Playing football requires proficiency across a broad spectrum of dynamic movements specific to football – including speed, endurance, agility and skills, just to name a few.
To achieve an optimal level of strength and skill as a football player, it is essential to combine these components with a sound and stable ‘core’.
What is core stability?
Core stability relates to the ability to tighten your trunk muscles and stabilise the body during dynamic movement. It is dependent on contraction of the muscles surrounding the abdomen, pelvis, lower back and the diaphragm. Think of core stability as establishing a central platform (trunk) around which your limbs can move dynamically and proficiently. Your spine plays an essential role in this and must be strong and stable to allow the transfer of force from muscle contractions to dynamic movements in sport.
In other words, if you have poor core stability, you will play with less control and your football skills and performance will be compromised.
Why is core stability important in football?
All powerful movements originate from the centre of the body, transferring forces outward, rather than relying on the limbs alone to produce force. When kicking a football for example, your trunk musculature must be strong enough to provide the stability required to generate a powerful action during this dynamic movement.
The anatomy of your core
The key muscles that make up your core are your deep trunk muscles, namely Transversus Abdominis (TA), Multifidus (MF), paraspinal muscles, pelvic floor muscles and the diaphragm.
Research indicates that co-contraction of these deep trunk muscles are not only crucial to stabilising the spine, but must occur prior to any movements of the limbs. These deep muscles therefore anticipate the forces that may act on the lumbar spine, and contract to stabilise the area. The timing of this muscle recruitment is an essential component of core stability.
How to train to improve your core strength and efficiency for football
The deep trunk muscles must act as stabilisers for the duration of the football game, during training and throughout everyday activities. As they are endurance muscles involved in static contractions, they respond best to low intensity training over longer timeframes. Contraction of these muscles should produce a sensation of tightening, rather than a ‘burn’, aiming for an intensity of approximately 20 percent an holding the contraction for as long as you can maintain correct form.
Core strength training may involve clinical or mat Pilates and functional training. This training involves exercises specific to everyday activities and actions involving the use of the Swiss ball, cable machines and medicine balls in combination with free weights. Balance equipment such as the Bosu and wobble board may also be effective in developing good core strength.
So, if you want to maximise your gains on the ground and in the gym, invest time in your ‘core’.