I warned you all that I'm studying for my Core Conditioning Specialist Certification!
In addition to reading the course material, I've been reviewing pretty much everything I can get my hands on. Unfortunately, I've been finding alot of junk but every now and then a gem appears.
I've recently came across a series of articles by Eric Wong, the Strength and Conditioning Coach for UFC Fighter Jeff Joslin.
Check out Eric's recommendations on core stability exercises in the article below.
Ultimate Core Stability Exercises For MMA Fighters Using A Swiss Ball
As Bruce Lee says, your core is the 'centre of power.' It's where you generate explosive throws, knockout punches and kicks, and the ability to dominate your opponent on the ground. The first step to developing your core is to build your static stability. The best tool to do this is the Swiss Ball, training in all 3 planes of motion. Master the exercises described here and you're on your way to becoming a fighter to be feared.
When most people think of the core, they think of the six-pack. But the six-pack, which is the rectus abdominis muscle, is only one muscle of the core. The core consists of 3 areas: anterior, lateral, and posterior. Each area is made up of a number of different muscles, both superficial and deep.
So will doing hundreds of crunches fully develop your core? Not a chance. Instead, you've got to hit all 3 areas of the core, as well as train in the three planes of motion - transverse (rotational), frontal (sideways), and sagittal (front-back).
But before bringing dynamic movements into your routine, you've got to build a base level of stability.
Think of having a stable core vs. an unstable core like indoor volleyball vs. beach volleyball. You can jump much higher indoors off of a solid surface as opposed to the sand.
Well if you don't develop your core stability, you're basically throwing punches and kicks from a sandbox. Not good if your goal is to knock your opponent out.
The best way to train your core stability is using the Swiss ball. Because the Swiss ball is an unstable surface, in order to keep good exercise form, your muscles are forced to provide the stability lacking in the ball. Thus, not only your superficial muscles work to do the job, but also the deep muscles which are normally inactive when performing exercises on stable machines or the ground.
Use the following 3 Swiss ball exercises to train your anterior, lateral, and posterior core stability, before moving on to more explosive movements such as medicine ball tosses.
Prone bridge - place your forearms on the top of the Swiss ball and hold your body in a bridge position. Keep your spine in neutral position and your body straight. If you're feeling the exercise in your back, you are either out of position or your anterior muscles are tired, so stop the set. Build up to holding for 90 seconds straight.
Side bridge - put the ball under your hip and your feet flat against a wall, top leg back, bottom leg forward. You will be on your side on the ball. Now hold a perfectly straight bridge position on the ball, making sure your spine is in neutral. Build up to 90 seconds per side. Holding your arms across your chest is easier; holding your hands at your temples is harder.
Leg curls on ball - place your feet on the top of the ball with your arms out in a T, palms up. Now pull your feet into your butt by pushing your heels down towards the ground (this activates your hamstrings more) and simultaneously pushing your hips up into the air. Your hips should not bend. Work up to performing a set of 20 reps.
Once you've developed your core stability using these basic exercises, you can move on to more advanced exercises using the Swiss ball, medicine balls, and rope balls. But until you've got this base level of stability, you'll be putting your spine at risk of injury. So work on these exercises, then move on, and your opponents will be sorry.
Following exercises by reading the descriptions can be tough, so if you want to see how these exercises are performed properly, as well as more advanced core exercises, check out the Ultimate MMA Strength and Conditioning Program The book contains images and access to a video library with every exercise in the program to turn you into a machine.