We all want to improve ourselves as sports players; Physically and mentally. Daily thousands of people including adults, children and adolescents go through rigorous training, spend thousands of rupees just for the hope that they become better than before, they become better than their competitors.Is it possible? Is there an easy way to improve your performance, your fitness and your games? Maybe we can help you. This article is to make you aware as to what is the most important things to improve your strength, stamina and fitness. It’s not difficult, it doesn’t need any expensive training but it needs dedication, focus and persistence. 

It’s all about the core of your body, your centre of body.

CORE FOR FITNESS: Importance of core:

A strong, flexible core underpins all these goals whether your want to play competitive games or you want to be an efficient housewife or you want to carry out your life without joints and back problems. Core muscles need to be strong, yet flexible, and core fitness should be part of every exercise program.Think of your core muscles as the sturdy central link in a chain connecting your upper and lower body. Whether you're hitting a tennis ball, throwing a cricket ball, hitting a stroke with your bat or mopping the floor, the necessary motions either originate in your core, or move through it.No matter where motion starts, it ripples upward and downward to adjoining links of the chain. Thus, weak or inflexible core muscles can impair how well your arms and legs function. And that saps power from many of the moves you make. Properly building up your core cranks up the power. A strong core also enhances balance and stability. Thus, it can help prevent falls and injuries during sports or other activities. In fact, a strong, flexible core is important for almost all the activities, even your everyday activities like sitting in front of computer, bathing and dressing.


So what is this core of your body?:The core of your body is your spine, your pelvis, your rib cage and your shoulder blades. This core is just a skeleton which is powered by the group of muscles inserted on it. Those include your spine muscles, your rib cage and abdominal muscles, your hip muscles( glutei, quadriceps, hamstrings), your calf and foot muscles.To propel your body, all the core muscles contract in perfect coordination and your skeleton gives them perfect base and position for these muscles to act. The whole thing works in perfect harmony like a composition of Mozart.

A weak muscle, a tight muscle or a stiff joint can spoil this perfect rhythm. Just like a spoiled key in a piano can spoil a perfect music composition.

How to strengthen the core:

1. Good posture: Weak core muscles contribute to slouching. Good posture trims your silhouette and projects confidence. More importantly, it lessens wear and tear on the spine and allows you to breathe deeply. Good posture helps you gain full benefits from the effort you put into exercising.

2. Strengthen your back and hip muscles: The back muscles from top (neck) to bottom (buttocks) is very important in strengthening your core structure. Initially the focus has to be on static strengthening, like planks, back extension exercises, buttock crunches. Slowly the focus should go on endurance training and balance like single legged stance training, first on hard surface and then on a soft board. Cycling on incline, swimming can help achieve this in significantly efficient way.

3. Strengthen your shoulder blades (scapulae): Shoulder blades are the important powerhouses which hold the whole of upper extremities. Imagine it as a main electric grid that supplies power to all your shots, strokes and throws. A weak shoulder blade can weaken your power and expose you to injuries to shoulder, elbow and wrists.Spend enough time strengthening your shoulder blade retractors, Shoulder squeezes & Back extension exercises in prone position can also help you strengthen your shoulder blades.

4. Stretch out the strong, right muscles which can weaken your core posture:A. Pectoral muscles: People spend lot of time strengthening the pectoral muscles. How can be counterproductive if not accompanied by adequate pectoral stretching. Tight pectoral muscles cause shoulder blades(scapulae) to tilt forwards. This can lead to weak positioning of scapula when you want to hit a shot or throw a ball. So spend equal if not more time in stretching your pectoral muscles if you want to maintain your core.B. Hamstrings, calf and gluteal muscle stretches: a tight hamstring can tilt your pelvis and put your back at an abnormal angle and exposes it to injury and weakness. Ditto with calf and gluteal muscles. Stretching these is of paramount importance.

5. Abdominal muscles: strong abs are very crucial to core strengthening of body. It makes the whole central body into a rigid tube which is easy to propel. However, vigorous abdominal training can put your back muscles and vertebral column at risk of injury. Correct and training involves static exercises like planks, swimming and abdominal crunches without straining the back. It is of equal importance to stretch your abs after strengthening exercises.

6. Improving foot muscle tone: Feet act as spring and movement generators for the whole body. Weak feet can reduce agility and strength of whole body. Regular foot muscle strengthening exercises are very important.

7. Diet: They day a good night’s sleep is the best tool in a model’s make up kit. It does more than any make up material can do. Similarly a well balanced diet, adequate hydration is the most important tool in maintaining a good body and core strength.

8. Yoga & Meditation: A perfect body can not work perfectly if not controlled by a balanced and calm mind. Sports and life is all about mental harmony in difficult and strenuous situation. James Bond will get killed in a minute if he is just a strong but dumb guy. So spend some time to improve mental focus.

9. Good footwear: choosing a right footwear for your day to day activity and sports is very important. Choose wide toe box footwear, preferably with straps on top (like floaters). Wear a good sports shoes with good foot support.

Common myths:

1. Pumping iron in gym can make me more efficient in sports: No body builder has ever been a great player of any sports. Concentrate on form and not strength that is important. In fact excessive weight training and use of machine can put pressure on your muscles and joints in harmful way.

2. Excessive protein is good for my body: A balanced diet is most important for your bone, joints and muscles. Excessive protein can load kidneys and cause high Uric acid levels in body. Whenever you take protein, make it a point to drink lots of fluids. 

To summarise, correct mixture of exercises, discipline and diet can significantly improve your endurance and performance without resorting to excessive strain to body.