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Core Training for the Combat Athlete

Core training, a phrase that the fitness marketing gurus have usurped, twisted and made a mockery of. Shame really as training the midsection is vital for anyone involved in any sport, especially Martial Arts and the combat sports.

The core is not just the 6 pack muscle (rectus abdominis), and core training is not just about doing crunches. Ok, some of you know this and train your core with Planks, Supermans and Bird Dog exercises. I congratulate you on your education, but it still isn’t enough, especially if you intend on hitting and getting hit with any force.

This workout which i filmed earlier shows some genuine core training. It’s an example of the Power Circuit format that I use on myself and some of my fighters, but with exercises inspired by the Diesel Crew’s excellent Combat Core manual and other top conditioning coaches.

The circuit is as follows;

Deadlift x 5/4/3/2/1 1 Arm Push up x 5 L/R Sledgehammer slams x 10 L/R Racked Kettlebell Bag Work (See combat core for these) x 10 L/R

So what is happening in the core? Deadlifts: Posterior chain exercise requiring the core to resist forward flexion. The heavy load of the deadlift (the video shows my last round lifting 140kg or 308.6lb) forces the entire core into action  form a rock solid platform for the power generated in the legs and hips to get to the shoulders where the bar attaches to the body. A weak core will lead to either a missed lift or a back injury.

1 Arm Push Ups: This is a plank on steroids! You have three points of balance, your feet and one hand, this means one thing – Torque. As you raise and lower the body there is a tremendous rotational force being placed on the core, don’t beleive me, watch the video, you think you can do that with weak abs?

Stoppit! This is a party trick, not a training drill

Sledgehammer: This is a forward flexion drill, like a crunch in some respects. This trains the abs, along with the legs, shoulders and lats to generate force where the previous two drills were about resisting force.

Racked KB punching: A punch is similar to a one arm push up, the core under torque. As a punch is thrown the legs and hips generate power, the core must tighten to allow the force be passed up into the striking arm. On contact the core must be fully braced for the impact of the strike landing. Holding a weight amplifies these attributes.

So a four exercise circuit that will build strength, power and work capacity yet is centred around developing usable (as opposed to functional, which has also become a meaningless marketing term) core strength and stability.

Now obviously this isn’t for everyone, the circuit is designed for fighters, but with a little common sense you should be able to take the ideas and principles behind the workout to create your own workouts. Perhaps substitute the deadlift for kettlebell swings. One arm push ups maybe a bit much, but you get similar benefit from regular push ups or one arm plank holds. The sledgehammer can’t easily be substituted but V-Sits and ankle grab sit ups are a decent alternative.

Take the idea and run with it. You’ll get far more out of these drills then you will with crunches.

Have a look at the video:




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