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All across gyms and homes you still see people doing crunches, sit-ups, or some sort of variation of flutter kicks.


If I were to ask most people why they are doing crunches or sit ups the most popular response would be because I’m working on my core and can feel it working. They are correct it is working, but think about when doing a crunch or sit-up the upper body is curling up and we are putting the body in poor postural alignment. Majority of us already are spending 6-12 hours a day in a hunched position whether it’s working, school, driving, or just scrolling through our phones. Why would we want to promote poor spine alignment by hunching over and shortening our core? 

 

Purpose of Core

Majority of the time in athletics or in everyday life we need to resist movements or be able to transfer energy or force from the lower body to upper body or vice versa. Here are a some examples of what I’m talking about.

Think about lifting something, you need to stabilize a neutral spine posture so your core will be able to transfer force from your legs and into your arms as you lift. If you are unable to stabilize that’s usually when the back injury occurs

A basketball player is going up for a layup and there is contact in the air if you can resist the contact and the body stays upright and strong the chances of finishing that play and getting an and-1 is a lot higher than someone that couldn’t.

Running, sprinting, rotational athletes have a strong stable core. A weak core will lead to energy leaks or wasted movements like side to side motion in running or sprinting. In a rotational athlete if there is a loss of stability in the core power will greatly diminish.

We can even add in a changing direction component to the mix, the core being able to stabilize is even more important. The upper body will want to still go the way the body was moving before the sudden stop occurs. It is the job of the core to help decelerate the upper body from continuing to head in that direction.

Does doing crunches, sit-ups, or flutter kicks help in any of these scenarios? (Hint: No they don’t)

Now that we understand the purpose of what the core is supposed to do, here are some of the staple core exercises I program for all my clients.

Anti-Extension

Anti-extension is training the body to resist movement into lumbar extension.

Front plank (up to 60s)


Key Points:
• Maintain a neutral spine (head to feet)
• Abs on butt on by squeezing glutes and abs as hard as you can
• Pull elbows to you feet/ feet to your elbows

Farmer's carry (20-40 yds or up to 30s)


Key Points:
• Hold relatively heavy weight in each hand
• Ribs down/ neutral spine
• Walk keeping neutral spine posture

Deadbug (10-15 reps ea)


Key Points:
• Press low back into the ground to get neutral spine
• Opposite arm and leg move away from body
• Don’t lose neutral spine position. Own the position
• Return to starting position and repeat other arm/leg

Vertical Pallof Press (6-10 reps)

Key Points:
• Ribs down abs on butt on.
• Feet tucked into the ground
• Extend arms up own neutral spine position

Anti-Lateral Flexion

Anti-lateral flexion is training the body to resist movement into lumbar spine bending to the side.

Side planks (up to 30s ea)


Key points
• Start on your side
• Straight line from head to feet (neutral posture)
• Push hips through, actively squeeze butt

Suitcase Carry (20-40 yds ea or up to 30s)


Key Points:
• Hold weight in one hand and away from the body.
• Stay tall with neutral posture
• Don’t let weight pull you down or overcompensate and lean the other way

Lateral Pallof Press (6-12 reps ea)

Key Points:
• Abs on butt on
• Feet tucked into the ground
• Extend arms up own neutral spine position
• Perform both sides

Anti-rotation Core

Anti-Rotation is training the body to resist movement into lumbar spine rotation.

Pallof Press (6-12 reps ea)


Key Points:
• Maintain neutral spine
• Press straight out prevent hands moving towards band or machine
• Straight back in
• Perform both sides

1/2 Kneeling Chop (6-12 reps ea)

Key Points:
• Leg closest to wall should be up
• Bring arms down across body to far side hip
• Perform both sides

1/2 Kneeling Lift (6-12 reps ea)

Key Points:
• Leg closest to wall should be down
• Bring arms down across body to far side shoulder
• Perform both sides