Last week we answered the question “Why is core strength so important?” Which seemed to go down well, judging by the amount of shares that post had. Thank you all very much, I’m happy to help.
Speaking of which…this blog has made it to the Breaking Muscle final 20 in their top ten fitness blog competition. We got there because you all voted for me. Thankyou again, you are all awesome.
So anyway, back on point.
Core Strength and how to develop it…
What does the core do?
It is becoming ever more widely accepted that the core musculature is primarily for the prevention of movement. In other words it stabilises the spine.
This little tidbit of information ought to give us a clue as to how best to train it for strength.
We need to train the core in such a manner that there is little to no movement in the spine. But in what direction?
The spine can flex and extend in the Saggital plane It can flex left and right in the Frontal Plane It can twist and rotate It can move in a combination of planes and directions simultaneously.
So, we need to learn to effectively counter these movements. In other words build the ability to resist flexion/extension in the Saggital Plane, resist lateral flexion and prevent twisting.
Here’s a list of the go to exercises to build this kind of stability:
Superman / Bird Dog This is a great place to start and suitable for pretty much everybody. Start on all fours in a kneeling position, now really slowly slide one arm and the opposite leg out until they are fully extended. Think of reaching for the walls. Hold full extension for a minimum of three seconds, longer is better. In this extended position, ensure the spine is kept neutral (no sagging head or lumbar) and try to eliminate any and all wobbling and shaking.
A slight advancement is to pretend you have a pen sticking out of your heel and start drawing circles, or writing your name on the wall behind you. Just be sure that the pelvis is stationary and the leg moves from the hip joint. 1 to 3 sets of 5-12 reps is ok, depending on your needs.
This simplicity itself, rest on your elbows and toes with the body held in a perfect straight line.Now don’t move.
So we take it up a notch. Here’s a few ideas:
Three point planks – lift a leg or an arm without any change in alignment through the spine.
Two point planks – Like the superman above, lift one leg and the opposite arm. Don’t wobble!
Weighted Planks – balance a weight on the back, you may need a mate to help it balance.
Moving planks – these are often called Push Ups.
Side Planks – you are now balanced on one arm and the same side leg.
Whatever variant you choose, the spine must be kept in perfect neutral, otherwise, it aint a plank and you’re not getting the desired benefits.
The Dead Bug or the Hundred Drill from Pilates
Lie flat on your back, that the arch of the back sink to the floor. Now lift the legs up and point them at the ceiling, same with the arms. This is the dead bug position. Hold it for time until it becomes comfortable.I prefer the Pilates method to count time, they call the position the Hundred and hold if for 100 breaths. Simple.Once this is all good, you can add to it. Here’s possibly the best presentation on the Dead Bug on the web, it’s from the inimitable Dan John, have a look:
The “Philippi” This is cool, it takes all the above stuff off the floor and into an athletic setting, it also trains the core to work reflexively, which is it’s real job.I’ll let Mark Philippi himself tell you more about it, this clip is an excerpt from a DVD he made with Mike Mahler, the drill is the first three minutes of this clip, the rest is an interview with Mark on program design, also well worth a watch:
In the next post we’ll take it to another level by moving away from pure stability and looking at stabilising the core in motion.