Layman or Lazy-Man

About the Author: Eric Cressey

Honestly, the word “core” has become so hackneyed that it makes me kind of ashamed that our profession. I mean, let’s face it: “Core” can essentially be translated as “The rectus abdominus, lumbar erectors, obliques, and all those other muscles between the knees and shoulders that I’m either too lazy or misinformed to list.”

Everything is related; our bodies are great at compensating. As such, it’s imperative that the approach one takes to “core” training be based on addressing where the problems exist. The most common lower back problems we see are related to extension-rotation syndrome. We most often get hyperextension at the lumbar spine because our gluteus maximus doesn’t fire to complete hip extension and posteriorly tilt the pelvis; we have to find range of motion wherever we can get it. Having tight hip flexors and lumbar erectors exaggerates anterior pelvic tilt, so this hyperextension is maintained throughout the day to keep the body upright in spite of the faulty pelvic alignment.

The rotation component simply comes along when you throw unilateral dominance into the equation. It might be a baseball pitcher always throwing in one direction, or an office worker always turning to answer the phone on one side. Lumbar rotation is not a movement for which you want any extra range of motion, and the related hip hiking isn’t much fun to deal with, either.

The solution is to get the glutes firing and learn to stabilize the lumbar spine while enhancing mobility at the hips, thoracic spine, and scapulae. You just have to get the range of motion at the right places.

Unfortunately, thinking this stuff out isn’t high on some people’s priority list. It’s “sexier” to tell a client to do some weighted sit-ups, Russian twists, and enough yoga to make the hip flexors want to explode. I’m not going to recommend sit-ups to anyone, and if an athlete is going to do something advanced, he’s going to have shown me that he’s prepared for it by successfully completing a progression to that point. You can get away with faulty movement patterns in the real world, but when you put a faulty movement pattern under load in a resistance training context, everything is magnified.

Eric Cressey

Start with the right plan.