Green River, Utah
October 31, 2020
From today's WSJ:
It’s hard not to marvel when you watch Chris Conley, a wide receiver on the Jacksonville Jaguars, extend his arms to make a tough catch and keep sprinting down the field. His secret? According to Cassie Ettel, the team’s associate athletic trainer, it’s a strong, stable core.
“The core plays a vital role in the body’s mechanics and athletic performance,” she says. “It’s the link between the upper and lower body and forms the foundational support for all movements of the limbs. Trying to generate power from a weak core is like trying to build a house on a foundation of sand.”
The core refers to more than just six-pack abs. It also includes the muscles along your spine, pelvis and sides of the torso. When your core is weak, you compensate by recruiting other muscles, which can lead to lower-back pain and injury. A stable core is just as important as a strong core, says Mrs. Ettel who is 25 and in her third season with the Jaguars.
“Injuries typically occur when range of motion and strength are not equal,” she says. “This can occur when a defensive lineman tries to make a tackle or when a normal person lifts a bag of groceries into their car.” A stable core also leads to an increase in balance, strength and power.
The first three exercises in this workout train core stability, while the latter three build core strength.
Why: This preseason exercise staple targets the entire core. It trains players to stabilize their core while simultaneously moving the arms and legs. This translates on the field when players need to extend opposing limbs as they reach to make a catch.
How: Lie on your back. Lift your legs with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Raise your arms up toward the ceiling with your wrists above your shoulders. You lower back should be flat against the floor. On an inhale, slowly extend your right arm down toward your head while lowering your left leg toward the floor. Keep your head resting on the ground and don’t let your lower back arch. As you exhale, return to the starting position. Switch sides. Perform 10 reps on each side.
Options: If this is challenging, start by raising and lowering just the arms or just the legs. For a variation, try raising and lowering the arm and leg on the same side.
Plank With Shoulder Taps
Why: “This exercise is ideal for people who have formed a foundation of core stability and are looking for a challenge,” Mrs. Ettel says. You work your abdominal muscles as well as your lower back. Holding plank position also helps build shoulder stability.
How: Start in a high push-up position (plank pose) with your hands underneath your shoulders, back flat and head in line with your spine. Bring your right hand off the ground and touch your left shoulder. Don’t let your hips dip to either side; try to keep them lifted and square. Return to start and tap your left hand to your right shoulder. Tap each shoulder 10 times.
Options: If this is difficult, start by tapping each hand. Step your feet wider apart for more stability or closer together to make the exercise more challenging.
Bird Dog Why: This ideal exercise for people with desk jobs helps open up the hip flexors and improve posture, both of which help reduce lower-back pain, Mrs. Ettel says. Similar to the dead bug, the arm and opposite leg move simultaneously while you work to stabilize your trunk. In addition to targeting the abdominal muscles, you’re also working the lower back and glutes. How: Start on your hands and knees with a flat back. Slowly extend your right arm straight out in front of you, in line with your head, and your left leg behind you in line with your hip. Try to maintain a flat back and level hips. Imagine someone pulling your extended arm and leg to find length in the body. Return to start and switch sides. Perform 10 reps per side. Options: Add two pulses of your arm and leg at the top or challenge your balance by raising the same arm and leg. In and Outs Why: A traditional plank pose builds strength. By adding a jump forward, you’re also building power while engaging the entire core. This is essentially the first part of a burpee. Once you master the technique, you can speed up the movement for a burst of cardio. How: Start in a plank position with your hands beneath your shoulders. Jump both feet in between your hands, keeping your gaze just beyond your nose and your head neutral, similar to a push-up. Take a breath and jump your feet back to plank position. Perform 15 reps, slowly increasing speed. Option: To work the oblique muscles, alternate jumping your feet forward and to the outside of your right hand, back to start, and then your left hand. Really tuck the knees in as you jump forward and twist to either side. Diagonal Crunch
Why: This exercise challenges your obliques. Located along the sides of your core, these muscles enable rotation and flexion of the trunk and stabilize the spine. Your obliques come into play if you’re a running back trying to break a tackle or anyone picking up and carrying just about anything with one hand, Mrs. Ettel says. How: Lie on your back with your arms overhead and your legs flat and slightly wider than hips width apart. Inhale, and in one motion, round your back as you rise up and reach both hands toward the outside of your left pinkie toe. Keep your core tight and try to keep your torso long. Your legs should stay firmly on the ground. Slowly lower down and repeat on the other side. Complete 10 reps per side. Option: Hold a medicine ball for an added challenge. Plank Drops
Why: “This exercise combines hip, pelvis and core stability,” Mrs. Ettel says. It also targets the obliques, which tend to be tight in people who sit for long periods. Weak or tight obliques can lead to hip and back pain. How: Start in a forearm plank pose, with your elbows directly beneath your shoulders. Slowly rotate your right hip to the floor while keeping your gaze straight ahead and your upper arms and shoulders stable. Return to center. Rotate your left hip to the floor. Perform five hip taps per side. Option: Hover your right foot off the ground as you dip your right hip to the floor, then hover your left foot as you rotate your left hip to the floor.