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Core Stretching Exercise Lesson

This is an excerpt from Designing and Teaching Fitness Education Courses With HKPropel Access by Jayne D. Greenberg, Nichole D. Calkins & Lisa S. Spinosa.

The core, or torso, is the conduit between the upper and lower body that is responsible for maintaining the stability and balance, which allows us to stand upright. It also enables us to do the simple tasks such as tying our shoelaces and more complex tasks such as being able to lift heavy objects.

Because the midsection of the body includes several different muscles in the front, back, and sides, as a teacher, you need to be conscious of incorporating a variety of movements in different directions. Therefore, it is important to maintain the flexibility of this area, acknowledging that, although we try to isolate a certain muscle group, there is overall interconnectedness of the muscles and tendons in this region. All too often, we have a tendency to visualize the torso as being sedentary for the most part, but in reality, it is the body’s center of power—meaning, it has the responsibility of supporting the spine and pelvis during physical activity while controlling the movements we make with our arms and legs in order to use them to our advantage. Being aware of the core’s functions is the first step of ensuring that ample time and effort are provided in delivering evidence-based instruction in taking the necessary steps to take advantage of the benefits of proper stretching protocols. Students should also be taught that the intent of the exercises in this chapter is to build and develop flexibility, which is more extensive and aligned with one of the fitness components as discussed in chapter 2, while stretching would be performed prior to starting any physical activity or athletic competition. Students should be observed during instruction to avoid improper techniques that could lead to detrimental outcomes.

The components of the skeletal system involved within the core are the spine, ribs, and pelvis. These are kept aligned by the core musculature of the trunk, which includes the transverse abdominis, a muscle that wraps around from the back of the spine to the front of the waist, multifidus, a deep muscle located along the midline of the back of the spine, internal and external obliques, a pair of muscles that lie on the lateral sides of the body, rectus abdominis, a pair of long muscles that run vertically up the front of the abdomen, and erector spinae, a group of muscles that run along the length of the spine on both sides. Anatomically, all reside in the abdomen and lower back of the torso.

Now that we understand what is really behind the muscles that comprise the core, let’s go deeper to learn the benefits of them all working together. Stretching your abdominal muscles is an important factor for overall performance and better health. Along with preparation for a successful workout, increasing the range of motion in both the abdominal and lower-back area will decrease risk of lower-back pain, increase flexibility, improve posture, and boost recovery, so that you are able to successfully continue with your workout. The core is also critical in sports performance. For example, all movements in dance are generated by the torso, which serves as the foundation (figure 10.2).

Figure 10.2 Dancers, like all athletes, need strong core muscles to perform at their best.
Figure 10.2 Dancers, like all athletes, need strong core muscles to perform at their best.

As we begin to provide appropriate exercises involved in the stretching of the core muscles, it is important to also review with your students the principle of specificity, as well as the definitions of a static stretch, dynamic stretch, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF), and ballistic stretch as discussed in chapter 9. Although each type of stretch serves a specific purpose, according to the ACSM (2017, p. 156),

dynamic stretching should be performed prior to the workout, as these activities encourage large movements that raise the heart rate and increase blood flow to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments . . . and reduce injury while preparing the body for the upcoming workout.

Conversely, static stretches should be performed post exercise. Students should continuously be reminded that, when beginning a stretching routine, it is important to listen to their body and be cautious not to overstretch the ligaments and capsules that surround the joints, as this could cause damage to tissues. Stretching should be performed with slow, continuous, and controlled movements.

It is also important to note that although this chapter focuses on the importance of stretching as an entity in itself, many of the exercises described here will also be used as warm-up and cool-down exercises in subsequent chapters.

As the physical education teacher, you can use the exercises in this chapter as part of a warm-up or cool-down, lesson on core stretching exercises, or routine. Each exercise has a description and illustration, with notes about the type of stretch, the body part and muscle groups worked, steps for safely executing the stretch with good form, and accommodations and modifications for those unable to perform the stretch as described. Many stretches are illustrated with video in HKPropel. Teach each exercise separately, ensuring that students are performing the stretch correctly, emphasizing the type of stretch (static or dynamic) and the muscle group being engaged. This is extremely important because what students learn during this initial instruction will enable them to use the appropriate stretch for subsequent physical activities, as well as enable them to safely engage in routines and circuits throughout the class. We include guidelines for developing routines for the beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels after the exercises, along with further teaching tips.

As you develop your daily lesson plans, align each lesson with the National Standards and your own state and local standards so that every student taught in your class can participate in the activities. The following sample lesson overview shows the National Standards and Grade-Level Outcomes (GLOs) relevant to this material, lesson objectives, and accommodations and modifications to be kept in mind when teaching a lesson on core stretching exercises. All of the exercises in this book are designed to provide accommodations and modifications as needed. This ensures equity, opportunity, and access for all students. Additionally, as you progress through your fitness education course, your students should be able to identify which stretching activities will be required for the daily activity you present.

Lesson Overview

Core Stretching Routine

Lesson length: 5 to 20 minutes

Grade level: 9th to 12th

National Standards and GLOs: S1.H3, S2.H2, S3.H9, S3.H11, S4.H5

Grade level: 6th to 8th

National Standards and GLOs: S3.M9, S3.M11, S3.M12, S3.M14, S3.M15, S3.M16, S4.M7, S5.M1

Lesson objectives: By the end of the lesson, the students will be able to do the following:

  • Perform a warm-up cardiorespiratory activity prior to your stretching routine.
  • Perform core muscles stretching routine, showing proper technique throughout each movement.
  • Perform a cool-down including cardiorespiratory activity and hydration.
  • Perform a cool-down routine using static stretching showing ROM in muscle-joint areas.

Accommodations and modifications: It is important for all movements and exercises to be modified to meet the individual needs of every student in order for them to engage in full participation. Implementing universal design for learning (UDL) will assist teachers in ensuring that all students can reach their full potential. Follow the general instructional recommendations, as discussed in chapter 3, for all activities.

Warm-Up Dynamic and Static Stretches for the Core

Trunk Lateral Flexion

Dynamic Stretch

Body part: TrunkTrunk Lateral Flexion Dynamic Stretch

Muscle group: Abdominals and obliques

  1. Stand upright with feet shoulder-width apart, arms relaxed at sides.
  2. Bend laterally side to side with each arm sliding down each thigh toward the knee.
  3. Alternate between right and left sides.
  4. Continue movement in both directions 10 to 30 seconds, or
  5. Repeat the movement from right to left 10 to 20 times.

Accommodations and modifications: For students unable to perform this movement, encourage them to slowly bend laterally as far as they are able to. Adjust time and repetitions for movement as needed. This activity can be performed while seated, slowly moving arms down the sides of the chair.

Progression: To progress the exercise, use the standing oblique stretch.

Progression: Oblique Stretch

  1. Progression: Oblique StretchStand upright with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Raise one arm up over the head while leaning to the opposite side.
  3. Bend laterally side to side with the opposite arm sliding down the thigh toward the knee.
  4. Alternate between right and left sides.
  5. Repeat the movement from right to left 10 to 20 times.

Accommodations and modifications: This activity can be performed while seated (shown).

More Excerpts From Designing and Teaching Fitness Education Courses With HKPropel Access