Reactive Core Training Exercises

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In this “Throwback Thursday” segment, I wanted to bring back a few exercises that I think can be extremely effective in challenging core stabilization patterns in athletes as well as a lot of fun. The exercises are what I describe (all the way back in 2008!) as reactive core training exercises. We continue to apply this concept in a variety of ways in our current programs, including with partner perturbations and active arm or leg movements both with and without external resistance. We’ve also used stability balls (or physioballs) in place of medicine balls and have used tall kneeling and half-kneeling positions for the belly press (e.g. Pallof Press) and overhead stabilization patterns shown below.

One more reason why I like these posts (I combined 4 short posts below), is that it mentions the fact that a side plank, in additional to being a lateral core stabilization pattern, is also a great shoulder stabilization exercise. The key here is to not just “sit” in that shoulder, but to actively push yourself away from the ground. When you do this, the muscles around your scapula (shoulder blade) and shoulder engage to help support the position. Since this video was filmed, we’ve also transitioned to having all of our athletes go palm(s) down on front and side plank variations, and typically use a slower perturbation rate than what is displayed here. Enjoy the videos and feel free to post any questions/comments you have below!

Reactive Core Training

Core training receives more publicity than any other aspect of training.  The fact is, even people with a great understanding of how to train the core for its true functions, stability and force transfer, still miss out on one thing.  In many instances, the core functions reactively.  In other words, some movement (sensory input) causes the core muscles to fire (motor output) to produce stability.  While I love planking, those exercises are limited in their ability to train the core to be reactive.

Adding a partner perturbation turns this basic core stabilization exercise into a reactive core (and shoulder!) stabilization exercise.  It also ties in a team dynamic, as your athletes learn to work in pairs or small groups.  The goal is the same as the regular side plank: maintain a neutral position.  The only thing that’s changed is the sensory input.

Are you noticing a theme here?  These are all the same exercises I’ve shown you before, but with a more advanced external sensory stimulus added.  The greater the challenge to stability, the more carryover to athletics.  I love these exercises for a couple reasons, but mostly because they are so simple to progress.

  1. Start with the Pallof Press Hold (holding in the extended position).
  2. Progress to Pallof Press for reps (extend your arms, then bring them back to your chest, then extend, etc.)
  3. Progress to Pallof Press Hold with perturbation
  4. Progress to Pallof Press with perturbation

Another one of my favorite reactive core training exercises is the overhead medicine ball perturbation.  Same concept as previous exercises: maintain a stiff, stable core in the presence of an external force or perturbation.  Holding the med ball overhead maximizes instability as it raises your center of mass (higher COM=greater instability).  Check it out:

To maximize the functional carryover, you can combine a couple different core med ball exercises.  For instance, you could pair an overhead floor throw with the overhead med ball perturbation.  Check out the overhead med ball floor throw:

It would work like this.  You would explosively slam the ball into the ground 3 times.  After the third time, you’d freeze in the start position, with your arms extended overhead, squeezing the ball hard with both hands.  At this point, a partner would provide small perturbations to the ball, and you would try to prevent all movement.  This would continue for 5-10 seconds, then you’d perform 3 more slams, 5-10 more seconds of perturbations, 3 more slams, and 5-10 seconds of perturbations.  That would be the end of one set.

See how it works?  You just combine an explosive upper body/core power exercise with a reactive core stabilization exercise.  Now you’re alternating being explosive and stable.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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