Home Posts tagged "Functional Stability Training" (Page 5)

I’m Having a Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sale (Just Like Everyone Else on the Planet)

I guess I'm joining in the discount madness this holiday season, even if I didn't have to do any planning!  Here are some options for your holiday shopping at EricCressey.com:

1. Whip: What it is and How You Get it - This was a presentation I did a while back at Ron Wolforth's Pitching Coaches Bootcamp, and it's now available for sale individually. In the presentation, I talk about factors the influence whether you increase throwing velocity and how strength and conditioning programs can have a dramatic impact - either positive or negative - on whether one develops the whip needed to throw harder.  You can either watch this online or get it as a DVD.

2. 20% off all Physical Products at MikeReinold.com - This sale includes Functional Stability Training and Optimal Shoulder Performance, along with many of Mike Reinold's other products.  Just enter the coupon code BLACKFRIDAY2012 at checkout to get the discount.

3. 15% of all Products at RobertsonTrainingSystems.com - This sale includes Assess and Correct, Building the Efficient Athlete, and Magnificent Mobility, along with many other products from Mike Robertson. The discount will automatically be applied at checkout.

We don't put products on sale very often, so be sure to take advantage of these offers before they expire at the end of the day on Monday!

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Cleaning Up Your Chin-up Technique

The chin-up is one of the most sacred inclusions in strength and conditioning programs, but unfortunately, it's common performed with incorrect technique.  Check out the video below to learn how to avoid the most common chin-up exercise technique mistakes.

 

If you're looking for more detail on the "gross extension" pattern I discuss in this video, I'd encourage you to check out Functional Stability Training of the Core.

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5 Reasons You Have Tight Hamstrings

There might not be a more obnoxious and stubborn athletic injury than the hamstrings strain.  When it is really bad, it can bother you when you're simply walking or sitting on it.  Then, when a hamstrings strain finally feels like it's getting better, you build up to near your top speed with sprinting - and it starts barking at you again.  In other words, a pulled hamstrings is like a crazy, unpredictable mother-in-law; just when you think you've finally won her over, she brings you back down to Earth and reminds you how much more she liked your wife's old boyfriend.

However, not all hamstrings pain cases are true strains; more commonly, they present as a feeling of "tight hamstrings."  If one is going to effective prevent this discomfort, rehabilitate it, or train around it, it's important to realize what is causing the hamstrings tightness in the first place.  Here are five reasons:

1. Protective Tension of the Hamstrings

This is readily apparent in someone who has a crazy anterior pelvic tilt, which puts a big stretch on the hamstrings, which posteriorly tilt the pelvis.  When someone is extremely anteriorly tilted, the hamstrings are constantly "on" to prevent someone from ending up with extension-based back pain, such as spondylolysis (vertebral fractures), spondylolisthesis (vertebral "slippage"), and lumbar erector tightness/strains.  This is a problem most commonly seen in females (greater anterior pelvic tilt than men) and athletes:

APT-250x300

Doing a lot of longer duration static stretching for the hamstrings in this population usually isn't a great idea, as you run the risk of making someone more unstable - particularly in the case of females, who have less rigid ligamentous restraints (more congenital laxity) to protect them.  To that end, our approach with these folks is to use the warm-ups to foam roll the area, then do some hamstrings mobilizations to transiently reduce stiffness in the hamstrings.

After this reduction in stiffness, we work to build stability in synergists to the hamstrings in posterior pelvic tilt.  In other words, there's a heavy emphasis on glute activation and anterior core recruitment both with a strength training program and postural reeducation for the other 23 hours of the day.

At the end of the training session, with the male athletes, we may do some shorter duration hamstrings stretching just to "dissipate" a little eccentric stress.  I like ten seconds in each of these three positions:


 

 

 

 

 

The thing to remember is that while you can do everything right with these athletes in training, what they do with their posture during the rest of their lives is of paramount importance.  If they continue to stand around in anterior tilt and don't help the new stiffness they've developed "stick," they'll continue to over-rely on their already tight hamstrings.

2. Neural Tension

Just because you feel hamstrings tightness doesn't mean that the hamstrings are actually the source of the problem.  In fact, it's not uncommon at all for those with lumbar disc issues to present with radicular pain, tightness, or numbness/tingling into the legs - especially the hamstrings.  The symptoms may also come from nerve entrapment (most commonly the sciatic nerve) on soft tissue structures further down the chain.  Just aggressively stretching the hamstrings can actually make these symptoms worse, so it's important to see a medical professional to rule out causes further up with the appropriate clinical exams, such as the slump test.

3. Truly Tight Hamstrings

In order for hamstrings to really be short, one would have to spend a lot of time with the knee flexed and hip extended - so just imagine the position you're in at the top of a standing leg curl.  That's a hard pose to hold for an extended period of time, much less do so on a regular basis.

That said, some folks do get somewhat close to that on a daily basis in the sitting position, and are therefore the most likely to really have "tight hamstrings." They have to be in posterior pelvic tilt and knee flexion for a considerable chunk of the day - and even then, it's still pretty tough to be truly short, as they are still in hip flexion.

These folks usually can't distinguish hip flexion from lumbar flexion, so if you do a standing hip flexion assessment, rather than maintain the neutral spine we see in this photo, they'll go into lumbar flexion (butt will "tuck under").

The same trend will usually be noticeable with any kind of squat unless they have a tremendous amount of core stiffness to overcome the posterior hip stiffness that's present.  If you test these folks on an straight leg raise, it isn't pretty, as the pelvis is already posteriorly tilted.  In a pelvis that starts in "neutral" on a straight leg raise, roughly the first 1/3 of movement that you see comes from posterior tilt of the pelvis before the femur ever starts to flex on the acetabulum of the pelvis.  These folks are usually already posteriorly tilt, so that 1/3 is already used up; you're really only measuring hip flexion and not hip flexion PLUS posterior pelvic tilt.  And, as you can imagine, if someone is truly short in the hamstrings, that straight leg raise isn't going to be pretty. Obviously, these folks usually have a terrible toe touch pattern as well.

This should also educate you on why you can't treat all hamstrings strains the same.  In the protective tension example earlier, we needed to work to regain stability to hold a position of a bit more posterior pelvic tilt.  We'd cue glute activation, and use exercises that draw folks back into posterior tilt (e.g., reverse crunches).  If you have someone has a pulled hamstrings because they are truly short from already being in posterior pelvic tilt, though, some of these cues and exercises would be contraindicated. You'd be feeding the dysfunction.

While manual therapy and stretching for the posterior hip is valuable, again, it must be followed by stabilization work at adjacent joints with the pelvis in a neutral position.  These folks can benefit from training hip flexion above 90 degrees as well, as it educates them on how to flex the hip without rounding the lumbar spine.  This is one reason why I think a lot of the chop and lift exercises we've learned from Gray Cook are so fantastic; they teach us anti-rotation and anti-extension stability in various positions of hip flexion while the pelvis is in neutral.  They make changes "stick" better.

4. Previous Hamstrings Strain

Not to be overlooked in this discussion is the simple fact that the single-best predictor of hamstrings strains is a previous hamstrings injury.  One you have an injury, that area may never be the same from a tissue density standpoint - whether it's the surrounding fascia or the muscle or tendon itself.  A previous injury can leave athletes feeling "tight" in the region, so regular manual therapy can certainly help in this regard.

Anecdotally, the athletes with the long-term problems seem to be the ones with the pulls up on the gluteal fold, right where the hamstrings tendons attach to the ischial tuberosity.  The area gets "gunked up"in a lot of athletes as it is because of all the tissues coming together and exerting force in a small area, but it's especially problematic in those who have a previous injury in the region.  Perhaps more problematic, though, is the fact that we sit on our proximal hamstrings attachments - and that isn't exactly good for blood flow and tissue regeneration.

Semimembranosus_muscle-2 

I haven't seen any research on it, but I have a feeling that if you looked at this region in a lot athletes with ultrasound (similar to this study with patellar tendons), you'd find a ton of people walking around with substantial degenerative changes that could be diagnosed as tendinosis even though they haven't actually hit a symptomatic threshold.  My guess is that it's even worse in the posterior hip region because a) we sit on it, b) the ischial tuberosity is a more "congested" area than the anterior knee), and c) the study I noted above used 14-18 year-old athletes, and degenerative problems will get worse as one gets older (meaning this study likely undercut the true prevalence across the entire population).

Very simply, an athlete with a previous hamstrings strain needs to stay on top of quality manual therapy on the area, and be cognizant of maintaining mobility and stability in the right places.  They have less wiggle room with which to work.

5. Acute Hamstrings Strain or Tendinosis

Of course, the fifth reason you hamstrings might be tight is because you might actually have a hamstrings injury!  It could be an actual hamstrings strain, or just a tendinosis (overuse issue where tissue loading exceeds tissue tolerance for loading).  There is no one perfect recommendation in this regard, as a tendinosis or grade 1 hamstrings strain is going to be much more tolerable than a grade 3 hamstrings strain where you have bruising all along the back of your thigh.  

In terms of maintaining a training effect with the less serious ones, here are a few suggestions:

a. When you are ready to deadlift, use trap bar deadlifts instead of conventional or sumo deadlift variations.  I explain a bit more about how the positioning of the center of gravity makes this more hamstrings friendly HERE.

b. Shorten up your stride on single-leg exercises.  This makes the movement slightly more quad dominant, but allows you to still get the benefits of controlling the frontal and transverse planes with appropriate glute and adductor recruitment at the hip.

c. Go with step-up and reverse sled dragging variations.  Eliminating the eccentric component can take a considerably amount of stress off the hamstrings, and both these exercises get the job done well.

d. If you're going to squat, start with front squats at the beginning, and reintegrate back squat and box squat variations later on, as they will be more hamstrings intensive.

e. Understand anatomy.  If you are in hip flexion and knee extension, you're going to really be stretching the hamstrings and likely irritating them in the process.  Select exercises that don't hit these painful end-ranges, and then gradually reintroduce more dramatic ranges of motion as the issues subside.

f. Do hill sprints before you do regular sprints.  Your stride is going to be a bit shorter with hill sprints, and that'll take a considerable amount of stress off the hamstrings at heel strike (pretty good research on uphill vs. downhill sprinting HERE, for those who are interested).  Just don't go out and run as hard as you can the first time out; propulsive forces are still quite high.

Of course, this just speaks to how to train around a pulled hamstrings; there is really a lot more to look at if you want to really understand why they occur and how to prevent or address them.  In my eyes, this post was necessarily "geeky," as it is important that we don't dumb down complex injuries to "just stretch it out."  This recommendation is analogous to a doctor just telling someone to take some NSAIDs for regular headaches; it doesn't get to the root of the problem, and it may actually make things worse.

For more information, I'd encourage you to check out the Functional Stability Training series. The entire package - and the individual components - are on sale for 20% off through tomorrow (Sunday) at midnight. The discount is automatically applied at checkout at www.FunctionalStability.com.

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5 Things that Might Surprise You about our Baseball Strength and Conditioning Programs

We have quite a few baseball coaches, athletic trainers, physical therapists, and strength and conditioning coaches who stop by Cressey Sports Performance to observe our training.  While they are the ones visiting to learn, I actually learn quite a bit about the "norms" in the baseball strength and conditioning field by listening to them tell me about what surprises them about what they observe at CSP.  Here are some of the areas that seem to surprise quite a few people:

1. They're surprised we don't do more sprint work and change-of-direction training.

The competitive baseball season essentially runs from mid-February all the way through early September, and during that time, guys are sprinting, diving, and changing directions constantly during fielding practice.  They're also on their feet in cleats for an absurd number of hours each day.  To that end, when the off-season rolls around, most guys want a few weeks away from aggressive sprinting and change-of-direction work.  Once they get their rest, we typically go to 2-3 movement training sessions for October through December, usually on off-days from strength training.  I prefer to break them up so that we can get more quality work in with our strength training program, and also so that the sessions don't run too long.  Once January 1 rolls around, the volume and intensity of sprinting increases, while the strength training program volume is reduced.  

Summarily, because we often separate our sprint/agility work from our resistance training, many folks get the impression that we don't do much movement training - but that couldn't be further from the truth.  It's a big part of our comprehensive approach to baseball development; we just fit it in a bit differently than most coaches, and emphasize or de-emphasize it at different point in the year.

2. They're surprised how much medicine ball work we do.

One of the reasons there is a bit less movement training than you might see in other strength and conditioning programs is that we do a ton of medicine ball work, particularly during the months of October through January (for our pro guys).  

Medicine ball drills are great for not only training power outside the sagittal plane, but also because it helps to iron out excessive asymmetries while maintaining pitching- and hitting-specific mobility.  Our guys may do 240-360 medicine ball throws per week during their highest volume phases.

You can learn more about the medicine ball exercises we incorporate in our program by checking out Functional Stability Training of the Core.

3. They're surprised that we don't Olympic lift our baseball guys.

On multiple occasions, I've written at length about why I don't like overhead pressing and Olympic lifts in light of the unique demands of throwing and the crazy adaptations we see in throwers.

While the Olympic lifts might have great power development carryover to the sprinting one encounters on a baseball field, the carryover to power in the frontal and transverse planes just isn't as pronounced.  In other words, power development is extremely plane-specific.  I'll take medicine ball work and non-sagittal plane jumping exercises over O-lifts for baseball players in a heartbeat.

4. They're surprised we don't do more band work.

It's not that I think bands are useless; I just think most guys use them incorrectly, and even when used correctly, they just don't really offer that much advantage other than convenience.

The fundamental issue with bands is that the resistance is generally so light that guys can quickly develop bad habits - poor humeral head control, lumbar hyperextension, etc. - while doing them.  They'd be much more effective if guys would just slow down and use them correctly.  I am also not a fan at all of using the bands to get the arms into all sorts of extreme positions; you're just using a passive implement to create more laxity in an already unstable shoulder.  If you want (and need) to stretch a shoulder, do so with the scapula stabilized.  

Additionally, I'll take cables over bands whenever possible simply because the resistance is heavier and it matches the strength curve for external rotations better.  Throwers are generally weakest at full external rotation, yet the band has the highest tension in this position; meanwhile, the cable's resistance remains constant.  Obviously, manual resistance is ideal, but bands are a distance third.

5. They're surprised how "aggressive" our throwing programs are.

The overwhelming majority of our guys long toss, and most of them throw weighted baseballs at certain points of the year as well.  They pitch less and throw more.  They all still get their 2-3 months off from throwing each year, but when they are throwing, they work hard.

This is in stark contrast to some of the throwing models I've seen in professional baseball, where many organizations limit players to 90-120 feet with their long tossing, and the only time a baseball is "weighted" is when it gets wet on a rainy day.  Guys take so much time off that they never have any time in the off-season to actually develop.  I firmly believe that while you have to have strict limits on how you manage pitchers, you also have to stop short of completely coddling them.

These are surely just five areas in which we deviate from the norm with respect to baseball development, but important ones nonetheless.

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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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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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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).

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