In the vast majority of well planned programs in both Strength and Conditioning and Sports Medicine, athletes and patients must “qualify” for a particular exercise prior to being introduced to it as a formal part of their training or rehabilitation program. For example, it would be ill advised to simply ask an athlete to perform depth jumps without knowing they had a sufficient strength base first (1.25 x BW for females and 1.5 x BW for males seems to be standard). Hang Cleans are rarely taught until an athlete or patient shows proficiency in a box jump, good front squat technique and a reasonable strength base. Even in Sports Medicine, one must “qualify” to drop the crutches after injury in favor of full weigh-bearing so long as they are abel to demonstrate normal, pain-free gait. Yet, when it comes to addressing “core” exercises many are often prescribed without thought or prior planning. This is especially true when evaluating rotational exercises.
McGill has demonstrated time and again that people with troubled backs simply use their backs more during activities.
“But you need a strong back don’t you?”
Well yes, but there’s more to it than that. In fact, the guys that have these troubled backs most often have much stronger backs but are less endurable than matched asymptomatic controls (McGill et al, 2003). In addition, those that have back pain (and a stronger back mind you) tend to have more motion in their backs and less motion and load in their hips. And we all know what poor hip mobility means don’t we – you got it, back pain. (McGill SM et al. Previous history of LBP with work loss is related to lingering effects in biomechanical physiological, personal, psychosocial and motor control characteristics. Ergonomics 2003;46:731-46.)
"So what does all this hip, back and stability stuff have to do with rotational core and power training? I just want to throw some heavy medicine balls against the wall and wake up the neighbors!”
Not so fast, as I mentioned, mobile hips and a stable and strong mid-section are paramount and a MUST prior to any type of rotational medicine ball or rotational power training. The Mobility-Stability/Joint by Joint Approach to Training made famous by Boyle and Cook is of course a must, yet very few actually test to see if their athletes have “stability” where stability should lie – the lumbar spine. This is especially important for post players who require a decisive and strong drop step to establish position in the post. Any leakage in energy or disconnect between their shoulders and lower body will surely afford them a less than desirable position on the low post.
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Art Horne is the Coordinator of Care and Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Men’s Basketball Team at Northeastern University, Boston MA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.