>NOTE: Strenuous exercise following a dive may increase the risk of decompression sickness. DAN recommends divers avoid exercise for 24 hours after surfacing.
>Strong core muscles are the key to improved balance and stability. Better balance and stability is the key to success in virtually all athletic performance, whether it's driving the 18th green or just trying to keep your balance while donning dive gear. Diving presents unique challenges to the core muscles because the load placed on the body by dive gear is distributed differently than normal body weight. The result is a shift in your center of gravity upward and more posterior, forcing the core muscles to react differently than normal. When your core isn't up to the task, common results include muscle strain (as other muscles attempt to make up for the core deficiencies), lower back pain and wipeouts on the dive deck.
>Building Better Balance
>The human body is a unique machine that responds directly to the stresses it encounters. Therefore, it is important to progressively train your core musculature to respond to the loads it will carry during dive activities. Divers require core muscles to predominantly work as stabilizers, and for this reason, strengthening the core through isometric training yields maximum benefits. "Iso" means "same," and "metric" means "length," so simply stated, you work the muscles by holding them in a fixed, tensed position.
>The plank is an isometric exercise that targets just your abdominal muscles. The secret to performing a plank is to pull the belly button toward your spine, thereby engaging the deepest abdominal muscle (transverse abdominis), which helps support the back. Beginners may be able to hold the plank position for only a few seconds at first, but keep at it and you'll see significant improvement in as little as two to three weeks. Alternate planks with arm/leg raises and work your way up to three sets of each exercise three to five times per week. Just as in diving, you should never hold your breath. It is important to keep breathing to avoid spikes in blood pressure.
>TRAINER TIPS: Keep your knees and forearms on a soft surface for comfort. Tilt the pelvis to keep the buttocks from sticking up.
>CHALLENGE: When you can hold a half plank for 10 seconds, extend one leg to full plank and leave the other in half plank position. Repeat on the opposite side. When you can hold a half plank for 30 seconds, transition to a full plank.
>TRAINER TIPS: If your back starts to arch, raise your hips slightly toward the ceiling. If you need to rest, drop one knee down to the half plank position.
>CHALLENGE: When you can hold a full plank for 60 seconds, try hyper-extending (raising behind you) one leg, then the other, to incorporate the muscles of the lower back and buttocks.
>TRAINER TIPS: Keep your body aligned — you should be able to draw a straight line from foot to knee to hip to shoulder. It is easier to balance if you rest your unengaged hand on the hip throughout the exercise.
>TRAINER TIPS: Keep your head in a neutral position (eyes on the floor), and raise your arms and legs in a slow controlled manner, as high as possible. When you feel as if your arms and legs are elevated as much as possible, try raising them a bit higher. You may surprise yourself.
>© Alert Diver — Fall 2009