Real Core Training Part Two
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Read about keeping your hip flexors healthy and working well in Mike’s article, Nobody Names Their Child Iliacus. Video instruction of the exercises in the article is available. Jeff Tirrell gives five nutrition rules than can be broke. Find out the correct way to set up your dual action air assault bike.
Find out if you scalenes are causing problems in Mike’s article, Scalene Salvation. Read the inspirational stories of some Fenton Fitness members who conquered osteoporosis.
Movement You Should Master
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.
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
Keep your shoulders and spine happy and strong by following Mike O’Hara’s advice in “Pushing Up Performance”. Video explanation and performance of pushups and their variations included. Jeff Tirrell discusses the proper performance of pull ups in his article. “Movement You Should Master”. Is your mobility limited? Try massage sticks or foam rollers with the information provided in “Pain, Pressure, and Pliability”.
Train your hip adductors and bulletproof your legs by following the advice in Mike O’Hara’s article Adductors Galore. Video demonstration and explanation included. Mobilize your upper body by foam rolling. In Foam Roll T W I, Mike explains the importance of adding foam rolling to your exercise program.
The September 2016 newsletter contains information on preventing ankle sprains. Mike O’Hara, PT demonstrates exercises to prevent ankle inversion. Meet Fenton Fitness member Gay Adams and read her story on staying strong during a difficult time, and learn about the suitcase carry–a better alternative to weighted sidebends.
If Frankenstein Had Glutes, He Could Have Run Away
Get Fit With Monster Walks
Most of the exercises performed in the gym emphasize the sagittal (front/back) plane of motion. Squat, lunge, elliptical, and treadmill are all sagittal plane activities. In athletics and life, we must be able to move efficiently in all planes of motion. Our gluteal muscles are the primary producers of lateral and rotational movement in the lower extremities. Strong and responsive gluteals keep your knees and lower back safe from injury during athletic activities. A simple exercise to improve gluteal function and move better in the often-neglected frontal plane is a band monster walk.
You will need a mini resistance band or a lateral resistor. Place a mini band loop around your ankles. Assume an athletic stance with the feet straight ahead, knees bent, and hips flexed. The band should be held taught throughout the exercise. Try to keep the hips and shoulders level throughout the exercise. Your torso and pelvis should not wobble side to side. Move the right foot 12 to 18 inches to the right, and after planting the right foot, follow with the left. Remember to keep some tension on the band. When you have completed the prescribed number of repetitions, rest and then lateral step back to the left.
As you get better at this exercise, try performing the drill moving forward and backward. The backward monster walk is an excellent gluteal activation exercise for runners. Try performing one or two sets of eight to ten repetitions.
Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS