NOTES FROM COACH / TIPS & THOUGHTS

MINDFUL MAC

Build a Strong and Resilient Core with More Efficient Training

Stop only using the word “abs” to describe your mid-section!


It’s true, they get all of the media attention, but the ‘abs’ are just one muscle group that makes up the “core” - a large network of muscles, nerves and connective tissue responsible for a TON of torso movement and control:


  • Flexion and Extension - bending forward; extending of the spine

  • Lateral Flexion - sideways bending of the spine

  • Rotation - revolving, pivot motion of the spine


The number one mistake that people make when training their core is relying almost exclusively on one movement pattern - spinal flexion - using exercises like sit-ups and crunches.


You wouldn’t only do pushups for your chest and shoulders, right?


Only squats for the lower body? Certainly not.


Why should it be any different for the core?


With great movement ability comes great responsibility!


While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with any of these exercises, excessive repetitive movement in any one direction eventually results in strength imbalances and poorly executed movement patterns - and movement patterns are not isolated.


They work together, and have a major impact on one another - good or bad.


The good will allow you to move freely through a full range of motion in a number of different directions and intensities.


The bad will eventually lead to stalled progress, frustration, and often, aches/pains or nagging injuries.


Why?


Because the body isn’t a series of individual body parts doing separate jobs - it’s a massive network, and the ‘core’ coordinates and connects the upper body with the lower body - primarily the shoulders and hips - to act as a single unit.


Compound exercises like squats, deadlifts and rows require a strong core for spinal stability - the ability to maintain a consistent position (usually neutral) for the duration of an exercise.


Without stability, it’s virtually impossible to progress with any exercise or workout program.


This is why every routine should balance active movement with controlled, non-movement:


  • Spinal Anti-Flexion and Extension

  • Spinal Anti-Lateral Flexion

  • Spinal Anti-Rotation


Exercises that prevent rotation, flexion/extension and bending sideways should be prioritized first - especially for those new to resistance training - because if you lack spinal stability, movement-based training is less effective and comes with a much higher risk of injury.


Even if you have plenty of experience, anti-movement is still the best way to go when it comes to core activation.


Proper dynamic, movement-based core training also requires involvement of the shoulders and hips - which is something you can also learn by training more intelligently.


Choosing exercises that simultaneously improve, shoulder, hip and core stability not only give you more bang for your buck by increasing overall strength, they leave you in a position to improve other movement patterns more effectively.


You may not be ready to do every exercise right away, but modifications can always be made to allow that particular movement pattern into your workout routine!


No matter what anyone tells you - removing a movement pattern altogether is NEVER the answer!



Anti-Rotation versus Rotation


Torsion Plank

  1. Setting up in the high plank position, ensure a solid position with hands below the shoulders and feet hip-width apart

  2. Maintaining controlled breathing, brace the core by pulling the rib cage down towards the hips

  3. Slowly tap the opposite shoulder - holding for 1-2s - and prevent the body from rotating

  4. Keep shoulders and hips square to the floor, and maintain a neutral alignment of the head, shoulders, hips and knees

  5. Exercise can be modified by using an elevated surface such as a chair or bench

  6. Repeat for 8-10 repetitions per side.



Plank w/ Thoracic Rotation

  1. Setting up in the high plank position, ensure a solid position with hands below the shoulders and feet ~hip-width apart

  2. Maintaining controlled breathing, brace the core by pulling the rib cage down towards the hips

  3. Slowly rotate the body to one side by pulling the elbow backwards toward the sky and extending the arm upwards

  4. Try to ensure more movement of the thoracic spine (upper back) versus the lumbar spine (lower back)

  5. Keep hips relatively square to the floor, and maintain a neutral alignment of the head, shoulders, hips and knees

  6. Exercise can be modified by using an elevated surface such as a chair or bench

  7. Repeat for 8-10 repetitions per side




Anti-Extension/Flexion versus Extension/Flexion


Deadbug Pullover

  1. Start out in the dead bug position - lying face up with knees at 90 degrees and arms fully extended above the shoulders

  2. Begin motion by breathing in, pushing the lower back into the floor and slowly extending the arms/weight above the head. The legs remain in place

  3. Extend the arms as far as comfortably possible, or until the hands/weight are above the crown of the head. Core should remain engaged

  4. Exhale as you return to the starting position

  5. Exercise can be modified by removing the weight or completing movement on the floor

  6. Repeat for 8-15 repetitions



Bench Bird Dog

  1. Start with the body in the bird dog position - the weight should be evenly distributed between the opposite arm and leg

  2. Brace core by lightly pulling the ribcage downwards toward the hips

  3. Fully extend arm and leg, ensuring proper usage of the upper back/shoulder and gluteal muscles - the lower back can extend moderately

  4. Hold position for 1-2s and return to the start position

  5. Optional: Bring elbow towards the opposite knee for additional flexion

  6. Exercise can be modified by practicing the motion on the floor

  7. Repeat for 6-8 repetitions per side




Anti-Lateral Flexion versus Lateral Flexion


Farmer’s Hold

  1. Holding a weight at the side of the body, maintain core activation by pulling rib cage down toward the hips and squeezing the glutes

  2. Maintain neutral body position by avoiding any side-to-side movement of the hips or shoulders

  3. Avoid resting the weight against the body while thinking of maintaining muscular tension through the entire body (Ex. grip, upper back, lower body)

  4. Slowly progress to heavier weight, ensuring that breathing and core activation are happening simultaneously

  5. Exercise can be modified with lighter weight, shorter intervals or using other equipment (ex. Power band)

  6. Complete 30-60s per side



Side Plank w/ Hip Drop

  1. Start in the side plank position - elbow directly below the shoulder, with head/neck, torso and lower limb in a neutral position

  2. Starting with hips elevated, slowly lower them towards the floor by allowing the lower half of the torso to lengthen

  3. Firmly brace and drive the hips back to the starting position

  4. Exercise can be modified by using the half-kneeling position

  5. Complete 8-15 repetitions per side



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