Importance of ‘The Core’!

core-strengthI am not sure what you guys out there think with regards to core and strength training but I know quite a lot of people traditionally have considered it something that you incorporate into winter training schedules, in preparation for something different and more race related in the summer. 

I want to offer a few view points on this: 

Scientists at the Neuromuscular research laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh wanted to determine the importance of core strength among a group of fifteen elite competitive cyclists. They were tested on torque after participating in a ”core fatigue workout” that pre-exhausts core musculature prior to cycling. The subjects then rode their bikes on trainers at 25.8 kilometers per hour with a one percent increase in elevation until fatigue. The study results indicated that “a core fatigue workout altered the mechanics of the lower extremity,” increasing the chance of injury, indicating that core strength is a key training component for cyclists. 

This study would clearly suggest that core and strength training benefits the athlete and helps to prevent injury. 


Subjects were tested on two strength variables (1RM bench press, and 1RM squat), three performance variables (counter movement vertical jump, 40 yard sprint, and a 10 yard shuttle run), and core strength (back extension, trunk flexion, and left and right bridge). No significant correlations were identified between core strength and strength and power. The results of this study suggest core strength is not related to strength and power. Core strength does not contribute significantly to strength and power and should not be the focus of any strength and conditioning program with the intent to improve sport performance.

Here is the cited article 

They appear to contract each other, was my first thought, till I looked at it more closely. It is unclear what type of exercises the cyclists were given, but the footballers were not given any type of strength work that correlates with football skills. Therefore I would challenge the statement that core strength does not contribute, and question the methods under which it was set up and tested. 

I know a female footballer who, quite a while ago, asked me if they could come to the gym and see what I do. They said that as part of their training strength does not really come into it. 

It depends what you are trying to achieve. 

hoy leg pressChris Hoy, famous for his sheer speed, does leg presses like this. I bet Alistair Brownlee doesn’t! I have tried it a couple of different ways. Whereas heavy heavy weights keeps you strong and lean, too much and you become too bulky and it begins to contradict what you are trying to achieve. 

Can weights help you with sporting performance? Yes. More muscle means a more efficient metabolism means leaner athlete means faster athlete. More muscle trained specifically to the sport you are aiming at can mean more speed which means faster athlete. Clearly that makes you a better athlete. 

Strength training specific to your sport will make you a better athlete. Lets look at it in literal terms. If I strengthen the hip flexors, quads and hams, that makes me able to propulse more effectively off the ground, which in turn will help me to run faster. If I continue to eat junk though, that will counterbalance the effect! 

What does Mel do? 

I swear by strength training. It changes depending on the time of year, for sure. I can train harder and stronger in the winter, because I do not have to prepare for races, but equally I still need to strength train in the summer, to help me stay strong, lean and fast, for races. 

Will I get big muscles? 

NO! Ok, I have swimmers shoulder and cyclist thighs, but I certainly do not look like a body builder, which when I started, was my biggest worry! I like to think of it as an athletic physique, which is way better than a muffin top and bingo wings! 

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