Change up your core workouts.

So late last night I was watching Tony Gentilcore‘s video presentation, “Avoiding Common Programming Bloops and Blunders.” You can find his presentation along with many others on Muscle Imbalances Revealed, which can be found here.  While watching his presentation, I got a new idea for a blog post.

If your core workouts in the gym only consist of doing mass amount of ab/oblique crunches and planks, consider this:

An excessive amount of crunches may put excessive forces on the spine which may impact your lower back health.  According to a study by Stuart M McGill PhD on the difference between straight leg and bent leg sit-ups:

“Recently McGill examined 12 young men, with the laboratory technique described previously, and observed no major difference in lumbar load as the result of bending the knees (average moment of 65 Nm in both straight and bent knees, Compression: 3230N-straight legs, 3410N-bent knees; Shear: 260N-straight legs, 300N-bent knees). Compressive loads in excess of 3000N certainly raises questions of safety for some patients. This type of quantitative analysis is necessary to demonstrate that the issue of performing situps using bent knees or straight legs is probably not as important as the issue of whether to prescribe situps at all!” (McGill).

35hgo4

Take the bolded statement above into consideration.  Perhaps doing sit-ups with a 45lb weight or medicine ball isn’t a good idea.    Although there aren’t many studies done documenting this, I think it would be better to play this safe than sorry.

Taking from Tony Gentilcore’s presentation, there are two ways to essentially train your core.  There are strength vs stability.  Strength is exactly what it sounds like; doing crunches and being able to flex with more weight.  But there’s another side to the same coin, stability.  Tony phrases core stability as, “the ability to resist unwanted motion.”  Most people are familiar with core strength, but not stability, which is important in any sport.

Here are some ideas to train your core in different ways:

Explosive Power

Medicine Ball Slams 

Key notes:  You don’t have to rotate is a circular motion off to the sides like in the video (although it’s a great way to train as well, which will lead me to my next point).  You can go straight up and down in a traditional medicine ball slam.  Now when doing this, it’s important to extend all the way up and slam the ball down into the ground as hard as you can.  It’s called a medicine ball slam for a reason, not medicine ball drop.

You live in three (3) dimensions, Train in three (3) Dimensions

Crunches only work in one plane of existence; you’re just moving up and down.  If you’re and athlete, you’re not just moving in one plane (two dimensions), but in three different dimensions.  If you’re living and playing in three dimensions, train your muscles in those three dimensions.

Medicine Ball Rotational Throws

Core Stability

Now, those exercises were great for getting core explosive strength, but let’s talk about core stability.  Remember, by stability we mean the ability for you core to resist unwanted change.  There are three (3) categories in which we can work on core stability:

  • Anti-Extension
  • Anti-Rotation
  • Anti-Lateral-Flexion

There are many ways to train for core stability in those three areas, but here are common, easy ways to work on them

Anti-Extension

Plank

Almost everyone has heard or done this move, but are you doing it correctly?  The key to a proper plank is to have the whole body inline, just as if you were about to do a push-up.  Engage the core and glutes to keep your hips from sagging, this is the anti-extension part of the exercise.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read my push-up article here.  You can either do a high plank (like from the starting push-up position) or low plank, which is on your elbows and the more common of the two.

funny-girl-doing-planks-elephant

Barbell Rollouts

If you want something a little more advanced, try these:

Anti-Rotation

Pallof Press

The great thing about this exercise is that you can do them in the cable machines like in the video above, or use the simple resistance band tubing.  If your gym doesn’t have any tubing, you can get some here.

Key things to remember:

Don’t let the weight pull you. Remember, this is an anti-rotation exercise, so resist the pull by engaging your core.  Hold your arms out straight for a second to make it a little tougher on yourself; don’t blaze through this fast, that’s counterproductive. This exercise may look easy, but when you actually try it, you’ll be surprised how much effort you’ll need to do to provide anti-rotations.

Anti-Lateral-Flexion

Side Plank

Just like the regular plank, except you’re on your sides (elbows or hands).  Same technique applies, engage your core and don’t let your hips sag.

Farmer Walks

“Hakuna Matata”

If your gym doesn’t have medicine balls (or doesn’t allow you to throw them and blow off steam) or you already do these, try doing one arm variations of your favorite exercises like a one-arm dumbbell bench press or one-arm dumbbell farmers walk.  While the core is not the main muscle being used, it’s still is being worked.  It’s a great way to kill two birds with one stone.

Key notes: Big chest and shoulders back.  A great way to kill multiple birds with one stone.  It simultaneously works your core, your posture and grip strength.

Conclusion

A big shout out to Tony Gentilcore’s presentation.  As you can see, I learned a lot and I’m trying to apply, use and see what works for me.  If I don’t remember all the cool little tidbits in the presentation, I know for a fact that I’m a “chef” when it comes to the strength and conditioning world.

So, what do you think? Have any other exercises that you love to use? Leave and comments, questions or concerns in the box below.

References:

Avoiding Common Programming Bloops and Blunders – Tony Gentilcore, Muscle Imbalanced Revealed

Stability: from biomechanical concept to chiropractic practice

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