CORE STABILITY TRAINING: APPLICATIONS TO SPORTS CONDITIONING PROGRAMS
In recent years, fitness practitioners have increasingly recommended core stability exercises in sports conditioning programs. Greater core stability may benefit sports performance by providing a foundation for greater force production in the upper and lower extremities. Traditional resistance exercises have been modified to emphasize core stability. Such modifications have included performing exercises on unstable rather than stable surfaces, performing exercises while standing rather than seated, performing exercises with free weights rather than machines, and performing exercises unilaterally rather than bilaterally. Despite the popularity of core stability training, relatively little scientific research has been conducted to demonstrate the benefits for healthy athletes. Therefore, the purpose of this review was to critically examine core stability training and other issues related to this topic to determine useful applications for sports conditioning programs. Based on the current literature, prescription of core stability exercises should vary based on the phase of training and the health status of the athlete. During preseason and in-season mesocycles, free weight exercises performed while standing on a stable surface are recommended for increases in core strength and power. Free weight exercises performed in this manner are specific to the core stability requirements of sports-related skills due to moderate levels of instability and high levels of force production. Conversely, during postseason and off-season mesocycles, Swiss ball exercises involving isometric muscle actions, small loads, and long tension times are recommended for increases in core endurance. Furthermore, balance board and stability disc exercises, performed in conjunction with plyometric exercises, are recommended to improve proprioceptive and reactive capabilities, which may reduce the likelihood of lower extremity injuries.