Updated: Oct 3, 2018
The core is made up of the muscles and connective tissues of the lumbar spine, pelvic girdle, and hip joint, which is called the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Complex. The core is where the body’s centre of gravity is located and where all movement originates.
Proximal Stiffness = Distal Power
What does this mean?
The arm's and legs are only as strong as the trunk. A poorly developed trunk is inadequate to support for hard-working limbs. During the early stages of training development of the core, musculature should be a priority.
The core musculature act as shock absorbers during dynamic movement as well as stabilising the body and represent a transmitter of force between legs and arms to external objects. If these muscles are weak and underdeveloped, they do an abysmal job at transmitting force resulting in underperformance and an increased risk of injury.
A stable, reliable and powerful core allows for acceleration, deceleration and stabilisation during dynamic movements.
Slow twitch muscle fibres dominate the core muscles, this is likely because of their importance of posture and the fact that they are required to work all the time to some degree. The job of the trunk is to create a robust, reliable and stable base of support for the actions of other muscle groups and not to contract dynamically to create movement. What I'm saying is get rid of the crunches and replace them with dead bugs. Therefore we should be training the core to resist movement making it a more stable support. The exercises we select come under the "Anti-Movement category" these exercises are designed to challenge the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Complex and improve the stiffness and stability of the spine. The exercises will test your ability to hold yourself in a neutral position either during dynamic movement of in a static hold.
Let's look at the different categories and which exercises train them.
While maintaining a neutral spine, kneel on the floor in a quadruped position with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Raise your opposite arm and leg straight out, keeping your abs braced, stomach in and your whole body in one straight line from head to foot. The goal is to resist rotation and extension forces that attempt to destabilise your spine.
- Pallof Press
Standing parallel to your cable machine, or attach a resistance band to a secure upright. Clasp the handle or band in both hands, palms together. Position yourself a few feet away from the cable to add tension. Make sure your feet are hip-width apart, and your knees are just slightly bent. Bring the handle up to the centre of your chest and press out. Extend your arms fully, noting how your body wants to lean toward the cable. Don’t let it.
Return your hands to your chest and repeat for 8 to 12 reps on each side.
- 2 Point Rows
This is a more advanced version of the BirdDog. The positions are all the same except this time in one hand you will be rowing a Kettlebell or Dumbbell. The weight of the Implement increases the rotational forces which demands you to stabilise harder.
Anti - Flexion
- Good Mornings
Set your self up similar to setting up for a Back Squat foot stance between hip- and shoulder-width I prefer a slightly closer stance for training the spinal erectors. Pull the bar into your body, take a deep breath in and brace your core. Hinge at your hips to initiate the movement. Your shins should remain vertical, and your knees should be slightly bent at the bottom of the movement. Squeeze Glutes to extend the hips and return to the starting position. How far you can go with this exercise is usually dependant on how flexible the hamstrings are. I do not recommend this exercise to beginners a base level of back strength is required to maintain neutral throughout.
- Reverse Planks
This exercise is the exact opposite of the plank it requires you to lie between to objects usually benches and challenges the spinal erectors, glutes and hamstrings. Set up to stable objects so that when you lay between them only your upper back and calf/heels touch. Then bridge up by driving your heels into the Bench and squeeze your glutes hard until your body forms a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders. Remain as still as possible once you're unable to hold a straight line finish the exercise.
- Isometric Back Extension
For this exercise, you will need a GHR machine or some very trusting training partners and a bench. It's important to note that Isometric means this will be a static hold not a dynamic movement. When using a GHR machine set up the thigh pads so that they are near the top of your thighs. Then extend your torso until you are parallel with the floor by squeezing the glutes and hamstrings and hold this position. When doing this exercise, you should not be hyperextending but holding a neutral spine keep the glutes and hamstrings flexed throughout. Setting this up on a regular gym bench is no different to the GHR, except you line up the crease of your hips with the edge of the bench and get a trusting partner to hold your legs down. But the process is the same.
- Planks (all variations)
Most people are familiar with the plank but don't do it correctly. So the basic plank position is on elbows and toes with your body forming a bridge between the two points. When performing this drill, you should be trying to tighten and brace all of your core musculature as well as your glutes and quads. What I'm looking for is the person to set the spine into neutral and then contract all of the abdominal muscles as hard as possible. This is much harder than everyone realises. As soon as this position cannot be maintained the exercise is over remember we are trying to build strength in the right positions.
- Dead bugs
This exercise is performed laying on the back with the arms and legs both vertical. In this position, we tighten up the abdominals and one arm and the opposite leg the further they go to harder the exercise. Once the desired distance is complete bring the arm and opposite leg back vertical and repeat with the other side. The spine should remain completely flat and rigid throughout with no gap between the low back and the floor. If you are getting this bridging effect your abdominals are not strong enough for this exercise yet and regressing to wall/bench dead bugs will be a better idea.
See Anti-Rotation section as we already covered this exercise.
- SuitCase holds
This involves holding a weight/loaded barbell in one hand and not the other. Hold for your desired time while maintaining a neutral spine. If you need to lean over to compensate you are not strong enough for that weight yet. You should look completely balanced. When performing this exercise, I like to imagine the hips and shoulder girdle as bowls of water, and my job is to stack them correctly as not to spill any.
- Imbalanced Farmers Carry
The set up is the same as Suitcase holds except this time instead of standing still you are going to walk for a set distance.
- Imbalanced Lunges
Again this set up is the same as the another two, but this time you will be performing lunges. It's important not to rush these exercises going slow with the proper abdominal tightness is far more beneficial than just loading it up.
Integrating these exercises into a training program.
I like to include 1 or two 'Anti' Core exercises each session for specific trunk work. On days that have lots or squats or deadlifts, I like to work on Anti-Extension as squatting and deadlift is naturally an Anti-Flexion exercise. Then on upper body days, I like to include Anti-Flexion work. An effective way is to superset Anti-Extension with Anti-Flexion as this equals more core work for time invested. With regards to the Anti-Rotation and Anti-Lateral Flexion, these can be done after any training session.
We know that to elicit progress we must induce stimuli of new levels to force adaptions so how do we do this. Easy really for any of the static hold exercises we aim for an easy 2mins then with the help of a training partner we add a weight to increase the difficulty of the exercises we then keep the same weight until 2mins is achievable then repeat the process. With the exercises which require walking or moving we aim to complete sets of either 50m's or 20-30reps with a certain weight once achieve the desired time, or distance we increase the weight and begin the building process again. One thing to remember though is that is important that the exercises are done strictly and not progressed too rapidly.
Law 4 - Develop all Movement Planes - https://www.devanneystrength.com/articles/law-4-develop-all-movement-planes-and-patterns