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The training effect of '' core muscles '' to improve athletic performance.
Experts agree that the ''core'' muscles play an important role not only in the sports movement and activities of daily living.
It is highly recognized by strength and conditioning coaches in general that a well-developed musculature of the ''core'' is vital to enhance athletic performance.
But what is the '' core '' ?
It called at times ''power band'' or even '' the house of power''.
It consists of the muscles that surround the center of gravity of the human body and includes the abdominals (rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, internal andexternal obliques), hip (psoas, rectus femoris, sartorius, tensor facia latae, pectinius, gluteus maximus, medius and minimus; semitendinosus; semimembranosus; biceps femorus; adductor brevis, longus, and magnus; gemellus superior and inferior; obturator internus and externus; quadratus
femoris; piriformis) and back (erector spinae; quadratus lumborum; paraspinals; trapezius; psoas major; multifidus; iliocostalis lumborum and thoracis; rotatores; latissimus dorsi and serratus anterior).
These muscles are responsible for the support of postures, creating movements, actions coordination of muscle tissue, allowing the stability of the body to absorb forces, power generation, and transmission power.
A strong and stable '' core '' provides a strong link to transfer forces from the ground through the lower body and turns through the upper body and limbs. This transfer forces necessary for the athlete's ability to run, to change direction, to jump, throwing, swing or hit. This means that regardless of the movement activity the center of the body is responsible for the process and the result. Whether to swing a golf club, throwing a ball, diving in a swimming pool; even the transport of furniture, the core muscles act eccentric, concentric and isometric yet to successfully execute the movements.
The benefits of a ''strong core muscle system'' are:
-Increased development power-
The strength is the dominant component of many sports, where the power and speed combination plays an important role in the performance of an athlete. A strong and stable core allows the force to be generated and transferred through the kinetic chain.
Most major muscles of the upper and lower body are in contact with the pelvis and the spine wherein the reinforcement helps create a stable platform that allows more powerful and effective limb movements.
A strong ''core''helps the spine and pelvis to maintain stability and their balance when the muscles of the shoulders, arms and legs is active.
-Reduce risk of injury-
Experts believe that the weak '' core '' can lead to overloading of extremities, body points that can cause damage to some cases. Increasing the athlete's ability to produce the absorbing forces while stability and balance leads to reduce the risk of injuries.
Also the role of the '' core muscles '' is to stabilize the protection of the spine from damaging effects forces. Injuries of the spine can occur when the athlete has insufficient bearing capacity to stabilize the spine using wrong the muscles.
Contraction of the abdominal muscles and muscles of the ''core'' without causing movement of the abdominal wall involve torso muscles and increase the stability and balance.
To conclude the training of the muscles of the ''core'' cannot be overlooked because of the benefits the athlete has of this and should be incorporated these exercises in the training program. But they should not replace other strength training programs, particularly those which focus on increasing the rate of force development.
1. Brumitt J. (2004). Th e missing component of core training: Endurance.NSCA’s Performance Training Journal,3(6):16 – 18.
2. McGill SM. (2002). Low back disorders:Evidence-based prevention and rehabilitation. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
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4. Anderson, KG, and DG Behm.(2004). Maintenance of EMG activity and loss of force output with instability.Journal of Strength and Conditioning. Research, 18(3):637 – 640.
5. Behm, DG, (1995). Neuromuscular implications and applications of resistance training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 9:264 – 274.
6. Behm, DG, AM Leonard, WB Young, W Andrew C Bosney, and SN Mackinnon. (2005). Trunk muscle electromyographic activity with unstable and unilateral exercises. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 19(1):193 – 201.
7. Cosio-Lima, LM, KL Reynolds, C Winter, V Paolone, and MT Jones. (2003). Eff ects of physioball and conventional fl oor exercises on early phase adaptations in back and abdominal core stability and balance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 17(4):721 – 725.
8. Rutherford, OM, and DA Jones. (1986). The role of learning and coordination in strength training. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 55:100 – 105.
9. Bosco C, Komi PV. (1979). Potentiation of the mechanical behaviour of the human skeletal muscle through pre-stretching. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 106(4): 467 – 572.
10. Cavagna GA. (1977). Storage and utilization of elastic energy in skeletal muscle. Exercise and Sports Sciences Review, 5: 89 – 129.
In professional soccer, it is not always possible to isolate strength and endurance training on separate days. Competition schedule, limited training time devoted to physical fitness, as well as other contextual variables nesecicitates the concurrent arrangement of strength and endurance sessions within the same training unit or within different training units performed in close proximity (within the same day). Typically, current approach dictates the execution of strength exercises before endurance exercises when strength and endurance are trained within the same session or strength workouts the day before endurance workouts.
Some studies have tried to investigate the effect of sequencing strength and endurance in soccer players specifically. For example McGawlay and Andersson pair-matched eighteen semi- and fully-professional players that completed 3 sessions per week of high intensity aerobic training followed by strength/power training (n=9) or strength/power training followed by high intensity aerobic training (n=9) for a pre-season period of five weeks (1). In this study the football exercises and strength/power exercises each lasted for 30 minutes and they were performed within the same session at 19:00. In another study, a strength training session was followed by soccer-specific endurance training or the same soccer-specific endurance training was performed in the morning followed by strength training in the early afternoon (2). In the first scenario both sessions were completed with a 3-4 morning period (08:45 and 10:30 respectively), whilst in the second scenario the players performed the endurance session at 10:30 and the strength session at 14:00. In this way, players that completed the strength exercises first had a 30-45 minute recovery period before the endurance exercises, whilst players that completed the endurance exercise first had 120 minutes of recovery before the strength session (2). Another study using a large sample of players compared performing strength before endurance in a single training session, endurance before strength in a single training session and strength and endurance training on alternate days (3). From the above studies, there were evidence to suggest that performing endurance before strength may be a little more beneficial for performance variables (2).
Although not specifically designed to test this hypothesis our recent study within a professional soccer club was conducted by performing the endurance session prior to strength session within the same day (4). These two sessions were conducted ninety-six hours prior to the next game and involved a morning session of medium/high volume endurance training (20-40 minutes) and an afternoon session of medium/high volume of strength training (30-40 minutes). The endurance training was always performed in the form of small-sided games. The goal of these sessions was accumulation of time in the high intensity aerobic zone (e.g., no stoppages by the coaching staff). Strength training utilized free weights and was based on a combination of multi-joint strength and power exercises. Sessions included 4-6 exercises such as primary and assistant strength and assistant power exercises. The repetition range for assistant power exercises was fairly low (3-5), whilst core and assistant strength exercises had a somewhat more variable repetition range (4-8). There was a ~4 hour difference between endurance and strength sessions.
From a practical stand point of view endurance training preceded strength training due to the fact that the morning session also included technical/tactical training and performing strength exercises would have affected the subsequent execution of the technical drills. On the contrary, endurance training could easily be executed following the technical/tactical part of the morning session.
Recent evidence in the area of molecular biology tends to support the completion of strength after endurance (5). Based on the activity of enzymes AMPK (marker of endurance training adaptations) and mTORC1 (marker of strength training adaptations), if endurance is performed first and strength latter on the day, the AMPK produced during the endurance activity will switch off as soon as recovery occurs and will not interfere with the strength training session. In addition the mTORC1 that will be produced by the evening strength session will remain elevated for the remaining of the day, only to be switched off by the production of AMPK during the endurance session the next morning.
In accordance with above evidence our study demonstrated small by practical improvements in velocity at 4mM (V4) and CMJ for both starters and non-starters from September to January (4). Therefore both practical reasons as well as meaningful performance enhancement may suggest performing strength session after the endurance session (following at least 3 hours of recovery) in professional soccer.
- McGawley K, Andersson PI. The order of concurrent training does not affect soccer-related performance adaptations. Int J Sports Med, 2013; 34:983-990.
- Enright K, Morton J, Iga J, Drust B. The effect of concurrent training organisation in youth elite soccer players. Eur J Appl Physiol, 2015; 115:2367-2381.
- Makhlouf I, Castagna C, Manzi V, Laurencelle L, Behm DG, Chaouachi A. Effect of Sequencing Strength and Endurance Training in Young Male Soccer Players. J Strength Cond Res, 2016; 30:841-850.
- Papadakis L, Patras K, Geogoulis AD. In-season concurrent aerobic endurance and CMJ improvements are feasible for both starters and non-starters in professional soccer players: A case study. J Aust Strength Cond, 2015; 23:19-30.
- Baar K. Using molecular biology to maximize concurrent training. Sports Med, 2014; 44:S117-S125.
In order to achieve major improvements on performance, the athlete must be most of the time on his limits. Being to “fresh”, means that the athlete is not working hard enough. Feeling too tired, means that the body will not allow further exercise without adequate recovery.
Exercise regimes are designed in cycles in order to increase stress and then to give time for the body to develop the essential adaptations during rest period. However, this process is far more complicated that it sounds and involves neuromuscular pathways, physiological changes, psychological adjustments and hormonal imbalances. In order to achieve the perfect balance, which will give you the idea when to push, and when to give some rest someone needs to take in account all these parameters, if not weekly at least monthly.
The balance between overtraining and performance improvement lies between a fine line. The role of an exercise physiologist (or sports medicine professional) is not only to provide numbers but to identify with every cost this fine line and advice the rest of the technical and medical team with practical solutions.
This is the way to achieve the “supercompensation” which is a process that we need to maintain for several training cycles in order to secure that the final point on the graph of performance, would be significantly higher from the starting point initially.
This process involves:
sports specific questionnaires,
reaction tests, physiology tests,
urine and blood markers analysis,
and daily monitoring of the football players by the technical staff of the team.
Young athletes should understand the importance of the below in order to be able to identify when, what and how much they should consume to maximize their athletic performance.General dietary rule to increase the athletic performance:
"Healthy balanced-diet + proper meal planning + adequate hydration”.
Priority should be given to:
1. Coverage increased energy needs (consume food every 2-3 hours).
2. Proper selection of healthy carbohydrate snacks before, during and after training/match.
3. Adequate hydration.
Meal planning on training days:
Breakfast, the most important meal of the day:
- Provisioning energy and nutrients in the body and activating metabolism (breaking the overnight fast and starting brain's and body's function).
- Increase the athletic performance (adequate energy for high trainings' requirements).
- Maintaining healthy body weight (skip breakfast -> overeating throughout the day).
Examples of healthy breakfast:
- Low-fat milk/yogurt + whole grains cereals + honey/fruit
- Whole wheat bread + peanut butter + honey/sugar-free jam + low-fat milk
- Whole wheat toast (low-fat cheese, turkey, vegetables) + fresh juice/fruit
- Whole wheat bread + honey/sugar-free jam without sugar + boiled egg + few unsalted nuts
Snack at school:
- Reduction of hunger between breakfast and lunch and maintaining healthy body weight (skipping snacks -> overeating afterwards).
- Provisioning energy and nutrients in the body (as well as breakfast).
- Preparing from home (healthier and more nutritious options than in the school's canteen).
Examples of healthy school snacks:
- Fruit + few unsalted nuts
- Whole wheat toast (low-fat cheese, turkey, vegetables) + fresh juice/fruit
- Coarsely chopped raw vegetables + whole wheat rusks/bread
- Healthy homemade cake (without sugar and butter)
Lunch (3-4 hours before the training):
- High in carbohydrates (increase muscles' and liver's glycogen stores), moderate in protein and low in fat and simple sugars (easily digestible to avoid gastrointestinal problems).
Examples of lunch meals:
- Whole wheat pasta/Noodles + minced chicken with fresh tomato + salad
- Fish + brown rice/potato + salad/grilled vegetables
- Omelette + brown rice/whole wheat bread + salad/grilled vegetables
- Chicken fillet + sweet potato/orzo + salad/grilled vegetables
1st afternoon snack (1-2 hours before the training if there is adequate time):
- High carbohydrate snack (energy) with minimal protein, fat and fiber (easily digestible to avoid gastrointestinal problems).
Examples of afternoon snacks:
- Fruit/fresh juice + few unsalted nuts
- Low fat yogurt + fruit/honey
- White bread + peanut butter + honey/sugar-free jam
2nd afternoon snack (5-10 minutes before the training):
- Small snack with simple carbohydrates (immediately digestible for energy).
Examples of small snack (in order of priority):
- Fruit/juice without fibers
- Cereal bar with low calories (<100kcals)
- Carbohydrate gel
During the training:
- Small snack with simple carbohydrates when training lasts >60 minutes (immediately assimilable to maintain energy during training).
Examples of small snack (in order of priority):
- Fruit/Diluted fruit juice
- Isotonic drink with carbohydrates and electrolytes
- Carbohydrate gel
Snack immediately after training (5-60 minutes):
- Small snack with simple carbohydrates - protein (immediate recovery of muscles & muscle glycogen).
Examples of small snack immediately after training (in order of priority):
- Low fat yogurt/milk + fruit/honey
- Whole wheat rusks/rice cakes + honey + low-fat milk
Shake/bar with protein and carbohydrates
Dinner (1-3 hours after training):
- Complete meal with all food groups (muscle glycogen replenishment and as well as the lost nutrients - necessary for the development of a young athlete).
- Similar composition as lunch (high in carbohydrates and moderate in protein-fat).
Examples of healthy dinner:
- Options of lunch
- Healthy homemade pizza in the oven (tomato sauce + low-fat cheese + turkey/chicken + vegetables)
- Whole wheat fajitas pita + chicken/tuna + avocado sauce with low-fat yogurt + vegetables
- Lean pork/beef steak + brown rice/sweet potato + low-fat yogurt + salad
- Oven meatballs with minced pork/chicken + bulgur + low-fat yogurt + salad
Salad with eggs/chicken/tuna + potato/whole wheat penne pasta + avocado + vegetables + olive oil
Adequate hydration and proper planning on training days:
Fluids intake is very important for an athlete as his performance can be affected by what, how much and when he drinks.
Water: Necessary nutrient for athletes (maintaining body temperature & avoiding dehydration).
Proper hydration: Daily fluids requirements (depending on age, body weight and environmental temperature) and adequate fluids intake before, during and after training.
- Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for children 9-13 years: boys 2.4L/day, girls 2.1L/d.
- RDI for children 14-18 years: boys 3.3L/d, girls 2.3L/d.
Before, during and after each training, all athletes should consume the proper amount of fluids:
PROPER AMOUNT OF FLUIDS ON TRAINING DAYS
Every 15-20 minutes
Immediately after or
as soon as possible
450-675ml for every 0.5kg of body weight loss
Water, isotonic drink with carbohydrates-electrolytes*
Water, low-fat milk,
fruit/vegetable juice, smoothies
* Isotonic drink: Not every day - only during training sessions last for 1 hour or longer.
Easy and simple way to detect dehydration: Urine color control - the lighter color, the more hydrated is someone, the darker, the more dehydrated.
The target should be the color of the numbers 1, 2 or 3.
The color of the numbers 4 and 5 indicates dehydration.
The color of the numbers 6, 7 and 8 indicates severe dehydration.
Many practitioners refer to fit training exercises with coordination skills. Most people may think of pictures of soccer players going through an "agility ladder" or rings and cones.
But what do we really train?
Ηow could we really help our athletes to increase their overall abilities by directly focusing on the specialization of motor patterns that the athlete will be called to do in the game?
How could we develop brain signals with a better motor result?
Motor skills are refered into 2 categories which interact:
(According to many sports scientists, flexibility is included as one of the main physical abilities)
1. Ability to kinesthetic differentiation
adaptation of motion in space and time based on kinesthetic information
2. Ability to balance
maintaining body position and recovery in case of loss (static / dynamic)
3. Ability to orient in space
determining the position and movement of the body in time and space related to a predetermined field of action
4. Rhythmic ability
tone management during a movement (tempo / frequency)
5. Complex reaction ability
rapid motor response to external stimuli (visual / auditory)
Analyze the above parameters in detail in your exercises and understand exactly what your athlete is called to perform.
DID READING ALL OF THE ABOVE MAKE YOU THINK THAT YOU ARE PERFORMING SOME OTHER TYPE THAT IS FINALLY INCLUDED IN THE RANGE OF COORDINATION SKILLS?
In field training , with coordination skills, we include some if not all the above parameters by "copying" the motor patterns performed by the athletes during the competition. In many cases we can even simulate the energy systems of the game through our exercises.So if we have tennis athletes, the training of coordination skills is quite different from the training of football players.
The main goal of practitioners and sport scientists is to determine the dominant role of coordination skills in different sports.
These in turn play an important role in the overall improvement of the footballer's performance with the accuracy and economy of movements in constantly changing conditions. The ability to differentiate kinetic variables with the accuracy of the assessment where the position of the body changes in time and space. The speed and accuracy of movements with the expected and unexpected changes of stimuli, (with the whole body or parts including the speed of reaction to the stimulus).
So imagine a soccer player during a match where he has to analyze team placement data, opponents placement and ball position depending his own body. At that moment he will be called upon to respond to an off-balance stimulus by changing direction, quickly activating torso and limb motor units, to achieve a full-precision football movement at the execution speed required by the occasion. The success of the outcome will create the performance improvement profile we aim at by training the partial parameters.
Soccer training by its very nature contains a series of stimuli of coordinative skills and practitioners should choose carefully
a) When coordination training stimuli will be included
b) What parameters will be used each time
c) How much load will they receive
So we do coordination skills training?
The main guideline should be the overall improvement of their football performance by calculating the load they receive from the total football training with SSG's, Tactics, Technical based training exercises, etc. The isolated and not planned approach creating random overloading conditions in specific capabilities can in the long run yield in addition to a plateau of improvement, even drive us to opposite results.
My article was triggered by a post by the Barca Innovation Hub about increasing the overall sprint distance in a game by 35% over the last decade.
This increase, in addition to the constantly changing demands of the sport, also changes the needs of the players' physical abilities. These needs create different profiles of high level players as well as changes in the coaching process to enhance the acquisition of such skills.
The high speed run activities account for 6-12% of the total distance covered (9, 30) and sprints may reach values of up to 350 meters (2, 13). Additionally, there are positional specific amount of sprints (1, 7) and durations (7), with wide midfielders and attackers performing the highest amount of sprints in total
The sprint in the global literature refers to the speed > 25km/h that the football player will catch. This speed will be able to be recorded by the GPS after the acceleration phase where the player will have covered a few meters (depending on whether he is in motion or at a standstill status). The total number of meters with speed > 25km/h will be added through the monitoring system and will be considered as the total sprint distance in the match. The variation varies depending on the position of each player but also has a range of value + - even in the same comparison positions and even the same player.
The overall increase in strenuous metabolic effort in a sprint has an impact on the player's physiology. In a match, the players are called upon to perform continuous short explosions with indefinite breaks between them. So it makes sense during a game and while it is coming to an end that muscle fatigue occurs (factors that affect speed in terms of its quantitative characteristics) where it is due to 3 main reasons:
- Reduction of ATP-PC stores.
- Increase of toxic metabolic by-products.
- Excitation-contraction muscle coupling disorder.
However, in addition to a quantitative reduction (total distance covered) it can make its appearance exponentially, reduce of the quality characteristics of a single effort (reduced maximum speed in a single sprint).
Factors that affect the speed in terms of its quality characteristics:
1. Muscular composition and architecture
5. Length & Frequency of stepping
Some of the above parameters contain main genetically predetermined characteristics and less training intervention (1, 2), while others are susceptible to strong interventions (3, 4, 5) through the training process.
The training in football with the aim of improving physical characteristics has now been differentiated, with the main aim of achieving explosive maximum efforts for the largest possible total volume but also with the highest quality possible characteristics in a single effort that can be decisive in the outcome.
The coaching staffs are now called upon to find the balance between the parameters of training loads in order to achieve maximum athletic performance in the match.
To benefit from training that focuses on increasing sprints per game, players will need to build a base to place the "top of the pyramid". Adequate endurance capacity can increase total sprints per game. This also reduces fatigue levels, increases the rate of lactate removal, improves VO2 kinetics in sprints as well as improves PC uptake between sprints.
But if the players meet the standards of tolerance and improvement through coaching fees, the next step is needed. Application of training stimuli that will highlight the dominant feature of high quality execution and the ability to achieve a high number of total sprints per match.
A peak that can be covered with "repeated explosive actions" training contents or the so-called Repeated Explosive Activity training process (Papadakis MSc). Football draws knowledge and practices from the specialized sports community but oriented to its needs. This pushed me to find new innovative coaching stimuli.
The placement of the corresponding stimuli depending on the execution period is crucial. Choose sports-specific workouts (with small, medium large sided games or sub-group and individual workouts) and work: rest ratios, creating an environment in which the player will be fully trained to achieve high athletic performance goals with high quantity but also quality reports.
After all, football is a sport of continuous explosive actions for a prolonged time (90 'or 120') and not a sport of continuous tempo endurance needs.
The daily life of all of us has entered a new trajectory due to the problems created by the pandemic phenomenon of the virus, covid-19 and of course football has been affected. New safety protocols from the scientific community force footballers infected with the virus, to enter a form of quarantine for a respectable period of usually about 2 weeks. During this period, the footballer experiences the phenomenon of de-training since he is not allowed to participate in sports activities with the team.
But what happens to the athlete's body when the exercise suddenly stops?
There are definitely many physiology structure changes in the body. The cardiovascular (aerobic) gains beginning to be lost - mainly the heart's stroke volume decreases, the muscles' ability to process oxygen, and the body's ability to use carbohydrates for fuel. The training improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels are starting to disappear. And when strength training is stopped, the benefits gained in muscle fiber size and other neuromuscular adjustments are slowly lost.
Even two weeks of abstinence can lead to a significant reduction in fitness. In general, however, the loss of aerobic capacity occurs faster than the decrease in muscle strength.
Athletes who have trained intensively for a long time experience more slow and gradual reductions when they stop exercising compared to low-level athletes.
After the de-training period, how long will it take to regain the previous level of fitness and how?
As the Liverpool FC international player Konstantinos Tsimikas confessed to us, who recently went through the coronavirus adventure, in the first week of his inclusion, he abstained from any activity and in the second week he followed an aerobic individual program with mobility and core exercises. When he returned, after a quarantine of 14 days, he continued with an individual football based program and very soon he rejoined the team training , without finding any other particular problem in his physical condition.
We point out, of course, that the time and degree of restoration and recovery depends on various factors, the training history and genetic characteristics of each player.
S11.gr recorded some general instructions that can lead to faster and safer reintegration in football training with the team. The following suggestions of course can be executed only after consultation with the personal doctor of the footballer and if he had mild or no symptoms. Thus his body can accept the partial stress that will be caused by the individual workouts that will follow.
1. Mobility exercises 5'-10'. (The training creates a profile of "stiffness" in muscles and joints resulting in reduced flexibility and mobility)
2. Training of aerobic capacity on a treadmill or stationary bike 65-85% M.H.R. 20'-40 '. (Aerobic capacity is affected from the very first days where VO2max is gradually reduced). Stimuli can gradually increase in intensity depending on the athlete's condition.
3.Circuit strength endurance body weighted program for the whole body with a work-rest ratio of 40'' : 20 '' of 10'-20 '. (stabilization of energy flow in the muscles and minimization of reduction of muscle nerve capacity)
4. Static stretching for main muscle groups 5'. (muscle elasticity decreases during the inclusion period)
After the negative tests and when the player returns to the team, it will be good to follow an individual program with a sufficient volume of specialized football movements (ball driving, all first touches, passes, turnovers, etc.).
In terms of his physical abilities is now able to follow an intense interval training program, gradually from 80% to 120% of vVO2max thus increasing the duration of activation of aerobic and anaerobic mechanism. Also to introduce a small volume of accelerations, decelerations, jumps and changes of directions, preparing the muscular- tendon system and joints.
His gradual integration into team training with participation in appropriate contents of the team, is the key to a safe and smooth continuation of the following season, something that must be decided together by the coaching and medical staff of the team. After all, all parties must adapt to the new data of our days.