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In the last edition, you were shown how to develop functional strength, which can be defined as "usable strength". The core area is now stable and much stronger. At this point, the goal is convert or transform the gains in strength into power. Power is the ability to generate high forces in very short periods of time. It can also be defined as "explosiveness".
Trunk and Core Power
The development of power is the ultimate goal when seeking performance enhancement. Every action in softball requires power or explosiveness. Hitting, pitching, sprinting, fielding, throwing all requires a great amount of power. Power is trained mostly but not exclusively through the use of medicine ball exercises. At this point, the body is ready for these exercises as the core is now stable and strong from the previous phases. This stage will transform the newly acquired strength into great power or the ability to use the new strength at high speeds (speed-strength).
Key Points For Training Trunk & Core Power:
- Every exercise should be performed explosively
- Always ensure the athletes carry out a thorough warm up and warm down.
- Partners who feed the medicine ball on certain exercises should be well drilled on what is required
- Medicine ball exercises must precede high intensity work
- For the average female softball player, a 6-8 lbs medicine ball should do the work.
- Initially, athletes should use a lightweight ball and gradually progress to heavier ones.
- Quality of movement is more beneficial than quantity of exercise repetitions or sets.
- Maintain technique - do not sacrifice control for distance.
- These exercises should be conducted early in a session when the nervous system is fresh.
Trunk & Core Power Exercises
Each exercise should be performed three times a week for a 4-8 weeks period. Remember to always use proper form to get maximum benefits.
Side Touches - View Exercise
- Lean back at 45 degrees
- Keep your feet off the floor
- Move the medicine ball from side to side using your entire trunk (involve shoulder rotation) as fast as possible.
- Do 3 sets of 25-30 repetitions
Swiss Ball Wipers - View Exercise
This advanced and challenging core exercise isn't designed to improve power but will develop great rotational strength, so much needed in softball. It is part of this phase because of its challenging nature.
- Find a squat rack or a smith machine (or anything that provides you something to hold on to).
- The back is on the swiss ball and the buttock is slightly off the ball with the legs straight up in the air.
- The arms are firmly holding the rack.
- Rotate the legs from side to side going as far as possible on each side in a movement similar to "windshield wipers".
- Keep control of the speed and make sure the legs remain straight.
- Do 2 sets of 8-10 repetitions on each side.
Overhead Throw - View Exercise
Batting Throw - View Exercise
- Assume a batting stance
- Hold the medicine ball exactly where the hands are in the batting stance
- Trigger, stride, initiate rotation of the hips from the back foot and throw the ball powerfully extending your arms through.
- The technique used to throw the ball is the same as if someone was throwing a bat using a softball swing.
- Try to generate the power using the rotational forces of the body rather than using the arm to propel the ball. The arm should just serve as a release mechanism.
- Do 2 sets of 8-10 throws.
DB Swings - View Exercise
- Hold a dumbbell with both hands while the arms are straight
- Rotate the dumbbell from side to side as fast as possible.
- Do 3 sets of 15-20 seconds.
Swiss Ball Sit-Up Throw - View Exercise
- Sit on the swiss ball with the small of the back at the edge of the ball.
- A medicine ball is thrown to the person sitting on the ball at the shoulder level.
- The person brings the ball overhead while doing a sit-up on the ball.
- From the down position of a sit-up, the person throws the ball back using the abs to throw the ball.
- It is an overhead throw with an abdominal sit-up.
- Focus on the "crunching" action of the abs when throwing the ball.
- Do 2 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
There are numerous exercises that can be used to develop trunk and core power. The goal is to perform the exercises explosively. At the end of this phase, athletes should be close to the beginning of their competitive season or should already be in-season. At this point, the goal will be to maintain the gains in strength and power by doing a combination of core strength and core power exercises twice a week for the remaining of the season. The topic of the next article will be low back strengthening.
About The Author
Marc Dagenais, B.Sc., MHK, CSCS, is a Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Personal Trainer in addition to working as an assistant softball coach for Simon Fraser University. He also runs a website on performance enhancement, training and conditioning for softball - http://www.softballperformance.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.