Core training has become a popular buzz word in the fitness industry over the past decade, on television and in exercise circles. It set off a rash of new fitness products ranging from balance balls to the latest and great “ab cruncher” machine that strengthens and tones your abs and core in less than ten minutes a day. Not likely, but core training is actually rooted in some basic principles of good fitness and has some real applications to boxers in particular, especially if you want to increase your punching power and overall coordination.
Although there are various interpretations, your core actually consists of your hip flexors, your abdominals and your lower back muscles. These sets of muscles assist boxers in several major ways: A strong set of core muscles provides a proper defense from body shots, they maximize rotational torque when delivering a punch and they enhance the transfer of energy to your extremities when you explode into action. A strong core supports a higher degree of energy transfer from larger muscle groups. It is a conduit of sorts. For example, the legs and trunk generate approximately 75% of the energy that it takes to throw a punch. The initial movement and origination of the action doesn’t start at you core, but if your core is weak, it cannot support this transfer of energy and the “energy chain” is broken.
Starting with defense, there are clusters of muscles that make up the abdominal wall. These muscles run up and down, side to side and horizontally across your stomach. These muscles are thick and dense because they guard your internal organs. Your abdomen, your liver, kidneys, solar plexus, diaphragm and heart are all protected to some degree by your core muscles and rib cage. For any fighter who has been hit in the stomach and gotten the wind knocked out of him, it is obvious why developing these muscles into a firm, protective wall is important. Because these muscles cover such a wide area, the best way to develop them is through a variety of exercises. Mixing up your routine with hanging leg raises (lower abdomen and hip flexors); side crunches (external obliques), hyperextensions (lower back), alternating crunches (internal obliques) and traditional sit-ups will help provide a strong suit of armor to protect your midsection from a persistent body attack.
Having a strong core also provides a fighter with the ability to rotate faster and turn on his punches more explosively. Every punch thrown incorporates rotating the core to some degree and the more rotation that is required, the more a strong core will add power to the punch. Plus, if your core is more solid and firm, there will less give at the point of contact. It’s kind of like the difference between hitting someone with an oak 2×4 versus a rolled up newspaper. The one that has “give” can’t do near as much damage or inflict quite as much pain as the board that doesn’t break, bend or yield at the point of contact. Exercises that emphasize and mimic the rotating motion you use when punching is ideal. Medicine ball tosses over your shoulder with a partner, cable pulley twists and diagonal wood choppers all work that twisting motion that will help strengthen your core.
To construct an impressive set of abs and a solid group of core muscles will yield benefits for both your defensive and offensive game. Like a structure made of concrete and mortar, build your house one brick at a time and it will help you weather any storm, keep out any unwanted intruders and give you all the firepower you need to protect all that you hold near and dear. Whether that’s a world title or just your pride, the key to keeping it lies in the core of your workout routine.