Core Activation and Core Stability

“Nucleus 8”

In the previous installment of the SuperFlex IAMP, I covered our dynamic stretching/flexibility program. In this segment, I will address the next phase in preparation for training and/or competition– muscle core activation and core stability for total body stabilization with maximum functionality.  There are three key areas that I refer to as ‘The Nucleus’ of the athlete’s body. These three key areas are for a region of the human anatomy which are often referred to as the core.  The 8 exercises that make up the Nucleus 8 are extremely effective for football players as well as athletes from all sports.

3 Key Areas:

> Scapular Activation
> Glute Activation
> Anterior Core Activation

In reality, these three specific regions are not “islands” unto themselves, but each dependent on one another to be in optimal health and performance. Yes, contrary to conventional thought, your core reaches beyond your “abs”. In other words, “the core” —-as a whole– is greater than the sum of its parts.

The integration of the gluteal muscles, scapulae, hips, obliques, quadratus lumborum, spinal erectors, and the rectus abdominus is what determines what happens when your body is called on to PERFORM. Balance in activation and stabilization in these muscles is the factor allowing your mobility to be used to its fullest potential.

Allow me to digress a moment–

When optimal performance is prioritized, we are also addressing optimized health. The good news irony is that optimized performance is hand-in-glove with optimized health when it comes to movement skills. The balance of mobility, stability, and activation is the prime recipe for each of these 2 objectives being one and the same. The greatest “performance enhancer” in existence is being healthy, for without it, performance certainly hits the downward slope.

To prepare the body for training, practice, and competition it’s best to approach not only the specific warm-up for that day but also your training in general from an “inside-out” perspective. This means your look to the center of the body first, then move outwards. By identifying this center in a broader manner we can best train the body to perform optimally while also putting it in the best position to remain healthy. The following brief and efficient program does just that.

This ‘Nucleus 8’ program for core activation and core stability is designed to be both timeefficient and athlete-friendly. As with all aspects of IAMP, we want to perform just enough drills and reps of each drill to get the job done while not being excessive with energy expenditure or wasting precious time. Yes, no doubt, it could be argued there are other drills that could be added to a warm-up, and if you choose to, then that’s your call. However, I’ve observed countless times over the years where a “warm-up program” looks awesome on paper but becomes counterproductive due to its fatiguing (physical and mental) demands or simply is not applied on a regular basis due to either its over-complexity or time requirement. As with any aspect of training, a productive warm-up is only as good as its application.

And, as with all of the SuperFlex IAMP phases, I design these programs with exercises where bands are the best tool for the job. High quality resistance bands have innate advantages over other equipment in many aspects of athletic preparation and my primary objective with these programs is to demonstrate that. This particular series of drills is very practical to include with both individual athletes as well as large groups and teams as it’s done with a single 40” SuperFlex band (recommended bands: #3 thru #5) and is free-standing, meaning that there is no requirement for an external anchor point. Thus, it can be done immediately following the band stretching phase in an open area (weight room, court, field, practice tee, etc).



“Nucleus 8 Drills”

1. X-Band Walk (4×4) x 6-8

Set-Up: Stand on band with outside hip-width stance, toes straight ahead. Make certain there’s slack between feet before starting drill. Cross band over to create an “X”, retracting scapulae down and back. Performance Cues: Step to right with right foot, keeping same distance apart with left foot, torso remains perpendicular, head as if cup of water on it. 4 steps to the right, 4 steps to the left, repeat 6- 8 cycles.

2. Split-stance 3D Pull-Apart 8-10 each side

Set-Up: Left foot forward standing on band (under 6’ tall, wrap band around foot), bend left knee into ¼ lunge; right leg extended back, flexing right glute. Hands on band 14-16” apart. Performance Cues: Raise arms in front to parallel to ground, activating front and medial deltoids, pull hands apart activating posterior deltoids and upper back. Perform 8 reps, switch sides and repeat.

3. A) Scap Push-up/ B) Mountain Climber A) 6-8 reps,  B) 6-8 each side

Set-Up: There are 2 parts to this drill, A and B. Perform all reps of A, then all reps of B Set-Up: A) Take band around back, underneath shoulders. Get in push-up position on knees. Hips extended, and posterior pelvic tilt (PPT). B) With band in same position, get in full-body push-up UP position (high plank, PPT). Performance Cues: A) Guide shoulders, down & back, away from ears; perform “straight-arm push-up” without changing angle of arms. Allow chest to drop towards ground, then push upper back through band, hold 2 seconds. Complete 6-8 reps. B) From high plank—shoulders remain above wrists—use hip flexors to bring right knee towards right elbow (foot off ground), hold 1sec, then use right glute extending right leg to start position. Repeat on other side. Complete 6-8 reps each side.

4. Unilateral Glute-Ham Good Morning 6-8 each side

Set-Up: Stand on 1 strand of band with right foot, (under 6’ tall: wrap band around foot). Grab top part of band, take over and behind head, and onto upper back, using hands to secure band in position. Keep slight bend in right knee, extend left leg back. Performance Cues: Perform a single-leg hip hinge until torso is parallel to ground—neutral spine throughout– pause for 2-count at bottom, then extend back to top with emphasis on hip extension/ glute activation. Perform 6-8 reps then repeat on other side.

5. Supine Unilateral Glute Bridge 5sec +8-10 each side

Set-Up: Lay on your back, bend knees, bringing heels towards glutes. Leaving right foot into ground, elevate left knee towards chest; wrap 2 strands of band around left knee to stabilize in that position. Performance Cues: Keeping tension in band, push through right foot (heel remains in contact!) to extend hip and hold 5 seconds—imagine making a fist with right butt cheek. Now perform 8-10 reps in same pattern holding for 2-count each rep. Repeat on other side.

6. Overhead Split Squat 6-8 reps each side

Set-Up: Stand on single strand of band with right (under 6’ tall, wrap band around foot). Extend left leg back. Take 12-14” grip on band and bring up in front of shoulders and press overhead. Once overhead, spread hands apart. You want to be able to see space when turning head to the side. Performance Cues: Sustaining band in overhead position, slowly descend into a split squat into right foot (heel remains in contact!) with rear knee (left) nearly touching ground, pause, then ascend into next rep. Complete 6-8 reps then repeat on other side.

7. Saigon Squat 30 seconds

Set-Up: Stand on single strand of band with both feet. Widen stance to outside hip width. Squat down—into heels—with elbows inside knees. Performance Cues: In the squat position, grab both strands of band that are between feet with underhand grip. Curl band in front of chest (under chin) to apply resistance to squat. Sustain the bottom position, pushing elbows inside knees as if “prying open” hips. Slowly rock side to side, sustaining heels into ground for 30 seconds.

8. Modified *Hollow Pull Apart/ Pullover 6-10 cycles

Set-Up: Supine on ground, knees bent, feet flat on floor, grab 2 strands of band with wide grip (slack out of band), arms straight and fists towards ceiling. Performance Cues: Tuck chin, lift shoulders/upper back off ground without rounding shoulders and sustain (NOT a crunch!); lift feet off ground while sustaining low back into ground. To progress, slowly extend legs as far out as ‘lower back into floor’ allows. Sustain this position with a “bracing” mindset of abdominal region. Now, perform 2 band pull-aparts then 1 ‘pull-over’ (=1 cycle). Perform 6-10 cycles, all depend on sustaining ‘body hollow’ position.

*Credit to Max Shank for this drill

Vince McConnell – McConnell Athletics
“Your Potential is Worth It”


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