Real Core Training Part Three
Like everything in the fitness world, core training has evolved. When I bought my first bodybuilding magazine in the late 90s, the word “core” wasn’t even used. Instead, you would find ab workouts, oblique workouts, and sometime, low back workouts. Like pretty much everything in the 90s, muscles were trained in isolation with little concern for how the musculoskeletal system was designed to function as a unit. We have come a long way in our understanding of physiology, biomechanics, and injury prevention/reduction.
The core used to be trained and often still is through movement: flexion (anterior), lateral flexion, extension, and rotation. Sit ups, crunches, side bends, and Russian twists aim to strengthen the muscles concentrically and eccentrically. These build mass and thickness to the core musculature. The second way we train the core is to recognize it as a stabilizer of the low back and hips. This involves training this musculature to resist movement. When it comes to increasing strength, power, speed, and reducing injury, this training is more important than dynamically training the core. This style of training is referred to as “anti-core training” because we are resisting flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation. The other benefit of anti-core training is that it involves isometric contractions which are much less likely to create muscle hypertrophy, which individuals typically don’t want in their waist. I typically recommend that 70-90% of your core training consist of anti-core work depending on your health/injury history and goals.
The key to good core training is understanding what you are trying to accomplish, as well as how to progress or regress the movement. Here are the some of our favorites that we use at Fenton Fitness for each of the four anti-core categories.
Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1
Supine Bent Knee March
Lay on your back and lift your legs off the ground with your knees and hips at 90 degree angles. Posteriorly tilt your hips so that your low back is pressed firmly into the ground. Slowly lower one heel to the ground keeping your knee at 90 degrees and not allowing your low back to lift off the floor. Bring this leg back up and repeat on the other side. Work up to 10 reps per side.
Bent Leg Dead Bug
Assume the same position as the previous exercise. Reach your arms straight up to the ceiling. Keep your low back pressed into the floor and straighten one leg, getting the heel as close to the ground as possible without touching. Simultaneously reach the opposite arm overhead without quite touching the ground.
Straight Leg Dead Bug
Lay on your back with your legs and arms all reaching up toward the ceiling. Keep your leg straight. and slowly lower it toward the ground while simultaneously reaching overhead with the opposite arm. Don’t allow your foot or arm to rest on the ground, and keep your low back pressed into the floor.
Hollow Body Hold
Lay on your back and press your low back into the floor. Lift your feet, shoulders, and arms off the floor, keeping your low back pressed into the floor. Keep your feet and arms as close to the ground as possible while also keeping your low back on the ground. Hold for up to 60 seconds.
Lay on your stomach and place your elbows under your shoulders. Put your feet together and lift your hips off the ground. Maintain neutral lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine positions. Contract your glutes, pull your ribs down with a forceful exhalation, and try to pull your elbows toward your toes (they won’t actually move) to engage your lats. Try to create maximum full body tension. Hold for up to 30 seconds.
Long Lever Plank
Use the same set up and execution as the plank, except that the elbows will be farther out in front of the shoulders. The farther forward the elbows, the harder this will be. Work up to 30 seconds.
Use the set up the same as the plank only with carpet sliders under your toes. Use your shoulders to slide yourself into the long lever position and then slide back. Make sure you maintain spinal and pelvis positioning during the whole movement. Work up to 12 reps.
Start in a tall kneeling position with a Physioball at arm’s length in front of you. Pull your ribs down and engage your glutes. Allow your body to fall forward by letting your hands and forearms roll up onto the ball. Once you feel you are going to break lumbopelvic positioning, reverse the movement to get you back to your starting position. Work up to 10 reps.
Use the same set up as with the physioball, but use a suspension trainer instead. Set up with straps at mid-thigh height. Execute in the same manner. Lower the strap starting position to increase difficulty. Work up to 10 reps.
Ab Wheel/Dolly Rollouts
Set up on your knees with your hands on an ab wheel or dolly and place your hands directly under your shoulders. Begin to fall forward by flexing the shoulder (overhead) and extending the hips. Go forward as far as possible without losing spinal positioning and then reverse movement back to the start. Make sure shoulder and hip joints extend/flex at the same speed.
For video demonstration of these exercises, click here