineman’s block, a volleyball player’s spike, or a tennis player’s forehand return, all require a strong center of the body.
Author of the forthcoming Conditioning to the Core, Brittenham says that instead of looking to the outside for extrinsic activities that may help them throw a 90-mile-per-hour fastball in baseball, dunk over a defender in basketball, or score a bicycle-kick goal in soccer, athletes need to look to within—their core. “This has huge fitness and athletic ramifications, especially when you look at the core from a performance standpoint,” he says. “If we strengthen the core, or the transfer of energy, the efficiency of our actions and the next-level performance variables will most certainly increase while, simultaneously, the risk of injury will decrease.”
Brittenham stresses that the core should be trained in the same way it was originally developed, in a specific sequence with stability training preceding strength training and strength training leading power training. To illustrate, he compares this training to the first big event in a baby’s life—when he or she develops enough core control or stability to roll over. The developmental process of moving from the realm of primitive and postural reflexive actions into the phase of rudimentary movement patterns is of utmost importance. The baby’s further development will be inhibited if this transfer does not take place or is delayed, something Brittenham sees as a similar problem regarding the successful implementation of an exercise regimen.
“Now that the baby can roll over, she is now in a position to draw the limbs under her mass. As the muscles become more potent, the crawl is soon to follow. This is a display of strength,” Brittenham explains. “For a crawl to be effective and synchronized, the core must be strong enough not only to stabilize the pelvis and spine but also to pass the aforementioned forces to the limbs to create movement.”
Finally comes the baby’s epic first wobbly steps. Brittenham acknowledges that while these steps may not be as impressive as a fully fledged run, the ability to control the core in a vertical fashion while lifting limbs and balancing is the beginning of true core power. As a healthy child matures, development moves gradually away from gross motor patterns associated with the center of mass, out to the smaller muscles of the extremities, which are responsible for the fine motor skills.
“Whether you perform a fine motor skill, such as throwing darts, or a gross motor pattern, such as blocking a blitzing defensive back, you must have a strong core to ensure safe, efficient, and effective function,” says Brittenham. It’s this better transfer of power throughout the various links in the body that will eventually help an athlete to add a few extra miles to the fastball or to evolve from a perennial rim toucher to a full-blown slam dunker.
In Conditioning to the Core, Brittenham and co-author Daniel Taylor offer a functional approach to core training for athletes seeking a competitive edge. The book is highlighted by color-coded stability, strength, and power training exercises, drills, and programs to help readers readily use the information to meet their respective goals. Conditioning to the Core includes the most effective assessment tools and proven training programs, complete with sport-specific examples, tips, and applications.
Greg Brittenham served as assistant coach for player development and team conditioning with the New York Knicks for 20 years before taking on the position of director of athletic performance for men’s and women’s basketball at Wake Forest University before the 2011-12 season. He was also the director of the Center for Athletic Performance at the National Institute for Fitness and Sport. In addition to NBA players, he has advised and trained athletes in the NFL, MLB, several number one and many more top 10 tennis players in the world and international champions in gymnastics and cycling and the Olympics.
Brittenham’s training regimens for improving overall athletic ability have made him a popular speaker and demonstrator at clinics and conferences worldwide. He authored Complete Conditioning for Basketball (Human Kinetics, 1995) and coauthored Stronger Abs and Back (Human Kinetics, 1997) with his father, Dean Brittenham, a pioneer in the field of strength and conditioning.
Daniel Taylor, MS, PES, CSCS is the head strength and conditioning coach at Siena College and oversees those efforts for all 18 Division I varsity programs at the college, as varied as water polo and lacrosse. He has trained athletes who have advanced to the professional level in soccer, lacrosse, baseball, and basketball. Taylor was part of Siena men’s basketball’s historic 3 championships in a row (2008-2010) that led to two first round wins in the NCAA tournament (2008 and 2009).
Taylor previously worked with men’s and women’s basketball at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York and with the New York Knicks Training Camps. He has been a speaker at numerous clinics and workshops in the northeast geared to high school through college level athletes. Originally from North Yorkshire, England, he now resides in Scotia, New York.
Introduction Unleashing Your Core Potential
PART I Core Benefits
Chapter 1. Key Sports Performance Factor
Chapter 2. Anatomical Lynchpin
Chapter 3. Injury Reduction
Chapter 4. Strength and Power Source
Chapter 5 Exercise Selection and Training Considerations
PART II Core Stabilization Training
Chapter 6. Anti-Extension Exercises
Chapter 6. Anti-Rotation Exercises
Chapter 8. Scapulothoracic Exercises
Chapter 9. Lumbo-Pelvic Hip Exercises
PART III Core Strength Training
Chapter 10. Anti-Extension Exercises
Chapter 11. Anti-Rotation Exercises
Chapter 12. Scapulothoracic Exercises
Chapter 12. Lumbo-Pelvic Hip Exercises
Chapter 14. Total Core Exercises
PART IV Core Power Training
Chapter 15. Anti-Extension Exercises
Chapter 16. Anti-Rotation Exercises
Chapter 17. Lumbo-Pelvic Hip Exercises
PART V Core Testing and Program Design
Chapter 18. Core Assessment Tools
Chapter 18. Complete Core Program
Chapter 20. Advanced Core Programs
Chapter 21. Sport-Specific Core Programs
- A functionally trained core region will enhance athletic efficiency and better transfer power throughout the various links in the body.
- All force generated by upper- and lower-body musculature either originates, is stabilized by, or is transferred through the trunk and low torso. This has huge fitness and athletic ramifications especially when you look at the core from a performance standpoint. If we strengthen the core, the transfer of energy, the efficiency of our actions and the “next level” performance variables will most certainly increase while simultaneously, the risk of injury will decrease.
- The core should be trained in the same way it was originally developed, following this sequence: stability precedes strength, and strength coming before power.
- The ultimate goal of any program is to maximize potential and identifying individual strengths and weaknesses is of critical importance in determining which modality is best suited for a particular athlete. Whether performing, for example, a deep squat or a step-up curl alternate arm shoulder press, the movement originates at the core and as such there can be no wrong approach as long as the program is safe, progressive, specific to needs of the athlete, time efficient, and measurably productive.
- The value of an efficiently functioning core and superior sports performance has been well documented. On the other hand, a poorly functioning core will do little to stabilize the spine or serve as the force transfer conduit. This in turn can result in inconsistent extraneous movements, which in turn causes negative energy leaks. These leaks are displayed in inefficient actions, which will cause poor athletic output and, if left unchecked, can lead to a physiological or mechanical breakdown, with the result often being the initiation of the pain/injury cycle.
- A rigid or well-conditioned core will allow for a seamless transfer of force, enabling the athlete to perform in a highly efficient, powerful, precise and physically stress-free circumstance.
- The benefits of a highly trained core don’t stop at running and cutting. A sprinter’s effort to eliminate unwanted extraneous movement such as twisting and bobbing, are critically important for success in other aspects of sport. The difference being that the twisting and rotating is no longer “unwanted” but rather necessary. A solid core section is fundamental in the success of sports that emphasize rotational movement. Hip separation and powerful rotations are key for those swinging an implement in sports like baseball, cricket, golf, tennis, and throwing the disc.
- Often, power hitters in baseball complain of strained oblique muscles, and the inclination is to focus training efforts on that specific area. However, it is usually the case that even though the athletes appear to be well conditioned, there is probably some underlying compensation issues at work in addition to the muscles of their core section not performing in a synchronous fashion. Therefore, the obliques take the additional strain, the pain/injury cycle initiates, and the player ends up in the training room.
- Athletes in sports requiring a lot of jumping, such as volleyball, also benefit from a well-crafted core routine. Though these athletes must be quick and agile, it’s essential that they are also able to overcome gravity and accelerate into the air. Great leapers are often a byproduct of genetics and excellent mechanics; however, creating an effective bridge between the upper and lower body to allow the power from the legs to create tremendous upward force is attainable by anyone.
- An often overlooked aspect of core training is demonstrated by athletes in sports where striking is important. In boxing, for example, a well-conditioned core will not only allow the competitor to withstand the opponent’s blows to the midsection, but will also enable him to deliver a knockout punch at the appropriate moment. Throwing a punch is all about rotational power in the core, not simply extending the arm at the opponent. One hard jab is not nearly as effective as combinations of punches thrown repeatedly from a strong foundation. A stability, strength, and power of core not only allows a boxer to deliver a jab, punch, and hook, but also permits him to create force quickly through the ground and repeat the action immediately from a variety of angles.
- The ability to perform an athletic movement of any kind will require the need for a rapid change in the location of the center of gravity. Those who exhibit a high degree of control in their body’s center of mass are commonly referred to as a gifted athlete or a natural athlete. These individuals seem to possess the ability to change direction without a concomitant sacrifice in speed and are therefore said to be agile. Agility is the ability to change direction without decreasing speed (to a large degree). That change of direction might be left to right around a tackler, from the floor to the rim for a fast break alley-oop, from a backpedaling overhead baseline smash to charging the net for the match winning drop shot. Those who can control their core have control over their center of power; mastery of the core is the single most manageable athletic trait and is critically important to athletic prowess.
- The specific requisite necessary to play at a high intensity is determined by the level of your physical base. If this physical base is poorly developed or decreases because of some sort of extended inactivity then performance likewise unquestionably declines. Obviously, in order to maximize your performance potential, not only must you train your sport-specific skills, you must also train the physical base that supports those skills.
Source: Conditioning to the Core (Human Kinetics, 2014)
*In general, why is the core so important to athletic performance?
*How does a poorly functioning core lead to inconsistent extraneous movements, and how does this negatively impact athletic performance?
*How are a sprinter’s efforts to eliminate unwanted extraneous movements such as twisting and bobbing critically important for success in other aspects of sport?
*How does a solid core section lead to success in sports that emphasize rotational movement and/or those in which its participants must swing an implement, like baseball, cricket, golf, tennis, and throwing the disc?
*Why should training efforts in baseball power hitters complaining of strained oblique muscles not necessarily focus on that specific area?
*How do athletes in sports requiring a lot of jumping, such as volleyball, benefit from a well-crafted core routine?
*Why are the stability, strength, and power of the core important in sports where striking is important, and why is this aspect of core training often overlooked?
*How does an athlete’s ability to rapidly change the location of his or her center of gravity benefit from core training, and why do you consider mastery of the core to be the single most manageable athletic trait?
*How does a well-functioning core help reduce the likelihood and severity of injury and encourage greater efficiency?
*From an athletic perspective, what are the four traits possessed by someone demonstrating good balance, and how does this relate to the core?
*How does poor posture negatively affect both balance and all other athletic performance variables?
*What are the differences between training for strength and training for power?
*Why do women appear to be at a higher risk of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, and what does this have to do with core strength?
*What are some of the more typical injuries that can be eliminated or have their severity be greatly reduced simply by intelligently training the core?
To schedule an interview with Greg Brittenham and/or Daniel Taylor, contact Maurey Williamson at 1-800-747-4457, ext. 7890, or firstname.lastname@example.org.