- The diaphragm on the top
- The pelvic floor on the bottom
- The abdominals (rectus abdominus, TVA) in the front
- The back muscles (spinal erectors, multifidi) in the back
- The muscles of your lower back are working at 100%
- Your abs are working at 100%
- Your left lateral stabilizers are working at 100%
- Your right lateral stabilizers are working at 100%
So before I get into some great exercises for each part of your core system, I would like to get something off my chest!
PLEASE, if you are still one of those trainers or fitness junkies still advocating crunches, just STOP already! If you haven't realized they are dangerous and counterproductive by now, I don't think you should be in the gym to begin with.
If you want to get your lower back healthy and back in line, there are safer alternatives than crunches that put the risk of a herniated disk at ease. Now, I may agree with you that in terms of the lower back, crunches are not all that bad, BECAUSE a proper crunch puts more emphasis on the thoracic and not the lumbar spine.
HOWEVER, think about what a crunch does. It trains the rectus adominus to pull the rib cage down.
When we pull the rib cage down, we increase the thoracic kyphosis. This sets off a cascade of events
– we increase the kyphosis, thus losing t-spine extension. This consistently puts our scapulae in a poor position, not to mention putting our gleno-humeral joint at an increased risk for impingement as well.
So now our "not so bad exercise" has compromised our ability to safely overhead press, back squat, or basically do any exercise where we have a barbell on our back or overhead.
That's why you wont see me doing them anytime soon!
So, with that being said:
The New Era Of Core Training:
I'm currently breaking all my core training down into four categories:
- Anti-Lateral Flexion
- Hip Flexion with Neutral Spine
- Ball/Ab Dolly rollouts
- Ab wheel rollouts
- Blast strap/TRX fallouts
- Blast strap/TRX Miyagis
These exercises are all great for stability of the core, lumbar spine, and pelvis! You will work your obliques and rectus adominus to a good extent if they are done PROPERLY.
- DB/KB windmills – (see video below)
- Offset waiters walks (walking with a dumbbell by the side in one hand ONLY)
- Offset farmers carries (walking with a dumbbell pressed overhead in one hand ONLY)
- Suitcase deadlift
- All Pallof Press Variations
- Tornado Ball Exercises
- Renegade Rows
- Farmers Carry
- Anti-Rotational Chops
Anti-rotation exercises train virtually every component of your core: internal/external obliques, rectus abdominus, TVA, etc.
The most challenging components of these exercises are actively keeping everything tight and not allowing any rotation at the lumbar spine.
On the Pallof press exercises, focus on keeping the core and glutes tight, and maintaining a tall posture throughout – don't "crunch" over to stabilize.
Hip Flexion With Neutral Spine:
This exercise category consists of any exercises where you're actively bracing your core/lumbar spine while bringing your knees to your chest. Examples include:
- Prone jackknifes on a physioball
- Band resisted jackknifes
- Alternating band resisted jackknifes
- Decline Spider man Plank
- TRX Pikes
- Hanging Knee Raise
Now, of all these new exercises, these ones will be the toughest. They focus on the lumbar spine and keeping it neutral!
- Lock down your core/midsection – allow as little movement here as possible.
- Use your hip flexors to "pull" your knees to your chest. Pavel talks about this with squatting, and exercises like this can help improve your setup/tension in the hole when squatting and pulling. Maintain neutral and "pull" your knees to your chest.
Day 2 – Anti-Rotation
Day 3 – Hip Flexion with Neutral Spine
Day 4 – Anti-Lateral Flexion
I hope that this post has given you a firm idea of how important core stability training is, and how to effectively integrate it into your current exercise routine.
At the end of the day, you’re free to train however you’d like. But with my clients and athletes, my goal is always to help them achieve their goals in the safest and most effective fashion.
Until Next Time,
Stay Strong and Build Your Core!
“Hold on to your true aspirations no matter what is going on around you.” – Epictetus
CPT / Strength & Conditioning Specialist