We have seen it everywhere. From gimmicky DVD’s and training systems that instruct you to pound out countless numbers of crunches, to personal trainers who break their clients back with repeated bouts of sit-ups. Have no fear. I am here to breakdown how our core actually works and how you can use this information to effectively train it.
Overview Of The Core
Let's break it down this way. The deep/local stabilizers or breathing muscles (pelvic floor, diaphragm, transverse abdominis and multifidis) are not only involved in deep, 360 degree and proper breathing, but also are responsible for bracing and stabilizing the spine. The global stabilizers (obliques, add/abductors etc) resist rotation under loads and the global movers (lats, glutes, etc.) are specifically for joint movement while bracing the spine.
With that being said, we know that we can essentially target the core with simple bracing exercises and then progress to more advanced exercises in which the core braces and stabilizes the spine while the extremities are in motion. Instead of continuously flexing and extending your spine (and adding undue stress to it I might add) and performing hundreds and hundreds of mind numbing crunches, look to find exercises that call on a proper bracing of the spine under minimal loads of tension and then also implement variations where your joints are in motion. After all, the true function of the core is to provide stabilization while your extremities are in motion so why not train it in that manner!
Two Simple Bracing Exercises
As I said, exercises that require true bracing of the deep breathing muscles can go a long way in developing a powerful and strong core. Abdominal rollouts and planks are some basic examples, but here are two of my favorite variations for understanding and developing proper bracing and spine stabilization.
Essentially, this is a more advanced plank where you simply alternate between bouts of high tension (this is where you literally squeeze and activate every muscle group in your body while holding the plank) and regular planks. Try and perform a minute where you alternate every five seconds.
Plank Pot Stirs
Place your elbows on a physio ball and get into a regular plank position. Brace your spine while stirring your arms clockwise and counter clockwise. I usually perform 15 in each direction for every set.
My Favorite Advanced Bracing Exercise
The loaded carry, or farmer’s walk, is one of my favorites and most used core exercises in both my programming and the programming I draw up for my athletes. Essentially, you walk with heavy loads in each hand and this is the bracing while your extremities are moving that I have been talking about. This also really works on your grip and forearm strength. It is truly one of the best ways to develop a strong and powerful core!
Gerry DeFilippo: ISSA CPT- CPPS, AAPS. Founder/Owner: Challenger Strength.