Core Training 101

If you can only name the obliques and the muscles thatgive you a six-pack as the muscles of the core, then chances are you’re training your core incorrectly.  We all want great looking abs, but how can we achieve this while keeping the core functional enough to prevent back pain, and help you get stronger than everbefore?  The answer is not as hard as you think.  Once you finish reading this,your abs will already look a little better in the mirror, and your back pain…GONE!

First off, what exactly is the “core”?

Your core in its most basic form begins from your diaphragm, and ends at your glutes.  The core is also three-dimensional meaning, we are referring to all muscles in the front, the back and the sides.  All these muscles work in unison together, therefore no one muscle group/movement pattern can be avoided.

Lets List the muscles in its simplest terms shall we. 

  • In the front: rectus abdominus (what up six-pack muscles!),  transverse abdominus (TA for short) and the hip flexors.
  • In the back: spinal erectors, multifidi and the glutes.

Now that we got a slightly better understanding of what the core is we can talk about what not to do.

With all the research being done by the likes of Dr.Stuart McGill and others, it is becoming common knowledge that flexion places alot of compressional force on the spine, which can lead to spinal injuries overthe long run.  Also, along with all the sitting we do, constant flexion will just continue to pull us forward continue to make our posture worse.

With this being said, we are allowed to flex the spine, but we must do it smartly.  Crunches and situps from the floor or on a machine are no bueno.

ALSO STAY AWAY FROM ALL MACHINES TO TRAIN YOUR CORE!  This is as half backwards as throwing your remote control at your television to turn it on.  Your core is there for stabilization, machines stabilize for you.  Therefore, machines don’t do didiley squat for you!

So with the DO NOTS out of the way, lets talk about what to do in order to get that sexy midsection, and get that functional strength needed.

First lets break up our core training into four movements.

1.  Anti-Extension

This group of exercises consists of all exercises where you must actively resist extension of your lumbar spine.  To think about what extension is, think about arching backwards at your lower back. During these exercises, we want to avoid this.  This allows us to really focus in on ou robliques and even the rectus abdominus to smaller extent if done properly.  If the first time you do the exercises listed below and think they are easy, you aren’t doing them correctly.  When doing them correctly, your entire midsection should feel like it is on fire.  And the best part is, the better you get at these exercises, the harder they get.

Anti-Extension exercises include:

  • Stability ball rollouts   
  • Wheel rollouts  
  • Body Saws   

2. Anti-Lateral Flexion

This set of exercises consists of all exercises where you actively resist lateral flexion of the lumbar spine or side bending.  These exercises are really great for targeting your quadratus lumborum and your internal/external obliques.

Examples of anti-lateral flexion:

  • Side planks 
  • 1 arm farmers walks 

3, Anti-Rotation

In this group of exercises, guess what? We are resisting rotation of the lumbar spine.  Some of the exercises outlined here may appear to be rotating, but these exercises drive thoracic rotation which is much different and much safer to train.  We do not want to train too much lumbar rotation, as the lumbar spine is mainly there for support.  So too much rotation at this part of the spine is unwanted, especially if you already have back pain.

  •  Paloff press 
  • Landmine rotations   

Here the hips will rotate along with the upper body.  This still is an anti-rotational exercise because there is no rotation around the lumbar spine when done correctly.  Focus on keeping the chest up, arms straight, and allow the hips to rotate as you descend the barbell to your hip.  Once at the bottom, reverse the directions by driving through your obliques.

  • Half-Kneeling Chop  

4. Flexion

So I know earlier we talked about no flexion of the spine.  But truth is, if done properly this is a great way to hit the rectus abdominus and train this motion.

  • Reverse situp with stability ball 

The medicine ball is there to help you lock your lats.  By keeping the lats tight, and using the stability ball to stimulate the hamstrings, you really hit the rectus abdominus without getting any assistance from surrounding muscle groups.

Stability ball knee tucks 

  • Straight leg situps 

Two of these exercises require you to maintain a flatback, meaning there is no lumbar flexion, just hip flexion.  The other one (reverse situp) uses the stability ball to work reciprocal inhibition.  By contracting the hamstrings through squeezing the stability ball, you reciprocally inhibit the hip flexors from working, allow us to really focus on the rectus abdominus to get a great ass kicking.

So basically, if you were trying to incorporate the above classifications of core exercises into your training program, here is how it would look if you are using a four-day split

Day 1:  Anti-Extension

Day 2: Ant-Lateral Flexion

Day 3: Anti-Rotation

Day 4: Flexion

You could pick two exercises from each category for each day, and boom!  Your core will look better then Mr. Olympia’s.

If you are on a two-day split

Day 1: Anti-Extension + Anti-Lateral Flexion

Day 2: Anti-rotation + Flexion

One exercise from each group on each day will help you achieve sexified abs and a functional body that is pain free.

Was this post helpful, enlightening, the purest, greatest thing you ever read? How do you train your core? Has this style of core training helped you? Let me know, leave a comment below!


2 responses to “Core Training 101

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