Archive for December, 2011

In my last two posts, I’ve talked about training the core.  First, I explained what core stability means and showed you a video of one of the most basic yet effective core stability exercises: the forearm plank.  In the next post, I went over the difference between static stability and dynamic stability and how this can have an enormous effect on sports and life in general.  I also showed you this video of a core reaction exercise:

You might be asking yourself: What makes this an exercise for the core?

That’s a good question, and the answer(s) to that question is the basis for my entire integrated dynamic core training system.

First of all, look at the direction that the resistance is going:

It’s a little bit hard to read, but essentially the resistant force from the band is pulling diagonally down and to the left (in this picture) while the triceps are only exerting a vertical force, directly overhead.  Since the band is not only pulling in vertical plane, but also (and in this instance to a greater degree) in a horizontal one, there must be some stabilization involved, and any time the resistance is placed above the waist, this stabilization is going to come from the core.  Conversely, a typical overhead triceps extension as shown below does not have a diagonal component to it.  The resistance from the weight pulls directly down with gravity, while the triceps exert a force directly overhead:

(Image from fitnessanddefense.com)

Without the diagonal component, this exercise involves very minimal core stabilization.

In addition to this diagonal force vector that actively engages the core, the use of the band also creates VARIABLE resistance.  As the band is stretched, the amount of resistance goes up, and is at it’s peak at the final stage of the exercise.  This means that when the arms are completely extended overhead, the abs must engage the strongest in order to keep the spine in a neutral position.  It’s this variable resistance that creates the DYNAMIC nature of the exercise– a resistance that constantly changes through the range of motion.

That’s all for now.  Let me know what you think of these exercises as I continue to post them!

Adam Reeder, cPT
Adam@GetFunctionalTraining.com
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Yesterday, I explained the core muscles’ general responsibility to stabilize the spine in all directions. I then showed you one of the most basic core stabilization exercises, the forearm plank.

By all means, you can improve your core strength by a great deal by performing forearm planks.  However, there is a way to take your core training to a whole new level, and the results are not only rock hard abs, but an improved posture, enhanced athletic performance, and a reduced risk of injury.  The first thing you must understand in order to develop a dynamic core is what the phrase “dynamic core” actually means.  In this case, the word dynamic refers to the ability of the core to react to varying levels of force at any given time.  Take for example a football lineman.  When a defensive tackle rushes for the quarterback, he gets usually gets blocked by an offensive lineman:

The defensive player’s core muscles, more than any other muscles in his body, must react EXTREMELY quickly to the offensive player hitting him.  His muscles do not have time to contract in a slow and controlled motion like you see in a sit-up or crunch.  The core musculature must react in a flash to whatever varying degree of force is placed on them.  For this reason, traditional abdominal exercises such as sit-ups or crunches are extremely ineffective at developing a sports-specfic core.

So, if you can’t use crunches or sit-ups or other traditional ab exercises, what can you do to make your core reactive and dynamic?

The perfect solution to this problem: Resistance bands.

As a band gets stretched, it’s resistance gets progressively harder.  This is different from almost all other types of resistance, such as free weights, body weights, machines, etc.  By using a band as resistance, we are altering the force placed on the body based on how far the band is stretched.  Lately, I have been experimenting with a TON of different exercises that use bands to get the core dynamically reacting to the resistance placed on it. There are a few things I love about these exercises:

-They’re all extremely sport-specific

-They’re performed standing, which is specific to sports and life in general

-They allow for strengthening of other areas of the body while strengthening the core

Here is the first video in the “Developing a Dynamic Core” series- Let me know what you think!

Rectus abdominis muscle

Image via Wikipedia

I have talked about training the abdominals before and how inefficient it is to do crunch after crunch and sit-up after sit-up in order to strengthen the abdominal region.  For more information on functional ab training, check out my blog post.

Today, I want to go a little bit further into what’s called core stability.  Core stability refers to the ability of your core musculature (abdominals, obliques, spinal erectors, etc.) to keep your spine in a neutral position.    Essentially, your core acts as a shock-absorber, reacting by tensing up whenever impact or force is applied above the waist.  Your abdominal musculature is largely responsible for preventing the spine from bending backwards, while the postural and erector muscles of the back prevent the spine from bending forwards and the oblique muscles prevent lateral movement.  This is incredibly important not only for sports, but to improve everyday quality of life.

One of the most basic yet most effective exercises used to train core stability is the forearm plank.  In the video below you will see two versions of the forearm plank.  The first is a beginner’s level plank, followed by a small adjustment that makes the exercise much more challenging for the core:

The plank is a fantastic exercise, but you can’t stop there if you want to fully develop rock hard abs and a functional, dynamic core.  Try the planks out, and build your strength up to the point where you can perform the beginner’s level plank for 1-2 minutes before progressing to the advanced version of the plank.

Tomorrow, I will go one step further in Developing A Dynamic Core by showing you a basic chest press exercise modified to really target the abdominal region of the core.

Adam Reeder, cPT
Adam@GetFunctionalTraining.com
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