by Deb Russell
- published in the July 2011 TaeKwonDo Times Magazine
You often hear of the importance of developing core strength for martial arts and how having a strong core results in better agility, speed, reflexes, the ability to jump higher and even helping you to get back on your feet quickly should you go to the ground.
The "core" is the torso, extending from the shoulders to the pelvis. It is the body's center of power. When we refer to core strength, it is the intrinsic muscles that lie deep within the torso. These muscles attach to the spine and pelvis and include the transversus abdominis, and the muscles of the pelvic floor in the lower portion of the torso and the latissimus dorsi and obliques in the middle and upper torso. Many experts also include the muscles that surround the scapula as key core muscles. This area is sometimes called "the powerhouse" because movement power and stability originate here. In addition to being the source of powerful, centered movement, the core muscles also provide a strong base of stability. The muscles of the core hold the body stable and balanced, whether it is stationary or in dynamic motion.
Regardless of the style of martial art, core training should be the center of your martial art skill training. If you want to strike harder, move faster and even break boards or concrete, then you must focus on building core strength.
When you punch, you don’t just move your arm but transfer the energy from the ground, up into your torso and use your core muscles to rotate your shoulder, arm and then your fist to your target. You then contract the muscles at the last moment to generate power and then use those core muscles once again to bring your arm back while maintaining a strong center-line. Your core also kicks in when you’re kicking! It supports the leg, back and hips to chamber, execute the kick and then to bring the leg back. More power can be carried through the body when you focus on proper core and stabilizer muscle training.
So obviously a strong core is advantageous for movement, but it is also important for resisting movement. Maintaining a strong base is very important in order to avoid take downs and sweeps and to maintain your balance while sparring.
But did you know that training the muscles of the core will help prevent injuries as well? If all movement, even of the extremities, begins in the core, then consequently, muscle imbalances in the core will lead to problems in the extremities. To ensure a strong and centered movement pattern, the core muscles must stabilize before the extremities mobilize. Truly, the core is where it all happens!
Core stability training emphasizes muscle activation or stabilization of the entire body, working together as a unit. By developing strength in all planes of movement, the risk of injury will decrease.
I've incorporated the use of the TRX into my martial art training. It's helping me to achieve the muscle balance, joint stability, mobility & strength which I need for doing Tae Kwon Do in order to improve my technique while preventing injury.
TheTRX suspension trainer is a special set of straps and handles with a single-point attachment. Incorporating the TRX into your training provides and ideal mix of support and mobility to train strength endurance, balance, coordination, flexibility, power and core stability all at once. The idea behind suspension training is to allow every exercise to become a full body exercise. Your body is effectively suspended at some stage or another thus challenging your nervous system and recruiting more of your stabilizer muscles.
When used in flexibility and mobility training, the TRX allows your body to move in and out of a stretch allowing gravity to be used as your spotter; to increase the end range of motion.
The TRX Suspension bodyweight exercise is a unique and valuable training method for martial artists regardless of fitness level or performance training goals.