If you want to become a better athlete, you have to lift heavy weights and run drills. That statement is not necessarily true or false, but great athletes aren’t great because they lift weights and run drills. They are great because they have mastered their sport-specific movements in a way that few others can. Movement-based training emphasizes the mobility mechanics needed by athletes to attain their goals. Movement-based training focuses primarily on core stability, thoracic and hip mobility, and power development. Growing up, a lot of athletes have heard the phrase, “everything starts with the core,” and that’s true, but the core is much more than your traditional six-pack.
Core stability is the most crucial aspect of movement-based training. Your core, or trunk as it really should be referred to, houses all the essential organs of your body, except the head (Bengochea, 2020). We typically refer to the trunk from an anterior point of view (front) and posterior point of view (back).
The anterior trunk is comprised of the thoracic cage and abdominal wall. The abdominal wall is the group of muscles that most athletes think about when it comes to core training. I’ll cover the abdominal cage in a future post. The abdominal wall is made up of the rectus abdominis, pyramidalis, abdominal obliques, transverse abdominis, and quadratus lumborum.
Rectus abdominis: Acts as a flexor of the trunk and compresses the abdominal to protect it. The rectus abdominis is also known as the glorified ‘six-pack.’
Pyramidalis: Found in the lower abdomen and acts as a tensor to the lineal alba.
Abdominal obliques: The external and internal oblique muscles are involved with trunk flexion, ipsilateral rotation (rotation by the muscle on the same side), and compression of the abdominal viscera.
Transverse abdominis: The deepest of the core muscles on the anterior side focuses on the ipsilateral trunk rotation.
Quadratus lumborum (QL): Extends the trunk and flexes it laterally. The (QL) is located posteriorly (Das, 2009).
The trunk has many more muscles that have other functions, but the point I wanted to illustrate is that each muscle’s primary role has a purpose, and they must be strong to stabilize the trunk. Most soft tissue injuries occur because the trunk or lumbar spine becomes mobile and unstable during a movement when it should be stable. Hence, the essential aspect of movement-based training is core stabilization.
Thoracic and Hip Mobility
Thoracic and hip mobility is the next steps emphasized in mobility-based training. Your core’s primary function is not to rotate or flex your trunk. The prime movers for most of our athletic movements are located in our more mobile joints. Two of those being the thoracic spine (t-spine) and hip. I’ll start by focusing on the thoracic spine.
The t-spine has muscles attached to the vertebrae called spinalis and longissimus. The primary function of these muscles is to keep your posture straight and protect your spinal column (Kassel, What the). The t-spine is the most mobile part of your spine, and it’s designed for flexion, extension, and rotation.
The hip is a joint comprised of an articulation between the head of the femur and the acetabulum of the pelvis. The head and acetabulum are covered in the cartilage at the weight-bearing portions. The ligaments of the hip are referenced into two groups—intracapsular and extracapsular.
The intracapsular group only has one ligament attached to the head of the femur. It encloses a branch of the obturator artery (The Hip, 2020). The extracapsular has three ligaments on the outer surface of the hip joint capsule—iliofemoral, iliofemoral, and ischiofemoral. The iliofemoral prevents hyperextension of the joint. Pubofemoral prevents excessive abduction and extension. Ischiofemoral prevents hyperextension and holds the femoral head in the acetabulum.
As illustrated above, our bodies have joints that are designed to be stable and mobile. It works like a chain starting from the feet. The foot’s stable, the ankle is mobile, the knee is stable, the hip is mobile, and it continues this way up the body. A Lack of mobility at any of these mobile joints means that the lumbar spine, pelvis, shoulders, and surrounding muscles will compensate for the deficiency, which leads to injury. Stabilizing the core and mobilizing the t-spine and hip prevents injury and allows the body to move more efficiently.
Power Development is the last component of movement-based training. Power= force x velocity, which means power is improved by increasing force or speed (Cain, 2018). Power development is the part of athletic training that has been emphasized and displayed for decades. It’s the most exciting part of training for young athletes too. Who doesn’t want to power clean 315 pounds? If an athlete’s core is unstable and their hips are tight, then power cleaning 185 pounds can lead to injury. Power exercises are compound movements that involve multiple joints working together to accomplish a goal. Whenever an athlete competes in a sport, they will rarely isolate one part of the body to achieve a task, and the whole body will be involved in one way or another. That’s why it makes sense to train for movement instead of size and strength.
Movement-based training focuses primarily on core stability, thoracic and hip mobility, and power development. You can not be a dominant athlete if the stable portions of your body are unstable, and the mobile joints are immobile. When the body moves optimally, then power development becomes safer, and improvements in the athlete’s respected sport will be more noticeable.
Bengochea, K. (2020, July 19). Muscles of the trunk. Retrieved August 10, 2020, from https://www.kenhub.com/en/library/anatomy/muscles-of-the-trunk
Cain, M. (2018, February 20). Five Exercises to Help Your Clients Develop Power. Retrieved August 10, 2020, from https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/professional/expert-articles/6941/five-exercises-to-help-your-clients-develop-power/
Das, P. (2009). Quadratus Lumborum Stretch. Retrieved August 10, 2020, from https://www.physiotherapy-treatment.com/quadratus-lumborum-stretch.html
The Hip Joint. (2020). Retrieved August 10, 2020, from https://teachmeanatomy.info/lower-limb/joints/hip-joint/
Kassel, G. (n.d.). What the Heck is Thoracic Spine Mobility? Retrieved August 10, 2020, from https://www.shape.com/fitness/tips/thoracic-spine-mobility
Lower Limb 1 at Nova Southeastern University. (n.d.). Retrieved August 11, 2020, from https://www.studyblue.com/notes/note/n/lower-limb-1/deck/3232037