Mainstream core training techniques do not differentiate between the demands placed on the core relative to the activity or sport being undertaken. To date there has been no general discussion regarding the phases of engagement to which the core may be subjected. It is accepted traditional core engagement practice, that no matter the activity or sport, Transverse abdominis can only be engaged at a singularly co-contracted level.
On the basis of a physiological preference for functional adaptations in strength, rather than any non-functional increases in mass, the Incidental/Deliberate Inclusion Cycle, originally offered in Program I, clearly illustrates this to NOT be the case. What we are about to explore are the long-term advantages arising from consideration of the distinct relative depths to which the core is compelled to engage throughout the full range of general movement and sporting possibilities.
The following phases of engagement will reveal, when it comes to participating in activities and sports where contact, impact and volume intensities differ, core engagement depths will also differ. It is neither appropriate nor relevant for athletes involved in high contact and high impact, and/or high repetition and high volume sports, to train their core employing the same principles as individuals not involved in either high risk or explosive athletic pursuits.
Is it reasonable, or even logical, to expect a rodeo rider, a rugby player or an Australian
rules footballer to develop their core using the same methods as a golfer, tennis player or cricketer?
1. The Acquired Core.
Acquired Core involvement can be seen in those daily routine and sporting activities where the core is involved, but because it is so routine and incidental, there is neither an awareness of the core, nor the want for its conscious inclusion. Any incidentally occurring physiological acquisition can be compared with the most basic automatic characteristics of breathing. It is not something demanding constant attention, as it can be controlled by automatic centres in the brain, and like the core, it can be deliberately regulated, even though it is normally a process which continues regardless of any thought. Fittingly, for this layperson's comparison, it is right and proper to describe the core as having similar crucially important automatic functions, where the core initiates movement, while breathing sustains movement. Consequently, if no appreciation is given to the development of core strength, or equally on improving breathing efficiency, acquired phases of both functions will deteriorate.
Moreover, if we concede most individuals have some concept of the core and its role in specific movement, they will have no understanding of the core's vital role in general movement. A common deficiency preventing the majority of individuals from knowing how to channel existing core strength to best advantage, and is possibly the most basic cause of localised fatigue and resultant pain in recurring functional activity and exercise situations. If there were a healthier respect for the principles of core involvement, and therefore the processes of core engagement, such issues as back pain would no longer instil the community with the same prevailing attitudes of avoidance and paranoia.
Everyday instances of when the core is acquired:
a) Sitting, standing - however low in intensity these positions may seem to be, it does explain how postural fatigue and back pain can set in when these so-called relaxed states are undertaken, and no consideration is given to even the simplest display of core & curve inclusion.
b) Walking/cycling, either for functional/recreational/exercise oriented motives.
c) Picking up, carrying, and putting down items of moderate size and weight, again requiring no special inclusion focus.
d) Any and all traditional strength and fitness exercises.
2. The Dynamic Core.
The Dynamic Core is demonstrated in activities containing clear core inclusion, but again where participants may or may not recognise this as being the case. Most often reflected in situations where something is felt, but participants incorrectly identify it as working the abs. The dynamic core is also seen in specialised core training, sports participation, and the more demanding daily chores.
Even though the performance of mainstream core training does require some level of strength and skill to complete, as the principles of Bodii have continued to evolve, substantial doubts as to their absolute validity as an across the board solution to core weaknesses and adaptation ideals have been uncovered.
Familiar instances of when the core is dynamic:
a) Strength and fitness training containing stability and core strength apparatus such as fitball, Bosu and balance/wobble boards.
b) Sporting actions like bowling a cricket ball, hitting a tennis ball, kicking a football.
c) Vacuuming or gardening.
d) To this point, each exercise contained in Bodii Program I are examples of the dynamic core.
Specifically: Basic Bodii exercises using 25cm core-ball.
Anaerobic endurance: mountain climber progressions.
Strength: single arm row progressions.
Flexibility/mobility: calf raise/hamstrings stretch progressions.
Observation A - It is of course possible, and in many scenarios highly probable, that demands on core engagement will carry-over into deeper and lesser phase inclusions as intensities increase and/or decrease. An example can be seen in a hypothetical analysis of a walk/sprint progression:
Sit - Stand - Walk - Jog - Run - Sprint.
If it is accepted the core is included in a sprint, it is not logical to assume it is suddenly not involved to some degree, once sprinting ceases, or even before it begins.
3. The Ballistic Core.
In many sports, the ability to engage and maintain even a dynamic core does not afford athletes with the core inclusion sufficient to handle the forces exerted on the body generally, and absorbed through the core specifically. This is especially true in sports with high intensity and high volume body contact/impact, and is a concept not highlighted simply in an athlete's ability to accept the contact/impact and play on, but most particularly in the athletes ability to accept the contact/impact, absorb the forces incidentally through an enhanced core capacity, and to repeatedly play on with no residual effects. An outcome possible only through biomechanically superior inclusions, and physiological adaptations that are able to:
a) Minimise the effects of inevitable contact/impact, injury and the debilitating consequences of fatigue through core strength conditioning, which across ballistic core specificity considerations, transfers its relevance to the individuality of all sports.
b) Prevent premature elimination from sporting competition, due to resulting contact/impact and/or injury outcomes.
An athlete’s ability to incidentally absorb high intense contact/impact is an example of ballistic core engagement, and as such any effective core strength training must be able to simulate the forces experienced at the moment of contact/impact.
Contact/impact simulations have been a standard component of the general training and skills regime peculiar to each sport. However, it should be noted, that in the performance of these general training and skills activities, the intent has never been to strengthen the core, rather it has been used to condition the athlete against the accepted rigours of that sport, while also increasing the athlete's endurance.
For athletes to properly prepare for any sport, it is most beneficial to
train all associated aspects beyond any expected performance thresholds.
Bodii reaches beyond the scope of traditional strength, fitness and sports specific training by having the capacity to simulate high intense contact/impact situations. An achievement based on specialised ballistic core strengthening techniques, which can be used to prepare athletes in the pre-season, and to supplement general training during competition and in-season phases.
The successful performance of any exercise with ballistic core requirement, depends
entirely on the participant’s psychological, biomechanical and physiological capacity to
deliberately engage and sustain the vital core inclusions at specific intensities.
Observation B - Consistent with the probability of core engagement phases carrying-over within the context of a single series of progressions, the final progression of the hypothetical sprint scenario offered in Observation A of the dynamic core, could conceivably present as:
Sit - Stand - Walk - Jog - Run - Sprint - Fall/Bump/Tackle (receive/deliver).
With greater consideration and acceptance of the role played by the core in all levels of functional movement, the effects of this very common sporting scenario could be better understood, and therefore controlled.
In light of this presenter’s comments and opinions in earlier blog posts, it is appropriate at this point to discuss, in greater detail, the issues surrounding conditioning the Hamstrings for both day-to-day exercise requirements, and for the significantly more intense sports specific adaptation outcomes. These discussion topics are based on observations made as the various Bodii Hamstrings related concepts and techniques have emerged. They include the following.
a) The complicated, intersecting aspects of the need to:
i) Strengthen the primary core muscles and the structures to which they attach (Bodii Program I).
ii) Strengthen the secondary core muscles, which in turn help to stabilise the primary core (Bodii Program I).
iii) Increase contractile strength, range and endurance in the muscles of the peripheral core (which includes the vulnerable Hamstrings), thereby supporting advanced inclusive strength and stability in hips and pelvis, the structure in which the core lies.
b) The diverse range of incidental/deliberate primary and peripheral core inclusions, and the resulting benefits to lumbar and hip/pelvis strength and stability. When conditioning the Hamstrings, this is especially relevant, as the greater part of the hamstrings group originates from the Ischial tuberosity, an anatomical feature located within the hips and pelvis complex.
c) The importance of properly balanced strength, stability and mobility factors in the primary and peripheral core, the active lumbar curve, and the integral nature of their connection to the issue of Hamstrings tightness.
Assessing Hamstrings flexibility/tightness issues.
The following considered observations are extensions to the natural biomechanical and physiological roles and relationships of the structures strengthened and stabilised by the muscles of the primary, secondary and peripheral core (Bodii Program I).
It is the prevailing weakness and instability aspects of the Hamstrings and surrounding structures, together with unco-ordinated strength and flexibility/mobility training practices that are some of the contributing factors leading to common chronic Hamstrings tightness and weakness/injury concerns. Built around this observation, Bodii has developed methods to firstly assess Hamstrings tightness, prior to athletes becoming aware of this problem, and secondly provide some training/conditioning options to assist in minimising the incidence and severity of these tightness/weakness/injury problems.
In past, and even recent strength and fitness training history, upper body range of motion and Hamstrings flexibility, have been determined by an individual's capacity to bend forward at the waist and touch their toes. In spite of the physiological relationship between Hamstrings and the lumbar spine being an accepted principle, this is a determination still being made without due regard for the functional role of the lumbar spine/curve, an area clearly identified as vital to Bodii training principles. Bearing this in mind, it is perfectly reasonable to expect any assessment of Hamstrings flexibility/tightness to be conducted with complete regard for all aspects of the natural physiology and purpose of the spine, and its load distributing curves.
Strangely, in current flexibility assessment situations, even accounting for expanded bases of understanding, this is still not the case. An example is the traditional sit-and-reach test, a test where the subject to be assessed is required to sit on the floor with their legs together and locked at the knees. They are then expected to extend and hold their fingertips as near to or beyond their toes as they are able to manage. An action to be performed without the help of any upper body momentum or extrinsic assistance. No thought or instruction is given to basic postural function, nor of the necessity to also consider, include and maintain the spinal curves.
True to Bodii principles throughout these programs, all assessments of Hamstrings flexibility/tightness should have equal regard for inclusion of the vital spinal curves. Based on this key notion, Hamstrings flexibility should never be assessed in isolation, but inclusive of upper body flexion ranges, and with the following criteria in mind.
1. Degree of natural/instinctive knee bend, when the participant to be assessed is in deepest upper body flexion.
2. Capacity of participant to include and maintain an active lumbar curve through upper body flexion, as the degree of natural/instinctive knee bend is reduced.
3. Capacity of participant to also include and maintain noticeable shoulder/scapula retraction, again through upper body flexion, and again as natural/instinctive knee bend is reduced.
4. When initiating upper body flexion, due to the lack of consistent efforts to stabilise hips and pelvis, there is an observed tendency under this flexion pressure among the majority of individuals to rotate laterally (external) at the hips. The reasons for this are twofold.
i) Because of its controlling influence, and its involvement in externally rotating the hips (Program I), Gluteus maximus tends to dominate in its hip rotation role.
ii) Resulting from the dominant Gluteus maximus, the intrusion of the upper body into the anterior space between the hips/pelvis, causes the legs to open and for hips to rotate externally. Biomechanically, this is the best means to accommodate this inevitably necessary physical compensation.
It is therefore imperative, in these assessments, to also determine the individual’s capacity to maintain strictly aligned adductors. A consideration that must encompass the degree of pronation and/or supination in each foot.
These criteria remain true and constant in all situations, and in all postures and positions. It is not the individual’s capacity to reach to or beyond their toes that commands foremost attention, rather it is the ability to retain the integrity of the spinal curves in their continuing context to recognised stabilising peripheral functions.
Strategy to relieve Hamstrings flexibility/tightness issues.
The strategy to relieve Hamstrings weakness/tightness arises from the above criteria. Its starting point is found in Program I, and has gradually evolved as the Bodii programs have developed. The principles of Bodii training are in accord with accepted practice, in that flexibility is a complementary, yet fundamental element to desired strength, fitness and mobility adaptations. However, this is only constant when due regard is given to safe and stable mobilisation of the body’s principal structures. Bodii strength, fitness and flexibility/mobility concepts have been built around this philosophy.
Flexibility/mobility, and continuing strength/stability adaptations around Hamstrings are best achieved through the increasingly incidental and simultaneous combination of the four vital inclusions.
1. Core engagement (incidental/deliberate): as this is the pivotal centre through which loads are referred, and upon which adaptations depend. Therefore, if Hamstrings tightness are an on-going issue, try to first strengthen and mobilise the structures and attachments of the primary and secondary core.
2. Deliberate activation of the lumbar curve: as the aspects of this inclusion are accepted as fundamental to co-ordinated Hamstrings/lumbar health.
3. Shoulder/scapula retraction: as the holistic attention to the integrity and inclusion of the spinal curves is paramount to overall postural strength, and the functional distribution of loads.
4. Hips and pelvis stability: as produced by the direct inclusion of the peripheral core muscles, ensuring stronger peripheral activation of a more stable hips and pelvis complex.
Any strategy to relieve Hamstrings flexibility/tightness issues should foster all of the above ideals, by producing the following adaptations:
1. Significantly advanced incidental inclusion of the primary core muscles, for greater absorption of impact/contact/load.
2. Increased relative strength in Hamstrings, and all aspects of mobility in the active lumbar curve.
3. Greater contractile range, endurance and flexibility/mobility in the entire posterior chain, and consisting Achilles tendon, calf, hamstrings, gluteals and Lumbar, Thoracic and Cervical curves.
4. Advanced and comprehensive flexibility/mobility at the Quadriceps/hip flexors overlap, through enhanced capacities towards hip extension.
5. Improved stability and inclusive strength of hips and pelvis during adduction, flexion, abduction and extension.
As these are extremely complicated biomechanical and physiological processes, individuals wanting to implement these strategies should realise that only a complete understanding of the involved methodology and specialised alternative strength, fitness and flexibility/mobility techniques will achieve the required strength, range, endurance objectives.