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Sunday, March 3, 2013

New Core Exercises and Why Crunches are Outdated

In the sports society today, an athlete’s foundation has been discovered to revolve around the core musculature.  Many of you want that lean and sculpted six-pack, while the others would rather have their core strong and functional adaptive to their sport.

Well, today is your lucky day! You can have BOTH! That’s right, with the information I will discuss today, you will change your routine and develop a well-rounded core program that gives you every ounce of expectation you desired!

So yes, that means you can now put down the cell phone and forget about calling to receive your guide to washboard abs in 5 minutes a day for $99.99. 

With all those gimmick ads and promises, it’s easy to fall into the trance, BUT it is important to first know exactly what the core comprises of, right? If you want to spend the money, you should at least know some background.
  • 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 lateral stabilizers (quadratus lumborum, internal and external obliques) on the sides.
So, that now means I convinced you that your core is more than your rectus adominus, or 6-pack muscles.  I also just relayed information important to the aspect of stability! Parts of your core play key roles in maintaining proper posture and alignment!

Now, don't get me wrong, I am a firm believer that complex movements such as squats, deadlifts, press, rows, and cleans are all ESSENTIAL to a well-rounded core.  However, well-rounded is the key term here!  

When I say well-balanced, I simply mean:

  • 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%
Now, I rarely EVER see this, but having both complementary and supplementary core work is crucial to developing a balanced mid section!

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-Extension
  • Anti-Lateral Flexion
  • Anti-Rotation
  • 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.

Just remember:

  •   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
These exercises are great for the lateral core section, quadratus lumborum, and the internal and external obliques.


  •  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.

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