Home Posts tagged "Core Stability Exercise" (Page 5)

3 Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective

When it comes to strength and conditioning programs, I've long been a proponent of the phrase, "It's not just what you do; it's how you do it."

Whenever I visit a commercial gym, I'm reminded of just how badly most people butcher exercise technique.  A lot of people get hurt with exercise, and it isn't necessarily because the exercise is inherently bad, but because their execution of that exercise (or their "intepretation" of it) is grossly flawed. 

To that end, I thought it would be a good idea to kick off a new series about coaching cues we regularly use with our clients and athletes.  Here are three to get the ball rolling:

1. "Make a double chin."

I'm a huge advocate of teaching the packed neck during strength exercises, as a lot of athletes have a tendency to slip into forward head posture the second they get under load.  However, the common cue of "tuck the chin" really doesn't work, as a lot of athletes will simply open the mouth or take the chin to the sternum.  Neither of these patterns are ideal.  Simply telling someone to make a double chin usually fixes the problem instantly, as it's a pattern that is already in their existing schema; they've been making goofy faces every since they were kids.

This is, of course, a cue you might want to avoid if your client does, in fact, have many chins.

2. "Stare at your fists."

Prone bridges are a tremendously valuable anterior core stability exercise, especially for beginners.  Unfortunately - and possibly because they're so common in group exercise settings - the technique gets butchered all the time, as folks make themselves "too long" with their set-up.  When the hands are too far out in front of the body, the challenge improves considerably, and folks often drop into a forward head posture, "buffalo hump" at the thoracic spine, and lumbar hyperextension.  Here's what the poor technique looks like; you'll see that the athlete is simply training in an excessively lordotic posture:

Here's how it looks when it's corrected:

 

3. "Work like a see-saw."

I'm a big fan of single-leg deadlifts, but the truth is that a lot of people struggle to master the hip hinge in unilateral stance.  One of the quick and easy ways to correct this is to tell an athlete to "work like a see-saw."  In other words, imagine the dumbbell in front as being one side of the see-saw, and your foot in the back as the other end.  Since the foot weighs less than the dumbbell, you've got to get it further out on the see-saw to have the same counterbalancing effect.

The same is true in the warm-up period, even if you don't have weights in the hands:

Did you find these tips helpful?  Looking for more coaching cues like these? In the comments section below, let me know what exercise technique gives you trouble and we'll cover it in a future installment!

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Q&A: Can You Overtrain on Core Stability Exercises?

Q: What are your thoughts on the right amount of volume, intensity and frequency on core exercises ranging from bridging variations to ab wheel rollouts from the feet for the intermediate to advanced lifter looking to decrease back pain and get out of anterior pelvic tilt? Is it possible to make progress for a while, but overdue it on volume, intensity or frequency and actually have your core get weaker or stop progressing/responding, and start to experience back pain and anterior pelvic tilt again?

A: This is an outstanding question, and I can really go in a number of different directions with it.

First, let me say that the single best way to get out of excessive anterior tilt is training oneself to not live in anterior tilt!  No amount of exercise will undo the damage you can do with your daily posture.  That’s the easy part of this response, though.

Next, I’ll say that I absolutely believe that we can overdo it with “core-specific” exercises.

As a parallel, just consider the shoulder.  The glenohumeral (ball and socket) joint is heavily reliant on both active (muscles/tendons) and passive (capsule/ligaments and labrum) restraints for stability. If you overdo it with rotator cuff exercises and train the cuff to excessive fatigue, individuals lose dynamic stability and can’t maintain the position of the humeral head in the glenoid fossa. Overuse conditions and injuries can occur.  I wrote about this in an old series, How Much Rotator Cuff Work is Too Much? - Part 1 and Part 2.

Similarly, the lumbar spine relies heavily on both active and passive restraints.  People can overcome lumbar ligament and disc injuries to live pain-free if they maintain adequate soft tissue control.  Likewise, many sedentary folks can live pain-free in spite of poor soft tissue function simply because the challenges of their daily activities don’t exceed the tolerance of the passive restraints (these are the folks who often blow out their backs trying move couches).

That said, we have to be careful about overreacting to this realization.  Just as the trend of doing thousands of sit-ups in the past few decades created a ton of back pain, you see a lot of completely deconditioned individuals who are hurting, too.  There has to be a middle ground between the two.  So, you could say:

Optimizing core function is really a delicate balance of exercise selection, volume, frequency, and intensity.

Unfortunately, I don’t know that we have a perfect (or even close to perfect) answer with respect to all of these factors, as everyone is different.  Consider the following:

1. Flexion-intolerant backs must be treated differently than extension-intolerant backs.

2. Trained athletes probably need a lower frequency because of their sport participation and neural efficiency, but can handle a greater intensity and more complex exercises – and need to prepare the core for fatigue over an extended period (e.g., soccer game, tennis match, 100-pitch outing).

3. A sedentary individual probably needs a greater frequency of low-intensity exercises.

4. In-season athletes must be careful not to do too much work and pre-fatigue the core before competition.

5. Those with congenital laxity (loose joints) likely need a greater frequency of core work for “neuromuscular reminding.”

6. The general exercises we can do in a weight room or rehab setting must be complemented by sport-specific activities in the appropriate volume.  When general volume goes down, specific can go up – and vice versa.

7. Athletes with a previous history of injury – or known diagnostic imaging red flags – may need to do more just to maintain.

8. Everyone’s definitions of “core” is different.  I view the core as pretty much everything between the knees and the shoulders – but the truth is that poor core control can also lead to elbow and foot/ankle issues; should we include those joints as part of the equation?

9. Everyone’s definition of and “core stability exercises” is also different.  Rollouts – an anterior core stability exercise – were mentioned in the question above, but I’ve never had more soreness in my anterior core than after doing heavy push presses.  Simply holding a weight overhead forces our anterior core to work to prevent lumbar hyperextension (the photo below shows what happens when the anterior core isn't properly engaged).

As you can see, the “how much is too much” question is a big, fat, hairy one.  Ask 100 fitness professionals and rehabilitation specialists, and they’ll all have different answers – and even then, it will still be dependent on the athlete/client/patient.  We can’t even effectively define “core,” let alone “core stability exercises” to answer today’s question.

Taking it a step further, only 15% of low back pain has a definitive diagnosis.  One could make the argument, therefore, that only 15% of core function can be adequately assessed/interpreted.  We’d like to think that we know exactly what is going on with a spine, but it’s just not reflected in the research.

The good news, though, is that while most people encounter low back pain at some point in their lives, the overwhelming majority of them do get better with rehabilitation.  We just don’t know what’s optimal - and I’m not sure we ever will, but we are getting a lot better, thanks to the availability of both research and anecdotal experience of rehabilitation specialists, fitness professionals, and folks who have stayed healthy.

This is one reason why I’m so proud of the Functional Stability Training series from Mike Reinold and me. The two of us collaborated in the past to bridge the gap between rehabilitation and performance training, and we have done it again with project.

FST1

Whether you’re a fitness or rehabilitation professional, or exercise enthusiast or athlete looking to learn more about how to effectively prepare the core, train around various lumbo-pelvic injuries/conditions, or learn about developing power in the frontal and transverse planes with medicine ball drills, there is much to be gained from watching Functional Stability Training.

To sweeten the deal, the entire series is on sale for 20% off through the end of the weekend. You can check it out HERE.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/19/12

Here's a list of strength and conditioning stuff you should read/watch for the week.  The theme of this week will be Functional Stability Training, our new resource. Integrating Medicine Balls in a Strength and Conditioning Program - This is the introduction to my medicine ball presentation from the event, and it also highlights a few of our overhead medicine ball stomp variations.  FST also includes a bunch of rotational medicine ball exercise progressions we utilize, as well as mobility/activation drills we utilize as fillers between sets.

To Arch or Not to Arch? - This old blog post talks about arching when one squats.  It might not be all it's cracked up to be.

Glute Bridge Exercise Progressions for Rotary Stability - This post from Mike Reinold shows how to progress what can quickly become a boring exercise, even though it's super valuable.

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What Folks are Saying about Functional Stability Training

On the fence about checking out Functional Stability Training for the Core?  Check out what some of the seminar attendees had to say about the event:

To learn more about this resource, head here.  To purchase, head here.

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Core Stability: Training Around Disc Herniations and Bulges

With the recent release of our Functional Stability Training resource, I thought you might be interested to check out this preview from one of my sections.  In the two minute video below, I discuss how one can manage clients with a history of intervertebral disc issues:

To learn more about this resource, head here.  To purchase, head here.

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Functional Stability Training is Now for Sale!

I'm excited to announce that my newest product, Functional Stability Training (a collaborative project with physical therapist Mike Reinold) is now available.  It will be on sale through Sunday at midnight at an introductory price of $77 (normally $97). This resource consists of the footage from a seminar we filmed this past fall at Cressey Performance; it includes both lecture and hands-on components.  The resource is geared toward personal trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, various rehabilitation specialists, and fitness enthusiasts looking to learn the “why” behind the “what.”  Here was the agenda from the event:
  • Functional Stability Training – An integrated approach to rehabilitation and performance training – Reinold
  • Recent Advances in Core Performance - Understand the concept of Functional Stability Training for the Core, true function of the spine, and how this impacts injuries, rehab, and training – Reinold
  • Maintaining a Training Effect in Spite of Common Lumbar Spine and Lower Extremity Injuries – Outlines the causes and symptoms of several common injuries encountered in the lower extremity, and how to train around these issues to keep clients/athletes fit during rehabilitation – Cressey
  • Understanding and Controlling Extension in Athletes – Looks into the causes of and problems with excessive lumbar extension, anterior pelvic tilt, and rib flairs in athletes – Cressey
  • LAB – Assessing Core Movement Quality:  Understanding where to begin with Functional Stability Training exercises for the core – Reinold
  • LAB – A Dynamic Progression of Core Performance Exercises  - Progression from simple core control to advanced rehab and training techniques – Reinold
  • LAB – Understanding and Controlling Extension in Athletes – Progresses on the previous lecture with specific technique and coaching cues for exercises aimed toward those with these common issues – Cressey
  • LAB – Advanced Stability: Training Power Outside the Sagittal Plane – Traditional power training programs are predominantly focused on the sagittal plane, but in most athletic endeavors – especially rotational sports – power must be displayed in other planes of motion – Cressey
The product is available as either an online resource or DVD set; you get to choose. For more information, check out www.FunctionalStability.com. Or, you can purchase HERE using our 100% secure server. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
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Strength Exercise of the Week: Half-Kneeling 1-arm Landmine Press

We've been utilizing the half-kneeling 1-arm landline press more and more with clients at Cressey Performance over the past few months, as it is a strength exercise that affords a number of full-body benefits. First, with the trailing leg positioned appropriately, it's a static hip flexor stretch that is even more effective because the athlete is cued to activate the same-side glutes and brace the core, so you're effectively increasing stiffness at an adjacent joint to help "solidify" the newly acquired range of motion into hip extension.  As I've written previously, increasing stiffness can be a good thing. Second, the core stability benefits occur in a number of contexts.  Because the load forces the athlete to resist extension, it serves as a great anterior core stability exercise.  And, because it's loaded asymmetrically, it serves as a great lateral and rotary core stability exercise. Third, I like all asymmetrical-loaded upper-body strength exercises because they train thoracic mobility and dynamic stability of the scapula, which you simply don't get on the same level with push-up variations and bilateral upper body exercises (although those categories do provide unique benefits in their own right). Fourth, because of the thicker handle at the end of the barbell, you're getting a different grip and forearm stimulus.

Key Coaching Cues:

1. Set up so that there is a subtle (but not aggressive) stretch on the trailing leg hip flexors.  Activate the glutes on that side as well. 2. Brace the core tightly to resist extension and rotation. 3. Press straight out, not across your body. 4. Don't allow the elbow to "migrate" past the body too much. Instead, pre-tension the scapular stabilizers to make sure that the shoulder is not anteriorly tilted as the humerus (upper arm) extends back to neutral on the eccentric. 5. Keep the chin tucked so that the cervical spine is in neutral. 6. Load with weights smaller than 25, as the 45-pound plates tend to get in the way.

This is a great exercise for loading the upper body without really beating up on the joints.  I particularly like it with some of my throwers who have gotten stronger in the upper body, as it's a good alternative to having baseball guys throwing really heavy dumbbells around, particularly as they are getting more aggressive with their throwing programs.

Give it a shot and let me know what you think!

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The Best of 2011: Features

I love writing multi-part features because it really affords me more time to dig deep into a topic of interest to both my readers and me.  In many ways, it’s a challenge on par with writing a short book, whereas individual blogs tend to be quick bullet points. That said,  here were five noteworthy features from 2011 at EricCressey.com: How to Deadlift: Which Deadlift Variation is Right for You? - Part 1 (Conventional Deadlift) - This kicked off a three-part series on why certain deadlift variations may be more appropriate than others for certain lifters.  Be sure to read installments 2 and 3: the Sumo Deadlift and the Trap Bar Deadlift.

Is an Exercise Science Degree Really Worth It? - Part 1 - I expected this series to be far more controversial than it was, but to be honest, most people simply agreed with me, so it was popular for a different reason!  Check out Part 2 as well.

Coffee Consumption and Health: The Final Word - Part 1 - As I noted the other day, one of the biggest surprises for me in 2011 was that my readers were psyched to get nutrition content at EricCressey.com, and Brian St. Pierre's guest blog on coffee consumption and health was one such example.  Be sure to check out Part 2 as well.

How to Fit Core Stability Exercises into Strength and Conditioning Programs - Part 1 - This two-part feature was published late in the year, but that didn't stop it from receiving enough traffic to rank in the top five at year-end.  It was a follow-up to the Functional Stability Training seminar that Mike Reinold and I presented at Cressey Performance in November.  Click here for part 2. Is Dairy Healthy? The Whole Story - Part 1 - This three-part feature was another great guest submission from Brian St. Pierre on a hotly debated topic in the nutrition world.  Check out Part 2 and Part 3 as well. Speaking of features, that wraps up this third installment of the "Best of 2011" series; I'll be back soon with the top videos of 2011. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
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How to Fit Core Stability Exercises into Strength and Conditioning Programs: Part 2

In part 1 of this series, I discussed an overall approach to the categorization of core stability exercises.  Here, in the second installment of this series, I'll be talking about how to incorporate various core stability exercises into your strength and conditioning programs.

To recap, the categories we'll be dealing with are anterior core, posterior core, lateral core, and rotary core.  In reality, though, in my eyes, we only really need to specifically program for three of these categories.  You see, the posterior core seems to take care of itself, as we are already training the ability to resist flexion with various strength exercises like deadlifts, squats, pull-throughs, kettlebell swings, and a host of other strength.  Some folks may benefit from some birddogs in the warm-up period to help learn the anti-flexion patterning a bit better, but most folks are ready to rock and roll with a comprehensive strength and conditioning program that emphasizes the other three.

With that "exception" out of the way, I think it's important to appreciate three different factors when programming core stability exercises:

1. An individual's training experience - A true beginner can typically work on low-level core exercises like dead bugs and prone and side bridges on a daily basis to establish motor control.  Conversely, these exercises may be too basic for a more advanced lifter, so he/she would need to focus on more advanced exercises, but do them less frequently (1-3x/week).

2. An individual's weaknesses - A young athlete with a raging anterior pelvic tilt would need to prioritize anti-extension core stability exercises over the other categories, as you want to master the sagittal plane before getting "too sexy" in other planes.  Sure, you can train the other ones, but you're better off working on the most pressing issue first.

3. An individual's training frequency - Obviously, if someone is training 4-6x/week, you can do more in terms of  core stability exercises with his strength and conditioning programs than you could if he was only training 2x/week.  When they train less frequently, you often have to make some sacrifices in terms of core stability exercise volume in order to make sure the big-bang strength exercises (which can serve as indirect core training exercises) still get the attention they deserve.

With these three factors in mind, let's look at a few examples.  Keep in mind that in each of these examples, I've removed the compound exercises, mobility drills, foam rolling, and metabolic conditioning just so that you can see how the core training exercises exist in isolation.

Example 1: 4x/week Strength and Conditioning Program

Day 1: Challenging Anterior Core (e.g., Rollouts), Low-Level Lateral Core (e.g., Side Bridges)
Day 2: Challenging Rotary Core (e.g., Landmines), Low-Level Anterior Core (e.g., Naked Get-ups)
Day 3: Challenging Anterior Core (e.g., ), Low-Level Rotary Core (e.g., Pallof Presses)
Day 4: Challenging Lateral Core (e.g., 1-arm Carries), Low-Level Anterior Core (e.g., Reverse Crunches)

Here, you have all the flexibility in the work to prioritize the areas that are lagging the most.  This example emphasized anterior core, but it could have easily been lateral or rotary core stability with some quick and easy substitutions.

Example 2: 3x/week Strength and Conditioning Program

Day 1: Challenging Anterior Core (e.g., Rollouts), Low-Level Lateral Core (e.g., Side Bridges)
Day 2: Challenging Rotary Core (e.g., Landmines), Low-Level Anterior Core (e.g., Reverse Crunches)
Day 3: Challenging Lateral Core (e.g., 1-arm Carries), Low-Level Rotary Core (e.g., Pallof Presses)

You can still get in two versions of each of the "big three" core stability exercise categories over the course of the week - and that doesn't even include the "accidental" benefits you get from your compound strength exercises.

Example 3: 2x/week Strength and Conditioning Program

Day 1: Lateral Core (e.g., 1-arm Carries), Anterior Core from loaded push-up variation

Day 2: Rotary Core (e.g., Split-Stance Cable Lift), Anterior Core from overhead pressing.

You can see that this is far from "optimal" in terms of covering everything you want to cover in a comprehensive core stability exercise program, but when you can only get in two sessions a week (as might be the case for an in-season athlete), you make sacrifices and do what you can.  This athlete might be able to complement this program with some low-level prone bridges, reverse crunches, and get-up variations on off-days.

Hopefully, this gives you a little glimpse into what a few sample weeks of core stability exercises look like in Cressey Sports Performance strength training programs.  For more information and another perspective, I'd encourage you to check out our Functional Stability Training of the Core resource, which is on sale for 25% off this week (discount automatically applied at checkout).  Click here to learn more.

FST1

Several of our other products are also on sale; you can learn more HERE.

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How to Fit Core Stability Exercises into Strength and Conditioning Programs: Part 1

A while back, Mike Reinold and I presented our Functional Stability Training of the Core seminar to an audience of about 60 rehabilitation and strength and conditioning specialists at Cressey Sports Performance.  In today's post, I wanted to touch on a topic we covered collaboratively: how to categorize various core stability exercises and incorporate them into your strength and conditioning programs.

Both Mike and I are in agreement that your four general categories are 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, and encompass a variety of drills, starting with dead bug, curl-up, and prone bridging activities.  In prepared individuals, they progress all the way up through more advanced exercises like stability ball rollouts, and TRX flutters and fallouts.

Posterior core stability exercises are designed to train the body to resist excessive lumbar spine flexion.  Your drills may include everything from the birddog all the way up through more conventional strength training exercises like  deadlift variations.

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 educate folks on how to resist excessive rotation through the lumbar spine.  Examples include drills like landmines, lifts, and chops.

To be candid, this classification of core stability exercises isn't anything new to those of you who have been paying attention over the past few years.  However, introducing these categories really wasn't my intention in this blog; rather, I had three key points I wanted to highlight:

1. It's not just what you do; it's how you do it.

You may be able to hold a prone bridge for 25 minutes, but if you're doing so in terrible positioning and just relying on your hip flexors and lumbar erectors to do the work, you're doing more harm than good.  You'd be amazed at how many high level athletes can't do a simple prone or side bridge correctly.

2. A core stability exercise rarely fits into one category, especially when you add progressions to it beyond the initial stages.

Take a kettlebell crosswalk, for instance.

In this exercise, you have different loads in each hand, which makes it a lateral core stability exercise.  With each step, the athlete goes into single-leg stance, which makes it a rotary core stability exercise.  With the load in the bottom hand, there is a tendency to be pulled into flexion, so you have a posterior core stability exercise.  Finally, with the arm overhead, one must prevent the rib cage from flying up and allowing the arm to fall backward, so you have an anterior core stability exercise as well.  This example demonstrates the role of synergy among all the muscles (and fascia) around the core in achieving multidirectional core stability simultaneously.

Taking it a step further, how you control one plane of movement impacts the benefit you derive from a core stability exercise in the intended plane. In this half-kneeling cable lift, for instance, the primary goal is to work on rotary and lateral core stability, as the pull of the cable back toward the column is the primary destabilizing torque.  You will, however, often see athletes perform the entire exercise in lumbar extension, as evidenced by a rib flair in the front, a backward lean, and loss of the packed neck.  I execute the first two reps with the incorrect positioning, and the subsequent reps in neutral spine with adequate anterior core control.

3. When you consider the overlap among the various core stability exercise categories, it can be challenging to determine how to appropriately sequence them in a strength and conditioning program.

This will be the focus of part 2; stay tuned!

If you're looking for a great core stability resource right now, I'd encourage you to check out Functional Stability Training of the Core (as well as the rest of the Functional Stability Training series).  And, to sweeten the deal, you can get 25% off through Monday (discount is automaticaly applied at checkout).

FST1

Several of our other products are also on sale; you can learn more HERE.

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