How To Train Your Core Properly – Part II
“Training your core isn’t just about being stiff and stable, core training is also about being elastic and malleable. We have to be able to get into positions and then lock down into them to prevent injury.”
A well-conditioned core plays a vital role in both performance and injury prevention with its primary role being to provide stability of the spine and to resist unwanted movement.
If you read last week’s article, you will hopefully have done away with the old traditional ab exercises (sit ups, loaded crunches, back extensions etc.) that do little but create compressive forces on the spine.
Last week’s article identified the four main categories that should serve as a blueprint to your core training; anti-extension, anti-rotation, anti-lateral flexion and hip flexion with a neutral spine.
- Anti-lateral flexion hip flexion with a neutral spine
- Hip flexion with a neutral spine
As always, the focus should be on good form, proper breathing and engagement with the deeper musculature.
Once the foundations are laid, look to progress to more challenging variations and exercises.
The goal of this exercise is to activate our deep core muscles while simultaneously moving our extremities. Don’t be fooled by its relative simplicity – if performed correctly, the deep lumbo-pelvic stabilisation combined with enhanced motor control make it anything but.
The dead bug is an exercise than can be easily modified to suit your ability. Start by only performing the arm movements, then the leg movements, then when comfortable, combine the two. Alternatively, you can control how close to the ground you lower your arms and legs.
The key is to maintain the initial set up position with abdominal hollowing and lumbar and pelvic position. If, while performing the exercise, you find yourself slipping into lumbar extension (i.e. your lower back gapping from the ground) then it’s a sign to regress the exercise.
This is a versatile, user-friendly exercise that really trains your core’s primary function of stabilisation. It can be performed with a cable and single handle attachment or a resistance band.
Instead of rushing to add more resistance, try tweaking your stance; the narrower the stance, the harder the exercise becomes.Try it in
Try it in tall kneeling or half kneeling to increase the demand on the trunk musculature, or try it with an isometric hold of up to ten seconds with each rep.
Weighted carries are a versatile movement pattern that can have numerous applications in training. They are a great way of activating the deep muscles of the trunk and hip (with the added bonus of improving grip strength and shoulder stabilisation in overhead varieties) and the single arm variation is excellent for developing the strength required to resist lateral flexion.
Increasing the weight or distance will increase the difficulty of the exercise but beware of compromising your form.
Once fatigue sets in, it’s easy to slip into a forward flexed head position…so lighten up the weight and don’t be afraid to drop it and reset.
These core exercises often get overlooked but can be a good addition if you want to be able to go through full range of motion in exercises without losing your lumbar spine alignment.
The key with this exercise is to maintain stable and neutral throughout. If you feel ready to increase the difficulty, progress to a Swiss ball pike, keeping the legs straight and pushing the hips to the ceiling. This increases the emphasis on shoulder stability while simultaneously challenging your balance and coordination.
When it comes to tapping into your deeper core, my preference is for my clients to include core activation work as part of their warm up. It makes sense…activation exercises are designed to get the big muscles in your body to wake up, work properly and be prepped for the workout ahead. Not only does it reduce the risk of injury, but it helps to foster a mind/body connection that stops smaller muscles taking on loads they simply can’t handle.
Consider the difference between working harder and working smarter; working hard won’t necessarily get you results if you aren’t conscious of and able to recruit the correct muscles in the correct order.
Each day, pick a different movement pattern to focus on and combine with myofascial release work and active stretches for a full warm up.
Perform the exercises 1-2 times per week on non-consecutive days. Out of ten, the intensity should be 5-8 and never working to failure. If in doubt, remember; neutral, brace, breathe…and you won’t go too far wrong!