‘Google’ core training and you will be inundated with all kinds of exercises, tips, “secrets”, and explanations on why any one method is superior to another.
Now, I’m not here to say the way I like to do it and the way I give to my patients is best, but I do think it is well informed. Just quickly, the core does not just mean the 6-pack muscles. When I refer to the core for the purposes of this blog post I am referring to the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, internal and external obliques, multifidus, and diaphragm. The gluteal muscles can also be thrown in there but the exercises I show in the videos below don’t deal with that as much.
Research tells us that repeated end range flexion is bad for the spine. Professor Stuart McGill from the University of Waterloo has shown in his lab that there are a finite number of cycles of compression a lumbar spinal disc can go through before it herniates. This number is variable between genders and age groups, but it is something to keep in mind. Therefore, I have long done away with sit-ups and crunches as my core exercise of choice. Why speed up the prospect of getting a herniation with my exercise selections? Those exercises aren’t “bad” per se but there are just more optimal choices to train the core functionally and reduce the risk of future injury (notice I didn’t say eliminate the risk…that’s
impossible). I have stated before and will again that I believe the true function of the core is not to create movement, it’s actually to resist it. For example, if someone side tackles you while playing football your core doesn’t work to induce movement, it’s working to stabilize and limit how much lateral excursion your body is placed under during the hit. This is what we call reactive core facilitation. The core is preventing spinal injury by limiting movement that might be dangerous for the spine. This ability is trainable and should be for all people from those suffering from back pain to those looking to get stronger for elite athletics. All 3 exercises I will link to are modifiable to make them easier or harder depending on the ability level of the person attempting them.
One big caution: These exercises and their subsequent regressions or progressions should be prescribed to you only after an evaluation has been carried out. Every exercise is a test and if you fail the test with one of these (which is fine), you should be afforded the opportunity to be given exercises better suited to you. A good rehab professional or strength coach can do this…we should at least TRY to make things specific to the client as we can people…maybe a rant on that topic at a later time
So here are 3 anti-movement core exercises that I like giving select clients at my clinic. Each one serves a different purpose and can for the most part be done at home with a band or weight if a pulley system is not available. Anecdotally I also like these 3 because clients can “feel” what I’m trying to accomplish with them if done correctly. This helps with buy in and adherence. Enjoy!
1) Palloff press:
2) Supine single arm chest press:
3) Half kneeling chops:
For those that are super interested, this is an excellent teaser video from Gray Cook talking about side to side asymmetries in the chop pattern of movement. If you are good going to your right, but not your left then something needs to be modified. This is where the help of an expert in rehabilitation/exercise prescription comes in. Showing an exercise is easy… It’s modifying it for the abilities of the person in front of you that takes skill.
Contributed by Your Friendly Neighborhood Physio, Jesse Awenus