Is it your abs? Your deep musculature? Your lower back? Your shoulders? Your bum?
Try and find common textbook definition and you fail. Everyone has an idea what the core is, but it’s hard to find agreement on what exactly it is.
Add to this, the ability of the core area to do more than one thing and no wonder there is so much myth and confusion around core training to improve cricket.
So let's get back to basics.
Defining the core
Before we can move onto core exercises that are the most functional for cricket, we need to know both what the core is and what it does while we are playing cricket.
Let’s keep it simple and call the core the muscles at the centre of our body. Some can be seen, like the 6 pack muscles of the rectus abdominus. Some are deep underneath, unseen and require more careful development.
More importantly, what are they doing when you are playing cricket?
Allowing you to transfer energy from the ground to bat or ball.
Stabilising your posture when you run, throw, bowl, bat or catch.
A strong core for cricket means the ability to both stabilise and transfer force. This prevents injury (especially in the lower back area) and allows you to produce more power (through bat speed or ball speed) with the same amount of muscle.
So the hype is right, the core is important. Even if we are not in agreement as to what it is.
You core can also do other things, like flex to allow you to do sit ups. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. The core muscles don’t flex when you play cricket so we can discount most exercises like sit ups and crunches.
But what can we do to improve core performance?
Core Exercises for Cricket
There are literally hundreds of exercises from very skilled trainers to develop the core to both stabilise and transfer power. Not even the experts agree what the best ones are. But I’m going to make an attempt from a cricketer’s viewpoint.
As a side note, all resistance training is also core training. However, there are some elements that traditional resistance training does not cover. That’s why many trainers recommend starting or finishing your workouts with some core specific work.
Planks: Hold the position for 20-30 seconds. Brace your stomach muscles.
Medicine ball squat: Using a medicine ball 'activates' the core muscles more effectively.
Cook hip lift: This teaches you the important movement of extenting your hip using your glute (bum) muscle while keeping your lower back out of it.
Medicine ball throws: Teaches you to use your whole body to generate power, passing energy through the centre of your body efficiently.
T-push ups: notice how the shoulders and hips stay in line by 'stacking' the feet. You can also hold the T position for a count of 20-30 seconds.
These 5 exercises can be performed outside a gym in a group training session as well as during a gym session. As always, take professional advice before starting a training program. All the exercises can be safely performed by anyone over the age of 12 under supervision. There are many more options, especially in a gym with barbells, dumbbells and cable machines. These should get you started though.
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