Last time we covered some information about shoulder injuries and some techniques we can do to prevent those. This time, we are going to explore how core strengthening not only reduces injuries, but how this can also help officers in affecting an arrest. Studies show that improvement of core strength and endurance, specifically core strength with planks and side planks reduces risk for low back injuries and knee injuries by 3-fold (Jeong et al Am J Sport Med 2021; DeBlaiser et al Am J Sport Med 2019). With a movement technology we use, ViMove+ AMI, we objectively capture data on over 70,000 athletes across the US and seen some interesting trends with side planks and how these are correlated to injury risk. For example, if we just look at the side plank alone, the following deviations can guide you on risk:
- Lack of Foot/Ankle Stability – Tibial Drop – if the tibia drops down to the floor, this can tell us a lot about your inability to stabilize at the foot/ankle and specifically guides us to weakness of the anterior tibialis and peroneals. What we have seen is that tibial drop increases the likelihood for ankle sprains and shin splints. For LEOs, this is especially impactful when running and sprinting.
- Lack of Pelvic Stability – Pelvic Drop – If your pelvis drops toward the floor, this tells us a lot about your gluteus medius. This muscle has the highest activity in this position and weakness in this muscle can lead to an increased risk for knee injuries and increase loss of balance on one leg.
- Lack of Pelvic Rotational Stability – Pelvic Rotation – If your pelvis rolls back or forward, this tells us a lot about the ability to stabilize the pelvis under rotational stresses and guides on specific weaknesses of your transverse abdominus and quadratus lumborum (low back muscle often involved in low back pain). Weakness here can increase risk for low back pain and disc issues.
- Lack of Shoulder Stability – Shoulder Rotation – If your shoulders roll forward, this can give us some insight to rhomboids and serratus anterior. Weakness here can lead to an increased risk for rotator cuff injuries, labral tears and shoulder trigger points.
So, not only is there a tremendous amount learned from a side plank, there is also a lot trained with a side plank. Considering all that it tells us, what we also know is that you can strengthen those same muscles by doing both planks and side planks. In addition to planks and side planks, and especially when training to improve fitness and decrease injury risk with affecting an arrest, BJJ or combative training, doing physioball sit ups with a ball and while holding a ball in guard will not only improve your performance with training, but also decrease risk of injury.
Physioball Crunches – place a physioball between your legs and squeeze tight. Placing your hands behind your head (not pulling on your head), sit straight up toward the ball (crunching toward ball). Perform 10 reps. Without rest, perform right obliques by taking your right elbow toward your left knee. Perform 10 reps. Repeat taking the left elbow toward the right knee. Perform 10 reps.