Home Posts tagged "Core Stability Exercises"

Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training: Installment 27

 I didn't get a chance to write a February installment of this series, so I'll do my best to over deliver with an extra few bulletpoints in this March edition.

1. Use video even if you don't think you need to use video.

A few weeks ago, I decided it was about time I learn how to use iMovie on my iPhone. What better way than to film pieces of my training session and put them all together?

Interestingly, beyond proving that I’d actually entered the 21st century from a technology standpoint, there was an added benefit: I identified some subtle technique issues that I could address. I didn’t like the inconsistent way I unracked the bar from set to set on squats, and I was slipping into more forward head posture than I would have liked on my TRX fallouts. These aren’t epic technical faults, but over time, they’d certainly detract from an optimal training effect. I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t videoed. And, this is coming from a guy who uses video regularly with his athletes.

On the whole, I think folks video TOO MUCH nowadays. A phone on the training floor is usually a distraction and interferes with the training process. However, used correctly, video can be a tremendous resource – and one I’ll be using more with my own training.

2. Think of assessments as descriptive, not predictive.

There is a ton of research out there on how to predict sports injuries. When it really boils down to it, though, we learn that:

a. the single best predictor of future injuries is a previous injury (duh)

b. predicting injuries is really, really hard

Why is predicting injuries so challenging? Very simply, injury risk is incredibly multifactorial. Injuries occur because of a remarkable interplay of systemic, biomechanical, and physiological factors – and they’re mixed in with pure happenstance: collisions, hit-by-pitches, poor weather conditions, and equipment malfunctions.

As such, it’s challenging to say that any single assessment will ever truly be a gold standard in predicting injuries. Accordingly, we should think of the assessment process as descriptive above all else. In other words, what we see when we first encounter an individual is their “default pattern:” how they’ll respond to a chaotic environment in the real world “fight-or-flight” scenarios.

For example, consider one of my favorite assessments, the overhead lunge walk:

When first challenged with an overhead lunge walk, many athletes dive into knee valgus, use a short stride, and slip into lumbar extension and forward head posture. Sure, we can clean a lot of these things up in a matter of less than 15 seconds, retest, and get a better outcome. That doesn’t fundamentally mean we’ve improved their movement quality or reduced their risk of injury, though. Effecting lasting changes takes time and lots of high-quality reps. However, the descriptive nature of the assessment guides our program design, which gives us a road map for these efforts.

3. Go unilateral to progress anterior core stability drills into rotary stability challenges.

When we categorize our core stability drills, we’ll break them down into the following designations:

a. anterior core (resisting extension of the lower back): rollouts, fallouts, etc.
b. rotary core (resisting rotation of the lower back): chops, lifts, etc.
c. lateral core (resisting lateral flexion – or side bending – of the lower back): 1-arm farmer’s walks, side bridges

With both rotary and lateral core “dominant” exercises, we can appreciate that the anterior core is also working to resist extension as we do a chop, lift, or farmer’s carry. In other words, we’re always controlling the sagittal plane above all else.

However, when we perform anterior core challenges – rollouts, fallouts, bodysaw drills, and basic prone planks/bridges – we really don’t get much of a challenge to rotary or lateral core stability. With four points of contact (two feet/knees and two arms/hands), the challenge outside the sagittal plane is minimal.

Fortunately, we can quickly and easily “bias” our anterior core work to get us additional challenges in the frontal and transverse planes by simply going to unilateral or asymmetrical set-ups. This is one (of many) scenarios where a TRX suspension trainer can be a game-changer. Here are two favorites: the 1-leg TRX fallout and TRX flutters:

 


4. Coaches need to train.

I don’t compete in powerlifting anymore. Life as a husband, dad, and owner of multiple businesses is hectic enough that competition was pushed out. And, my shoulder doesn’t love back squats these days.

Still, I lift a lot, get out and sprint, do interval training, and even mix in some rec softball and pick-up beach volleyball. This isn’t just because it’s hard-wired into my brain’s perception of a “normal day,” but also because I firmly believe that every training session allows me to evolve as a coach and have more empathy for our athletes.

Understanding how to modify your own training when you’re super busy at work or sick kids kept you up all night gives you an appreciation for how athletes feel when you ask them to get an in-season lift in after a weekend with four games.

Getting in a lift after a late cross-country flight makes you appreciate that it might be a better idea to score an extra few hours of sleep – rather than imposing more fatigue – in the middle of a road trip.

Putting yourself through 8-12 weeks of challenging training with a new program allows you to experiment with new principles to see if there are better methods for serving your athletes.

You don’t get these lessons if you don’t continue to train throughout your professional career. At age 25, I had no idea what our 35-year-old athletes felt like after training sessions. Now I understand it on a personal level – but more importantly, I’m keenly aware that our 45-year-old athletes probably have it even harder, so I need to ask a lot more questions and do a lot more listening in that demographic.

If you’re a strength and conditioning coach, the gym isn’t just where you work; it’s also where you experiment and learn. Don’t miss those opportunities to grow.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Overlooked Uses for a J-Band – Part 2

It's time for part 2 of "things you aren't doing - but SHOULD be doing - with a Jaeger Band." In case you missed it, be sure to check out Part 1, too. Also, be sure to pick up a J-Band HEREif you haven't already done so.

Without further ado, here are five more exercises to try with the oh-so-versatile J-Bands!

6. Core-Engaged Dead Bugs

In this core stability drill, we use the tension from the band to build some extra core stiffness to resist lumbar extension (lower back arching) and (to a lesser extension) rotation during leg lowering. Add a big exhale at the bottom to fire up the anterior core and reaffirm good positioning.

7. J-Band Assisted Leg Lowering

This builds on our previous drill from a core stability challenge standpoint (straight leg is harder than bent-knee), but also helps individuals improve their hip mobility. Make sure to double up the band to get sufficient resistance, - and don't do this with cleats on!

8. J-Band Assisted Quadruped Band-Assisted Thoracic Rotation

Here's a Functional Movement Systems inspired drill we'll use with those athletes who have very limited active thoracic mobility into extension. In other words, they passively rotate well (with the assistance of the assessor), but can't get to that same range of motion actively. The band assistance reduces the gravity challenge against which an individual has to extend and rotate.

9. Band-Assisted Overhead Squat

I've traditionally done this drill with a TRX, but one day, I had an athlete try using the J-Band on the road when he didn't have a TRX handy. His immediate response was that it was "frying" his lower traps. Maintaining continuous tension in scapular posterior tilt and thoracic extension really takes this squat pattern assistance drill up a notch. 

10. Side Bridge with Horizontal Abduction

Once an individual gets a solid feel for arm care, I'm all for integrating core stability with scapular control and rotator cuff challenges. This is one advanced progression along those lines. I say "advanced" because many individuals struggle to get a true "T" positioning on horizontal abduction; instead, they'll yank down with the lats (more on that HERE). That said, I recommend athletes perform this on video or with a coach watching the first time, as they'll usually be in the wrong pattern. The goal is 90 degrees of arm elevation, and you should feel this predominantly in the mid-traps.  

That wraps up this two-part series - but it's certainly just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to innovative exercises you can integrate with a versatile piece of equipment like Jaeger Bands. With that in mind, if you don't already have a set in your training bag, I'd highly recommend you pick up a J-Band. Your arm - and the rest of your body - will thank you for the investment!

jBands

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

Name
Email
Read more

Overlooked Uses for a J-Band – Part 1

Go to just about any baseball field in America, and you'll find Jaeger Bands (J-Bands). They're well established as great tools for getting in some quality arm care - and doing so conveniently.

What you might not realize, though, is just how many exercises you can do beyond the traditional J-Band sequence. With that in mind, I thought I'd introduce ten exercises our guys often do with J-bands when they're looking to step up their training while on the road. Today, we'll cover the first five.

1. Chops and Lifts - Popularized by the innovative rehabilitation specialists at Functional Movement Systems, these exercises are awesome for teaching core stability as it relates to resisting excessive rotation through the lower back. Depending on the height of the band, too, they can also challenge an athlete's ability to resist extension (too much arching of the lower back).

2. 1-arm Rotational Row w/Weight Shift - I absolutely love this drill for guys who have poor extension down the mound and need to learn to accept force on the front leg. The goal is to get in and out of the front hip - and also learn how to "sync" this loading/unloading up with proper movement of the thoracic spine, scapula, and arm.

3. Lateral Lunge w/Band Overhead Reach - Similar to the chops and lifts from above, you get great core recruitment in resisting extension and rotation, but in this drill, we also add some additional upper body and hip mobility challenges.

4. Serratus Wall Slides w/J-Band - I love me some serratus activation drills - and the J-Band is a great way to progress these exercises. Before you try it with a J-Band, though, give it a shot with a foam roller using these cues:

Then, grab your J-Band and go to town on a dugout wall. If you don't feel "cleaner" scap movement at ball release, I'll be stunned.

5. Side Bridge w/Band-Resisted Hip Extension - Side Bridges are some of the best lateral core exercises there are - but some folks will do them with incomplete hip extension, thereby falling into a faulty stabilization pattern that overrelies on the hip flexors. I like using the band to teach that terminal hip extension. To make this challenging, do them "high-tension" style: brace as hard as you can, squeeze the glutes together like you're trying to crush walnuts between your buttcheeks, and exhale as hard as you can. If you're doing them correct, you should be struggling by the end of five breaths - and you'll probably gain some hip internal rotation in the process.

That does it for part 1! I'll be back in a few days with five more creative uses for a J-Band. In the meantime, you can pick up a J-Band at http://www.jaegersports.com/J-Bands-Cressey/.

*A big thanks to Marlins pitcher Tyler Kinley for the help with demonstrations for this article!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

Name
Email
Read more

The Best of 2016: Strength and Conditioning Videos

With my last post, I kicked off the "Best of 2016" series with my top articles of the year. Today, we'll highlight the top five videos of the year. These videos only include instructional videos, not quick exercise demonstrations. 

1. 1-arm TRX Row w/Offset Kettlebell Hold - Every good program includes plenty of horizontal pulling, and this is a way to incorporate a good core stability challenge at the same time.

2. Grip Width for Conventional Deadlift Technique - Getting the grip width right is one of the most important strategies for optimizing your deadlift technique.

3. Hip Extension and the Bulgarian Split Squat - The bulgarian split squat (rear foot elevated split squat) actually takes more hip mobility than you might appreciate, and this excerpt from Functional Stability Training: Optimizing Movement goes into detail on the subject. 

4. Tall Kneeling Cable Press to Overhead Lift - This is an older video, but I just uploaded it this year, as it made for a great "Exercise of the Week" inclusion. 

5. Rhythmic Stabilizations: Where Should You Feel Them? - Rhythmic stabilizations are a great way to improve rotator cuff timing - but only if they're performed correctly. In this video, I answer one of the most common questions we receive about them: "Where should you feel them?"

I'll be back soon with the top guest posts of 2016!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Hip Extension, Core Stability, and the Split Squat

Here's another teaser from Mike Reinold and my new resource, Functional Stability Training: Optimizing Movement. While the Bulgarian Split Squat (also known as the Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat) has always been viewed as a "generally safe" exercise, it does require good hip extension range-of-motion that you can't just always assume is present. Check out this video to learn more:

Also, don't forget, the introductory $30 off sale on FST: Optimizing Movement ends this weekend.  Click here to learn more.

FST-DVD-COVER-OPTIMOVE

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Building Core Control with “The Bear”

Today's guest post comes from Mike Robertson, who just introduced his new resource, Complete Core Training. It's on sale through the end of the day today, and Mike gives you a little sampling of one of his favorite core stability exercise progressions today. -EC

When I teach seminars with other fitness professionals, I'm often asked questions about the concept of rounding out the lower back. Unfortunately, many of us are so scared of lumbar flexion that we never do it - ever - even if there's potential benefit involved. When it comes to lumbar flexion, here are my rules:

1. I don't do it repeatedly (i.e. sit-ups),
2. I don't do it under load (i.e. round back deadlifts).


However, putting someone in a small degree of lumbar flexion and/or posterior tilt isn't going to cause a spontaneous disc herniation. In fact, I would argue that getting someone better control over the lumbar spine and pelvis is going to get them out of extension, and actually allow their lower back to feel better. It's going to relieve pressure on both the discs and facets, which are getting crushed when you're locked in extension.

APT-250x300

The bottom line is a little bit of work in this position could provide massive benefits going forward. This is one reason why I love to teach "The Bear" as a core stability exercise.

The Bear

With this drill, you get the benefits of reaching (serratus anterior recruitment, better rib positioning), plus a ton of lower ab involvement. Now you may be wondering, why the obsession with lower abs? Well for all my clients and athletes, I'm trying to develop stability and control over the lumbar spine, pelvis and hips. The lower abs (internal obliques and transverse abdominus) are critical for this, as they have a ton of "real estate" on the pelvis. Quite simply, if you want to control the pelvis (and, in turn, the lumbar spine and hips), you need a strong set of lower abs.  With that being said, doing draw-ins all day isn't going to fix the problem. The best way to engage an IO or TVA is to set position via an exhale first.

To do The Bear, set-up in a quadruped position and think about reaching long through the upper back. Round out the spine slightly, and tuck the pelvis underneath you. From this position, pick the knees up 1" off the ground, and then hold for a certain period of time (like you would in a plank).

Knees Extended Bear

Once you've mastered The Bear, you'll want to find something more challenging. Enter the Knees Extended Bear! The set-up here is identical to the first, but once those knees are up, you simply straighten them out. As you can see you'll end up in a pike position, with the hips as the highest point. This exercise is a lot tougher than you might expect, so be sure to start with the standard bear first.

Core training exercises might be a dime-a-dozen, but that doesn't mean all of them are worth their salt. These two variations of The Bears are some of my favorites, and I think you'll love them as well.  Enjoy!

As I mentioned, Mike Robertson's new resource, Complete Core Training, is now on sale with an introductory $50 off discount this week.  I'm reviewing it myself, and it's excellent. If you're looking for some help with your core stability exercise progressions - and the rationale for these approaches - look no further! For more information, click here.

CompleteCore300-300x272

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

5 “Combo” Core Stability Exercises

Core stability exercises are kind of like visits to the dentist. You know you need to do them - and they keep you healthy - but they aren't really all that sexy and enjoyable. With this in mind, I think the concept of "minimum effective dose" is an especially important consideration when it comes to programming core stability exercises. We want to pick the drills that give the biggest bang for one's buck: a great training effect in only a few sets.

Fortunately, if we understand how to classify core stability exercises, we can quick recognize that there are ways to deliver more efficient training prescriptions. Speaking broadly, you have four core stability exercise categories: anterior core stability, posterior core stability, lateral core stability, and rotary core stability.

Anterior core stability exercises teach the body to resist excessive lumbar spine extension (arching), and encompass a variety of drills, starting with the likes of curl-ups, prone bridges/planks, and reverse crunches. In prepared individuals, they progress all the way up through more advanced exercises like stability ball rollouts, and TRX flutters and fallouts.

Rollouts

Posterior core stability exercises train the body to resist excessive lumbar spine flexion (rounding).  These drills include everything from the birddog all the way up through more conventional strength training exercises like deadlift variations.

tbdl-300x256-2

Lateral core stability exercises teach you how to resist lateral flexion; in other words, your goal is to avoid tipping over. These drills may start with basic side bridging drills and progress all the way up through more advanced TRX drills and 1-arm carrying variations.

Rotary core stability exercises teach you to resist excessive rotation through the lumbar spine. Examples include drills like landmines, lifts, and chops.

Once you appreciate what each of these core stability exercise categories entail in terms of functional demands, you realize that you can combine these drills into options that train 2-3 at a time. Here are a few examples:

1. Reverse Crunch to Dead Bug - A reverse crunch would be considered anterior core drills, but in adding the dead bug component, you get an increased challenge to rotary stability because of the alternating leg/arm component. Of course, the dead bug is already a solid "combination" core stability exercise by itself.

2. 1-leg TRX Fallouts - As I noted early, fallouts are a great anterior core training progression. Going to a single-leg stance makes this an awesome rotary stability and lateral core challenge, too.

3. Tall Kneeling Cable Press to Overhead Lift - Asymmetrical presses are usually only a big challenge to rotary and lateral core stability, but adding the overhead reach component kicks up the anterior core challenge.

4. Lateral Lunge with Band Overhead Reach - This one gets some extra bonus points because it's an excellent hip mobility challenge, too. It takes a lateral and rotary core stability drill and incorporates more anterior core because of the overhead reach. It's a game-changer when an athlete can own the frontal plane with sagittal plane control, too.

5. Dumbbell Suitcase Deadlift - You won't find a better posterior core stability exercise than a properly performed deadlift. You won't be able to load it as much in the suitcase set-up, but you'll definitely increase the challenge to lateral core stability.

suitcase-deadlift-bottom

These are just five of countless variations you can create to cover a few core stability exercise categories with one drill. I've found them to be particularly useful with in-season programs, when athletes have limited time to train. 

If you're looking for more exercise progression strategies - and a comprehensive overall system you can apply with your clients/athletes - I'd highly recommend Mike Robertson's new resource, Complete Core Training. It's on sale with an introductory $50 off discount this week.  Mike's a sharp guy and trusted resource, so I'm enjoying going through his progressions to see how we can tinker to improve our approaches at Cressey Sports Performance.

CompleteCore300-300x272

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 16

With all our Major League Baseball affiliated athletes having left for spring training, things are a bit quieter at Cressey Sports Performance.

CSP - plain

At this time of year, I always like to look back and reflect on the offseason and some of the lessons we've learned. Invariably, it leads to a blog of random thoughts on sports performance training! Here are some things that are rattling around my head right now:

1. Just getting a baseball out of one's hand improves shoulder function - even if an athlete doesn't actually do any arm care or "corrective exercises."

If you look at the glenohumeral joint (ball-and-socket of the shoulder), stability in a given situation is essentially just a function of how well the ball stayed in good congruency with the socket. This congruency is governed by a number of factors, most notably the active function of the scapular stabilizers and rotator cuff. This is what good arm care work is all about.

However, what many folks overlook is that there are both passive (ligamentous) and active (muscular) structures that dramatically influence this congruency. In the throwing shoulder, we're talking predominantly about the inferior, middle, and superior glenohumeral ligaments and long head of the biceps tendon; collectively, the provide anterior (front) stability to the joint so that the ball doesn't fly forward too far in the socket in this position:

layback

These ligaments and biceps tendon are always working hard as superior (top) stabilizers of the joint at this point, especially in someone with a shoulder blade that doesn't upwardly rotate effectively. By the end of a long season, these ligaments are a bit looser and the biceps tendon is often cranky. Good arm care exercises shifts the stress to active restraints (cuff and scapular stabilizers) that can protect these structures.

What often gets overlooked is the fact that simply resting from throwing will improve shoulder function in overhead athletes. When you avoid a "provocative" position and eliminate any possibility of pain, joint function is going to improve. And, ligaments that need to stiffen up are going to be able to do so and offer more passive stability.

shoulder

This is a huge argument in favor of taking time off from throwing at the end of a season. It's effectively "free recovery" and "free functional improvements." Adding good arm care work on top of abstaining from throwing makes the results even better.

*Note: this isn't just a shoulder thing; the ulnar collateral ligament at the elbow can regain some passive stability with time away from throwing as well. 

2. Coaches need to find ways to be more efficient - and shut up more often.

Each year, we start up three intern classes at both the Florida and Massachusetts facilities. As such, we have an opportunity to interact with approximately 30 up-and-coming strength and conditioning coaches. Mentoring these folks is one of my favorite parts of my job - and it has taught me a lot about coaching over the years.

Most interns fall into one of two camps: they either coach too much (the "change the world" mentality) or too little (the "don't want overstep my bounds" mentality). This is an observation - not a criticism - as we have all "been there" ourselves. I, personally, was an over-coacher back in my early strength and conditioning years.

The secret to long-term coaching success is to find a sweet spot in the middle. You have to say enough to create the desired change, but know when to keep quiet so as to not disrupt the fun and continuity of the training process. My experience has been that it's easier to quickly improve the under-coacher, as most folks will develop a little spring in their step when it's pointed out that they're missing things. That adjustment usually puts them right where they need to be.

The over-coacher is a different story, though. It's hard to shut off that "Type A" personality that usually leads someone in this direction. My suggestion to these individuals is always the same, though:

Don't let the game speed up on you. Before you say anything, pause - even take a deep breath, if you need to - and then deliver a CLEAR, CONCISE, and FIRM cue. Try to deliver the important message in 25% as many words as you normally would.

The athletes don't get overwhelmed, but just as importantly, the coach learns what the most efficient cues are. You might talk less, but you actually deliver more.

3. Use the "hands and head together" cue with rollouts and fallouts.

One of the biggest mistakes we'll see with folks when they do stability ball rollouts is that the hands will move forward, but the hips will shoot back. This reduces the challenge to anterior (front) core stability, and can actually drive athletes into too much lumbar extension (lower back arching). By cueing "hand and hips move together," you make sure they're working in sync - and then you just have to coach the athlete to resist the impacts of gravity on the core.

Rollouts

You can apply this same coaching cue to TRX fallouts, too:

kneelingfallout-2

4. Ages 28-30 seems to be a "tipping point" on the crappy nutrition front.

I should preface this point by saying that there is absolutely nothing scientific about this statement; it's just an observation I've made from several conversations with our pro guys over the winter. In other words, it's purely anecdotal, but I'd add that I consider myself one of the "study" subjects.

We all know that many young athletes seem to be able to get away with absolutely anything on the nutrition front. We hear stories about pro athletes who eat fast food twice a day and still succeed at the highest levels in spite of their nutritional practices.

One thing I've noticed is that I hear a lot more observations about "I just didn't feel good today," "my shoulder is cranky," or any of a host of other negative training reports in the days after a holiday. The pro baseball offseason includes Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve/Day, and Valentine's Day. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these observations almost always come from guys who are further along in their career - and as I noted, it's something I've felt myself.

If you eat crap, you're going to feel like crap.

Why does it seem to be more prevalent in older athletes? Surely, there are many possible explanations. More experienced athletes are usually more in-tune with their bodies than younger ones. Recovery is a bigger issue as well, so they might not have as much wiggle room with which to work as their younger counterparts. Older athletes also generally have more competing demands - namely kids, and the stress of competing at the highest levels - that might magnify the impacts of poor nutrition.

McD

Above all, though, I think the issue is that many young athletes with poor nutritional practices have no idea what it's like to actually feel good. They might throw 95mph or run a 40 under 4.5 seconds, but they don't actually realize that their nutrition is so bad that they're actually competing at 90-95% of their actual capacity for displaying and sustaining athleticism. It's only later - once they've gotten on board with solid nutrition - that they have something against which they can compare the bad days. 

Again, this is purely a matter of anecdotal observations, but as I've written before, everyone is invincible until they're not. As coaches, it's our job to make athletes realize at a younger age the profound difference solid nutrition can make. We can't just sit around and insist that they'll come around when they're ready, as that "revelation" might be too late for many of them.

Speaking of nutrition, today is the last day to get the early-bird registration discount on Brian St. Pierre's nutrition seminar at Cressey Sports Performance - MA on April 10. Brian is the director of performance nutrition for Precision Nutrition, and is sure to deliver a fantastic learning experience. You can learn more HERE

CP579609_10151227364655388_1116681132_n-300x200

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Does “Feel” Matter with Core Stability Exercises?

Just the other day, an online consulting client asked me why he didn't "feel" an anti-rotation chop in his abs if it was supposed to be a core stability exercise. This is a common question in folks who are being exposed to more "functional" core training for the first time.

Really, there are multiple reasons why you won't necessarily feel chops, lifts, and other drills in this regard. I figured I'd use today's article to highlight why that's the case.

1. You're not near the end-range of a muscular action.

The muscular "burn" we're accustomed to feeling at the top of a dumbbell fly or top of a biceps curl is occurring because it's the completion of the concentric phase and the muscle is fully shortened. The length of the rectus abdominus, external obliques, etc. shouldn't change if the drill is done correctly.

2. You're working isometrically.

Most of the time, the "pump" lifters feel with various exercises coming from the "pistoning" action of going through concentric and eccentric motions to bring blood flow to the area. You won't get that feeling as easily when you aren't bringing a muscle in and out of these positions - and with a chop like the one featured above, the goal is to keep the core positioning unchanged. You're working to resist extension and rotation.

Additionally, while you can get a good feel of muscular activation on some isometric drills (e.g., holding the top of a supine bridge with the glutes activated), it can prove to be difficult on drills where adjacent joints are moving simultaneously - as with a chop or lift. With the chops and lifts, you want good rigidity - but not outrageous rigidity that doesn't allow for good movement through the thoracic spine (upper back).

Think about a prone bridge. I can make it be a drill with incredible core stiffness by adding full exhalation and an aggressive bracing strategy; this would really light up the "abs."

photo1-300x225-300x225-2

If, however, I want to add a reaching component, or even just transfer this bridge into a push-up variation, then I need to tone down my rigidity a bit. The reach can't happen if I don't.

On this front, spine expert Dr. Stuart McGill has spoken about the importance of learning to differentiate between high-threshold and low-threshold core stability exercises. You don't need to brace as hard on a bowler squat as you do on half-kneeling cable chop, and you don't need to brace as hard on a cable chop as you do on a heavy deadlift. Different movement challenges and external loading parameters must equate to different core stabilization patterns. Nobody ever worries about feeling their abs on a heavy deadlift - and it's because it's so far to one end of this low-to-high-threshold continuum.

3. Some muscles can't get a "pump" easily - and potentially without risk - from an anatomical standpoint.

If you do a biceps curl, you can feel a good burn "feel" at the top of the rep because it's not hard to get full elbow flexion and supination. It's easy to shorten the muscle and go through sufficient reps to make that pump happen.

Your spine is a lot different. You've got to go through quite a bit of spinal flexion to truly shorten your rectus abdominus to get that burn - and some people (particularly those who sit all day) don't handle this position well, especially if repeated "cycles" of flexion-extension are needed to get to this burning point. In fact, if you look at the research, repeated flexion/extension cycles is how you herniate an intervertebral disc in a laboratory setting. This is why a lot of military recruits develop back pain with sit-ups.

In short, sometimes, finding that "feel" is a quick path to musculoskeletal pain - so don't force it.

The take-home message is that you don't have to necessarily "feel" an exercise in a particular place in order to have it be a productive inclusion in your training programs. Sometimes, we have to fall back on the fact that if the movement looks good, the muscles are doing what they're supposed to be doing.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

10 Random Thoughts on Core Stability Training

I'm collaborating with Cressey Sports Performance coach Tim Geromini on today's post, as we both reviewed Dean Somerset's new resource, Advanced Core Training, over the weekend. Today, we'll highlight some of the biggest takeaways from the product - and how it relates to what we do at CSP on a daily basis.

Let me preface this article by saying that I think the world needs another "core training" product, seminar, or article like I need a hole in my head. Seriously, it's the most hackneyed topic in the fitness industry today. However, Dean is a super bright guy and his stuff never disappoints, so Tim and I gave him the benefit of the doubt, especially since the resource clocks in at a hair over four hours and therefore wouldn't destroy an entire day if it was less-than-stellar.

Fortunately, Dean put on a great show. Check out some key takeaways we wanted to highlight:

1. Training your core isn’t just about being stiff and stable: Core training is also about being elastic and malleable. We have to be able to get into positions and then lock down into them to prevent injury. However, we also have to be resilient enough to move through the continuum while being able to control movements. Freedom of the movement you have available is key.

2. The end of pain usually does not mean you have restored structure and function. More often than not, the end of pain just means you aren’t currently irritating those tissues enough to have pain. How many times have your client’s symptoms gone away and came back shortly after? Although the symptoms and pain may be gone, the injury is still there. Progressing exercises too fast can lead to a return in pain.

There is nothing wrong with owning basic exercises for long periods of time.

3. Your diaphragm is the roof and main anchor point for most core muscles: psoas, rectus, multifidus, and transverse abdominis. They also attach to the pelvic floor. When you can control breathing through your diaphragm, you can put yourself in a better position to express core strength.

diaphragmGray391


4. Rotary stability exercises are incredibly important, but they usually occur with the lower body fixed and upper body creating the destabilizing torques. Chops and lifts are perfect examples.

However, in functional activities like the rotation that occurs with golf, tennis, baseball, track and field throwing, and hockey slapshots, there is a separation that takes place between the torso and hips. Effectively, they rotate in opposite directions – so it makes sense to have both “ends” of the chain moving in some of our exercises. A good example is the Dead Bug Anti-Rotation Press, which also offers some anterior core benefits.

5. If you’re always doing relaxed parasympathetic breathing, you won’t generate power. Likewise, if you’re always doing short and choppy breathing, you’ll never relax and will fatigue faster. Let’s take the squat, for example: if your breathing is slow and parasympathetic, your body is not primed to express the absolute force it can. On the other hand, if you’re performing a deadbug as part of your warm-up, you need to relax to activate your core.

6. Try programming for breaths instead of time. During a plank, instead of asking your client to hold the position for 30 seconds, try having them hold the plank for 5 full breaths. This forces them to actually breathe since their focus is getting 5 full breaths out as opposed to trying to survive for 30 seconds. It's an instant shift to quality over quantity.

7. Neutral, Brace, Breathe: when you’re changing positions or setting up for an exercise, the best way to put yourself in the correct position is to own your starting point. In order to do that, you need to reset to a neutral spine, brace your core, and breathe.

8. We really like quadruped walkouts as a “bridge” exercise that can be used as a progression from all fours belly lift toward bear crawls.

This awesome drill gets you not only an anterior core challenge, but also a means of building good serratus anterior function. You can't have good upper extremity function without quality core control!

9. Think set-up, execution, and recovery: to piggy back on the previous point, let’s take the deadlift as an example here. You wouldn’t perform repetition after repetition in rapid fire without resetting. Before going on to your next rep, you reset to a neutral spine, brace your core, and breathe. Instead of thinking of one set of five reps, think of performing five singles. Each repetition is a set in itself.

10. Producing force from lower body to upper body is core dependent. Here at CSP we talk a lot with our athletes about the importance of their core in their pitching delivery. You may have a strong lower half, but without a stable and strong core, that force from your lower body can’t be expressed all the way up the chain if your core gives out.

Wrap-up

Advanced Core Training covers the gambit of core training: everything from how to tune breathing patterns to the desired goal outcome (mobility, strength, reactive speed, etc) to assessing core function. There is a huge hands-on component, which provides a lot of different ideas on how to use exercises and - more importantly - when to use them.To sweeten the deal, Dean's locked down NSCA CEUs for it. In short, I think it's a great resource that has merit for fitness professionals, strength and conditioning coaches, rehab specialists, and fitness enthusiasts alike. Click here to learn more.

Advanced-Core-Training-Box-Cover-2
 

 

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more
Page 1 2 3 5
LEARN HOW TO DEADLIFT
  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series