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core

Real Core Training Part Two

Anti-Lateral Flexion

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

Anti-Lateral Flexion

Bent Knee Side Plank

Lay on your side and place your elbow under your shoulder and line your knees up below your hips.  Lift your hips off the ground and hold.  Work up to 45 seconds.

Side Plank

Lay on your side and place your elbow under your shoulder and straighten your legs out.  Stack your legs on top of each other and lift your hips off the ground.  Hold for up to 60 seconds.

Side Plank with Top Leg Elevated

Position yourself in the same set up as the side plank.  Once your hips are lifted off the ground, you will move your top leg away from the bottom leg.  Make sure that you don’t flex either hip when raising the top leg.  Work up to 30 seconds.

Side Plank with Top Leg on Bench

Lay on your side and place your elbow under your shoulder.  Place your top leg on top of a bench.  Lift your hips off the ground.  The bottom leg can squeeze the bottom of the bench or dangle in the air.

Suitcase Hold

Grab a KB/DB in one hand, stand tall, and maintain a neutral lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine position. Make sure your shoulder blades stay down and back.  If possible, watch yourself in the mirror to ensure you aren’t leaning.  Hold for up to 60 seconds.

Suitcase Carry

Assume the same set up as the suitcase hold.  Start walking with a normal gait.  Make sure to not lean excessively.  Start with 20 yards per side and work up to 100 yards.

For video demonstration of these exercises, click here

Real Core Training Part One

Anti-Flexion

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

Anti-Flexion

Kettlebell/Dumbbell (KB/DB) Throat Holds

Grab a KB/DB and hold it in the goblet position directly under your chin.  Stand tall and maintain a neutral lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine position.  Don’t allow the weight to rest on your chest.  Hold this position for up to 60 seconds.

KB/DB Throat Carry

Once you’ve mastered Throat Holds, you are ready to walk.  Position yourself in the same set up, but now you are going to walk while maintaining the same upper body posture and a normal gait.  Start with 20 yards and work your way up to 100.

Hyperextension Bench ISO Lumbar Extensions

Set yourself up on the hyperextension bench with the thigh pad below your hips and above your knees.  Assume a neutral lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine position. Hold this position for up to 45 seconds before adding weight.

Glute Ham Bench ISO Lumbar Extensions

Position yourself in the same setup as with the hyperextension bench but use the glute ham developer bench. Work up to 30 second holds before adding weight.

For video demonstration of these exercises, click here

Triathlon Success: Hamstring And Glute Togetherness

To keep a triathlete healthy and resilient, the hamstrings and gluteal muscles must work together as a team.   The athlete fires the gluteals and hamstrings simultaneously to stabilize the pelvis and produce force through the lower leg.  When you run, bicycle, or swim, these muscles work at a team to produce efficient propulsion and reduce stress on the lumbar spine and knee.  A triathalon is the ultimate long duration physical endeavor.  Triathletes need hamstrings and gluteal muscles that can stay on and strong for a long time.

Most fitness programs do not properly train the muscle of the posterior chain.  Fitness center exercise generally involves training the hamstrings as knee flexors on some type of “leg curl” machine.  Gluteal training rarely occurs past neutral hip extension, with little effort on improving overall hip range of motion.  Any type of seated gluteal training is inappropriate for an athlete.

The term physical therapists and strength coaches use for butt muscles that are non- responsive is “gluteal amnesia”.  Our sedentary lifestyle involves very little of the glute recruiting sprinting, deep squatting, and climbing that activates the gluteal muscles.  We mistreat our gluteal muscles with hours of compressive sitting and little in the way of full range hip movement.  Many fitness clients and most physical therapy patients need some remedial gluteal training.  Give these three drills a place in your triathalon training program.

Single Leg Bridges

Lay supine with the arms braced against the floor to stabilize the upper body.   Bend the knees and place the feet flat on the ground.  Lift the right leg up off the ground.  Using the muscles in the back of the left leg, lift the hips up off the ground.  Push up through the heel of the left foot and drive the left hip into full extension.  Hold at the top for three seconds and then lower in a controlled manner.  Perform ten repetitions on each leg.  Common mistakes are allowing the pelvis to tilt and not fully extending the hip.  Hamstring cramping is an indication that you are not using the glutes enough and need to focus on creating a better mind to butt connection.

Goblet Squat

The squat movement pattern is a skill that is easier to teach if you add some load.  You can use either a dumbbell or a kettlebell for this exercise.  It has been my experience that the exercise is easier to learn with a kettlebell.  Hold a kettlebell by the horns, with the elbows down, and the kettlebell close to the chest.  Keep the chest proud and pull the abdominal muscles tight.  You may have to experiment with foot placement as everyone has different hips.  The position you would place the feet if you were going to jump is a good starting point.  Initiate the squat by pushing back the hips.  Keep the torso tall and descend.  Let your pelvis fall between the hips. The elbow should drop down between the knees.  Nothing will inhibit your progress more than thinking about how you are moving during goblet squats.  Keep your brain quiet and get in some repetitions.  Effort has amazing capacity to improve motor control.   Perform ten repetitions.

Mini Band Monster Walk

Your will need a mini resistance band–a nine inch loop of resistance band, (two dollars from performbetter.com).  Most fitness clients will do well with a green or yellow mini band.  Place the mini band loop around both legs just above the ankles.  Assume an athletic stance with the feet straight ahead, knees bent, and hips flexed.  The band should be held taught throughout the exercise.  Imagine your feet are standing on railroad tracks.  Walk forward for ten steps on each side, keeping the feet over the railroad tracks.  Walk backward for five repetitions on each leg.  Try to keep the hips and shoulders level throughout the exercise.

Once you have mastered all three exercises, build your gluteal and hamstring performance by traveling through the program for two or three trips.

  1. single leg bridges  R and L x 10
  2. goblet squats x 10
  3. mini band monster walk x 10 each leg

View video of the exercises here: https://youtu.be/QeteeLPF4AU

Kat Wood, DPT, ATC

Triathlon Success: Core Connection

In the fitness world core stability training has gained a solid foothold and more people are getting away from spinal damaging resisted twisting machines and the ever present sit up gizmo.  Most people know how to perform a “plank” exercise and have added this drill to their fitness routines.  Learning how to properly brace the core stabilizers and perform a sustained plank type isometric exercise will resolve back pain, improve the hip to shoulder girdle connection, and make you a better movement machine.  The problem is most people never advance beyond the basic plank exercise.  Triathletes need significant anti-rotation and anti-extension core strength and endurance.  I have three drills that will help keep you strong and resilient in your quest to complete you first tri.    Read the directions and give these activities a place in your fitness program.

Alternate Single Arm Planks

Position the body in a toes and elbows plank, but separate the legs so the feet are wider than the shoulders.  Lift one arm up at a 45 degree angle in relation to your body and hold for five seconds.  Lower the arm back down and try the other arm.

If you are unable to perform the alternate arm plank on the floor, regress the exercise by placing the hands on a bench in a push ups position.  Lift one arm up at a 45 degree angle in relation to your body and hold for five seconds.  Lower the arm back down and try the other arm.  How many and much?  Perform three to five repetitions on each arm.  Work up to longer hold times instead of more repetitions.  Five repetitions on each arm with a ten second hold is a good goal.

Pallof Press

You need a cable machine or resistance tubing set at mid torso level.   Position your body at a 90 degree angle in relation to the pull of the cable.  Assume an athletic posture with the feet at least shoulder width apart and the spine neutral.  Push the hips back a little and keep a slight bend in the ankles and knees.  You should look like a tennis player preparing to return an opponent’s serve.  Use a strong overlap grip on the handle and set the hands in the middle of the chest.  Brace the midsection and hips and move the handle out in front of the body and then back to the chest.  Select a resistance level that permits execution of all repetitions without losing the set up posture.  If one side is more difficult, start the exercise on that side.  Perform fifteen repetitions on each side.

Many of us have terrible respiratory patterns.  We are unable to fully inhale and exhale when under any physical stress.  The Pallof Press can be used to improve respiratory control.  Use the same set up and press the cable out.  Hold the cable with the arm fully extended while inhaling for four seconds and exhaling for six seconds.  Bring the arms back in and then repeat.  Perform four of five inhale / exhale respiration repetitions on each side.

View the video here: View Video

 Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Finding Fitness With Lower Back Pain

The number of USA emergency room visits, pain medication orders, injections, imaging studies, and surgical interventions directed at lower back pain continue to rise.  I frequently meet people who report their fitness efforts have been hampered by low back pain.  I have five recommendations that can help fitness clients with lower back pain have more success in the gym.

#1 Do not exercise first thing in the morning:  Ergonomic experts have found that many more industrial lower back injuries happen in the morning.  The theory is that the discs in the lower back imbibe or gain fluid overnight and are more likely to deform with a physical challenge.  Give your lower back one or two hours of walking around time before starting an exercise session.

#2 Isometric strengthening of the spinal stabilizers:  The function of your “core” muscles is to limit movement of the lumbar spine and pelvis.  Stop all crunches, toes to bar, sidebends, sit ups, seated twisting, and learn how to perform bird dogs, side hovers, Pallof press, planks, and carries.  Compliance with this single hint would reduce USA expenditures on lower back pain dramatically.

#3 Enhance the function of your hip flexors and gluteal muscles: Please cease all the forward spine flexion, toe touching, spine twisting activities.  Greater lumbar spine range of motion is associated with more–not less, lower back pain problems.  Learn how to foam roll and mobilize the hip flexors and gluteal muscles.  Prolonged sitting and most popular “cardio training” deadens these muscles.  Properly functioning hip flexors and gluteal muscles keep the pelvis stable and take stress off the lower back.  Reawakening dormant gluteals and hip flexors is the magic that resolves long term lower back pain.

#4 Focus on single leg strength training:  Ditch the front loaded hip hinges–deadlifts, cleans, snatch, and drop the loaded squats.  Swear off the lower lumbar deranging leg press.  Reduce spinal compression and train the legs, one at a time.  Single leg training reveals the right / left side movement asymmetries that drive lower back pain.  Resolving these asymmetries and sparing the spine goes a long way to abolishing back pain.  You will need some guidance on exercise selection and execution- this brings me to #5.

#5 Get some help:  Exercise is the most powerful medication on the planet.  Nothing else comes close.  Take the proper dose of appropriate training and the results will be amazing.  Take the wrong dose of an inappropriate activity and the results can be devastating.  This is especially true for people with a history of lower back pain.  Find a qualified physical therapist to guide you through your fitness journey.  One way or the other, you are going to spend time and money on your health.  Proactive spending is always cheaper and more beneficial than reactive spending.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

 

Learn how to keep your spinal stabilizers strong by performing side planks.  Mike O’Hara explains this in his article, “Learning to Lean”, and includes video demonstration and explanation of the importance keeping your stabilizers strong to stand up to the demands of daily life. It’s time for another Fenton Fitness Love Your Jeans Challenge–see page 3 for more information. In his article, “The Periodization of Nutrition”, Jeff Tirrell gives tips on optimizing dietary intake.

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Movement You Should Master

Step Ups

Modern medicine is keeping us alive longer, so now we need to put some effort into staying lively longer.  Mastering specific movements will improve our quality of life and help us stay independent and injury-free. I have come up with several exercises you can use to make yourself stronger, more durable, and develop a healthier, more functional body.  An exercise that I have found to be very helpful in restoring the capacity to get up and down off the floor is the Step Up.

Step Ups

The ability to go up and down steps will almost always be needed.  Losing this ability is a sure sign that one’s quality of life and independence are quickly fading.  Step Ups can be done in a variety of different directions and loaded a number of ways making them easily progressed or regressed based on goals and fitness level.  Step Ups improve balance and strength in the glutes, quads, and hamstrings.  Depending how you load, they can also challenge the core and shoulders.  The average step in the United States is 7 inches tall.  Strive to work up to a 14 inch box so that no flight of stairs will ever intimidate you.

Here Coach Katie demonstrates two different versions we like to use and the benefits of each along with some progressions.  Watch the video and give it a try: https://youtu.be/iGXtKyGlKMg.

1) Anterior Step up (Progression: Anterior Step Up with Racked Kettlebell hold)

2) Lateral Step Up (Progression: Lateral Step Up with one side loaded)

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1

 

Movement You Should Master

Weighted Carries

Modern medicine is keeping us alive longer, so now we need to put some effort into staying lively longer.  Mastering specific movements will improve our quality of life and help us stay independent and injury-free. I have come up with several exercises you can use to make yourself stronger, more durable, and develop a healthier, more functional body.  An exercise that I have found to be efficient and effective is a Weighted Carry.

Weighted Carries

Very few things are more functional than a carry.  You’d be hard pressed to get through daily life without having to carry something at least a few times per week.  While basic, a carry is an efficient and effective full body exercise.  Depending on the carry you choose, the load is virtually limitless.  Performed for time or distance, carries will always improve gait and core stability.  Depending on which version you use, they can also be an effective tool for improving shoulder mobility/stability, grip strength, balance, and overall awesomeness.  Watch the video and give it try: https://youtu.be/PaP4-IlVAOA

Coach Chad demonstrates my top four carry picks:

1) Farmers Walk (gait, core stability, grip strength, upper back, legs)

2) Suitcase Carry (gait, core anti-lateral flexion, grip, upper back, balance)

3) Waiters Carry (gait, core stability, shoulder stability, balance)

4) Double Waiters Carry (gait, core stability, shoulder mobility, shoulder stability, balance)

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1

 

PDFStanding desks are great for posture and health, but many people have difficulty when they first start using them.  In this issue, Mike O’Hara, PT gives exercises that can help you stand for longer periods of time.  Watch the video for instruction on these exercises.  In his article, “The Biomechanics We All Need To Know, Mike agrees with the advice given by Stuart McGill.  Be sure to read about Fenton Fitness Member Jan Pilar and her success with her program.

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PDFIn this issue, Mike O’Hara, PT gives ten reasons to love lunges.  Video of lunge exercises/progressions are included.  In Going Grizzly, Mike presents the exercise combination of Crawls and Sandbag Carries; a combination that helps you train more efficiently and move better.  Watch the video for instruction on these exercises.

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