When it comes to general training progression there are a few key steps you can take to meaningfully progress a program.
- Start off simple. When first getting started in a program, you want the individual to work on something they are capable of doing. This is an opportunity to check in on form and movement patterns to ensure that their base is strong. Progress to complex. As you continue a program, you can progress to more complex movement patterns or positions within your exercise to continue to challenge the individual.
- Start with the expected. The individual should know exactly what to expect with the exercise when they are first starting out, the movement should be consistent and expected. Progress to the unexpected. Progression through a program can begin to add in unexpected, reactive types of exercises and drills to create more functional activities that would be similar to real-world or sport-specific movements.
- Start off stable. Their stability focus when first starting should be within their body. Progress to unstable. Instability can be added into a program in a variety of ways, this might be changing the surface that they are standing or bearing weight on (i.e., a folded up towel, a stability pad or stability ball) or changing their body position to create more instability through balance (i.e., going from a two-foot stance to a tandem stance to a single a single leg stance).
A Functional Core
As with any type of exercise programming, it is always important to focus on the individual’s needs based on their goals, activity, and base of training. When it comes to identifying and developing the basis for a core training program, there are three key functions that should be the focus of the program:
- Producing force
- Reducing force
In order to create movement within the body, particularly movements that cross the core musculature, the core muscles need to be able to efficiently produce force and transfer that force from the upper and lower extremities. While we often think of core more singularly within our trunk, many of our full body movements (i.e., throwing, kicking, running, jumping, etc.) all have force that is transferred between the upper and lower body through the core.
Similarly to our force transmission discussed with force production, we also have to consider how our efficient force reduction plays into our whole body movements. We need to be able to control the force production and reduce ineffective movements through force reduction in our core to maintain form, slow down, change of direction, and other reactive and sports-specific movements. Reducing forces through our core can help to accomplish this variety of tasks as well as reduce our risk of injury through uncontrolled movements.
As with many of our different types of training, being able to stabilize within a given body area is what helps us to maintain an optimal kinetic chain whether that be during stationary stabilization to address postural needs while sitting at a desk or while carrying an object overhead. Maintaining stabilization through the core is essential for protecting our valuable vertebral column and spine from potential strain and injury during static positions or dynamic movements.
With core training more specifically we have three progressive components to focus on for beginning a program:
- Intervertebral stability – maintaining stability through the spine to ensure this key component of your body is protected and safe.
- Lumbopelvic stability – maintaining stability where the lumbar spine articulates with the pelvis. This helps to maintain proper alignment in the lumbar spine which will help to maintain intervertebral stability throughout the rest of the core system.
- Movement efficiency – creating movement through the core system that are efficient at force production, force reduction, and stabilization throughout the system.
Balance Training Development
During balance training, the focus becomes more specific to the stability component of your exercises. With this, balance training can very easily be incorporated into other types of training but can also be done as a standalone exercise program. When developing a balance training the program should involve:
- All planes of motion – whether it is static or dynamic balance development, it is important to consider that all planes of motion are involved in order to create consistency in different positions and movement patterns.
- Functional movement patterns – encourage development of balance in movement patterns that are meaningful to the individual’s needs. For example, a runner who experiencing single leg loading through a sagittal plane flexion and extension of at the hip, knee, ankle, and shoulder where weight transfers from posterior to anterior should participate in balance training that addresses the needs of that specific force transfer while maintaining upright body positioning.
- Proprioceptively challenging – progressing the level of instability, similarly to what was discussed above with progressing to a less stable environment can help promote continued balance development. In addition to instability as a proprioceptive challenge you can also think of varying speeds of movement or inclusion of reactivity to enrich the environment and improve progression.