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The Core: Anti-Rotation

Written on April 6, 2009 at 10:56 am, by Eric Cressey

Q: I recently came across an article by Nick Tumminello on tests for dynamic abdominal strength, and the primary focus was sit-ups and reverse crunches.  Given your regard for training the core as an anti-rotator/resistor of lumbar hyperextension, do you have any thoughts on these testing protocols?

A: First off, Nick is a brilliant guy with some awesome ideas.  For those who aren’t familiar with him, check out his website, PerformanceU.net.

Moving on to your question, it is interesting that you would ask about this, as Bill Hartman and I had a good email exchange last week where we were talking about just how “functional” most tests are.  And, more specifically, we were calling into question just how much particular assessments carry over to the real world of injury prevention and performance enhancement.

A study from Stanton et al. in 2004 is a great example of the divide between testing proficiency and performance.  As I noted in my e-book, The Truth About Unstable Surface Training, researchers found that six weeks of stability ball training improved core stability in young athletes – as it was measured (in a manner consistent with the training itself).  In other words, this is like saying that bench press training will make you better at bench pressing.  Well, duh!  The more important question, though, is whether or not that bench press performance will carry over to athletic performance.


And, this is where the intervention in the Stanton et al. study fell short.  While their measure of “core stability” improved, it did not effect favorable changes in running economy or running posture, or modify EMG activity of the abdominal or erector spinae muscles.  In other words, it didn’t carry over.

A comparable result was seen in a study from Tse et al. in 2005.  After eight weeks of stability ball training in collegiate rowers, while “core stability” (as they tested it) improved, the experimental (core training) group showed no performance improvements over those who did ZERO core training during this time.  And, researcher tested several measures: “vertical jump, broad jump, shuttle run, 40-m sprint, overhead medicine ball throw, 2,000-m maximal rowing ergometer test.”

So, with respect to your question, I think the question is: do those sit-up and reverse crunch progressions matter for an athlete who spends his/her life in the standing position?  Wouldn’t they have more predictive value with respect to performance in a mixed martial arts population that spends a significant amount of time in the supine position in competitive situations?  Interestingly, Nick has extensive experience with mixed martial artists, and that is probably why he’s seen such strong predictive value from those tests.
Additionally, these issues are worthy of consideration in an athletic population where fatigue is a big issue.  Does an assessment in a rested state necessarily carry over to a situation where movements may change under fatigue?  Bill wrote a great blog on this topic HERE.

Food for thought; never take anything at face value.  As with almost everything you’ll encounter in the world of fitness, the answer is “maybe” or “it depends.”  You have to know how to assess and program accordingly.

Maximum Strength Feedback

I just got the following feedback on the Maximum Strength program from a trainer who recently completed it:

“Body Weight 202–> 207
Bench 305–> 335
Broad Jump 99″ –> 104″
Back Squat 315 –> 355
Deadlift 335 –> 370
Chin Ups 202+60=262 –> 207+90 = 297

I had two big ‘uh-huh’ moments when going through this program. (You have been preaching these forever, but it did not truly hit me until the third phase of the program)

1) Improving my ankle and hip mobility was the key to improving my squat and deadlift numbers.
2) Increasing my pulling power was the key to improving my bench press.

As a trainer, I had too much pride to ever follow anyone else’s program.  I am glad I finally decided to check my ego and follow your program.”

Pick up your copy of Maximum Strength HERE.

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