Ab Crunches; Not the Big Man’s Answer to a Functional Core

A functional core with strong, stable abdominal muscles is a must for any basketball big man. His ability to move and perform on the court immensely depends on his ability to control his arms and legs. Basketball requires powerful, explosive movements. The core, or as I like to call it the  powerhouse, of the big man’s body must radiate the energy  and strength required  for these precise, explosive upper and lower body movements.

I still see it way too often in todays practices and training sessions for young basketball players. A coach will use Ab crunches as a form of payment for the loosing team in a drill, for example. The tired players flop down on the floor, lace their fingers behind their head and begin to pull their necks forward as they bob up and down like fish out of water. Not only are they not using their abs, but they are putting unnecessary stress and tension on their neck and spine.

Besides this poor execution of the exercise, a basic abdominal crunch is not effectively training the core as it needs to be trained. The core muscles don’t only include the upper abs, but the entire chain of muscles between the shoulders and hips that control stability of the spine and movement of the extremities as I just mentioned. True core function is being demonstrated, therefore, when the body is upright performing dynamic and coordinated upper and lower body movements like receiving a pass in the post.

In this example, the big man must be in a low, seated position with the hips down and back, the chest up and the arms overhead or extended. Powerful hip, back, and glute muscles are being worked here. There will no doubt be a defender pushing from behind, so a strong upper body and trunk are necessary to hold him off. The abdominals also get into the action more directly when the player has to reach out and snatch the ball out of the air and powerfully bring it back into the body.

All this is happening in an upright position where the core is stabilizing the players body alignment and posture. Now, look at a lying on your back abdominal crunch and tell me where the correlation is to an upright, dynamic posture? An abdominal crunch only isolates the upper abs in a lying position where the spine and trunk are all supported by the floor. Nothing is active or engaged.

Core training must integrate upper and lower body in one exercise. That is why simply by performing a front plank, for example, is exponentially more effective and functional for training the abs and the core than an abdominal crunch. The entire body is engaged from head to toe as the core must maintain the alignment and lift of the trunk and legs off the floor.

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