Everything You Need to Know About the “Core” – Part II –

Posted: December 29, 2014 by dannytwoguns in Articles

In Part I – “The Basics” of this series we addressed the “beginner” anti-extension exercises and why the plank is not a beginner’s exercise and why people don’t do it well and often times leads to back pain.

I mentioned that we use four exercises to “work up” to planks and other harder progressions and only gave you two – the Dead Bug and the Bird Dog. Dead Bugs and Bird Dogs use anti-extension to strengthen the plank and then we also use the Farmers Carry and the One Arm Farmers Carry to strengthen the plank and core pattern through integrated stability and ant-lateral flexion.

The Farmers Carry can be done with multiple implements, we most commonly use kettlebells and the trap bar. The goal of this exercises is essentially mimic a moving plank. You have to do all the same bracing you would in a plank but instead of gravity acting as resistance like in a plank, we now have it assisting us and still getting the same benefits without as much load. The most important back of the Farmers Carry is to remain upright, the cue we use the most is to “get tall” with no rounding of the shoulders, no shrugging of the shoulders and no arching of the back – practice perfect posture as you maintain a normal stride.

7 17 PGen Farmers Carry

The One Arm Farmers Carry has a little less amount of implement options than the regular Farmers Carry but still a few, we use kettlebells at the start and then when the size of the kettlebell starts hitting people in the leg, we transition to a trap bar turned on its side. While we use it often in conjunction with the regular Farmers Carry the One Arm Farmers Carry is technically a progression from the Farmers Carry as it is more difficult to remain upright/avoid leaning and bears more load on the spine. All the same rules apply except you now have to make sure there is no lateral lean aka leaning sideways to cheat holding the weight. Good posture, stay tall, no rounding or shrugging shoulders, no arching your back and no leaning tower.

10 13 Kathie

Bonus – We also use an exercise that is an even better option than the Farmers Carry for strengthening the plank and core musculature. The only “problem” with the exercise and why I don’t have it as the main four is that the client has to be able to “clean” the Ultimate Sandbag into position and the average beginner doesn’t have that strength yet, but when they do, this is the exercise they progress to.

It is called the Ultimate Sandbag Front Load Carry. It should 100% mimic the plank in body position and elbow position, which the Farmers Carry does not and adds a load to the core that cannot be mimicked with other carry variations. Other implements can be used in this position but they aren’t nearly as effective both because of how exact your elbow position can be and also because the Ultimate Sandbag shifts and adds another layer of stability demand. It’s important to not let the elbows drop as you fatigue. It is a lot harder to keep good posture when your elbows drop and this also loads the arms more than the core, which you don’t want.

7 17 PGen USB FL Carry

After getting stronger and better at those four (or five) exercises, the vast majority of people are ready to progress to harder core variations and are strong enough to benefit from planks. However, the goal wasn’t just to do a plank because planks are cool. The goal is to get the benefit of the plank. The popularity of planks are overblown not because they are super effective but because you can do them anywhere and people want things they can do in their house or for free to be the things that are most effective – but unfortunately that isn’t true at all.

Doing a plank is simply a stepping stone to show you can control anti-extension (plank) or anti-lateral flexion (side plank) safely. What we didn’t mention earlier as another shortcoming of the “Plank Revolution” is that planks get stale very quickly and the benefits are very quickly diminshed. Both because they are boring and because we adapt very quickly to them and other than doing that plank for longer, there are diminishing returns unless you progress them in ways other than simply doing them longer, which usually involves equipment.

But let’s backtrack ever so slightly. We’ve showed four exercises that the average beginner can do, assuming they have the mobility foundation to do so. But we have not tackled which populations need what. Other than those specific issues like back pain or mobility restrictions, the majority of people can perform the previous four exercises without much issue. But with more advanced exercises and exercises that require more strength this isn’t the case.

Do you think people who fall into these three different postures should all get the same training approach?

Neutral – What you want… Head directly on top of shoulders that are directly on top of midsection that is directly on top of hips that are directly on top of knees that are directly on top of ankles. If a weight were to push down through his head, his foundation is stable and supports it fully.

Ian Neutral

Extension Based – More common in people who stand a lot… And the person who has a lot of trouble with planks…

Ian Extension

Flexion Based – More common in people who sit a lot…

Ian Flexion

Both the extension and flexion based postures are not stable foundations to work from. Functional Movement Expert, Gray Cook coined the phrase “you cant shoot a cannon out of a canoe.” The biggest cannon in a canoe will lose to an average cannon on top of a battleship any day. In the extension and flexion pictures, if you put a weight down through Ian’s head like we did in the first picture, he would crumble, the foundation isn’t stable or secure.

He is exaggerating the postures per my request but that extension based posture (2nd picture) is very common in women – the boobs out butt out posture that is essentially an anterior pelvic tilt (a forward rotation of your hips or upward rotation of your tailbone) and externally rotated ribs (imagine your ribs pointing forward/ahead instead of down) and training cant be approached the same way as someone who is neutral like the first picture or flexion based like the third, especially core training as it deals specifically with that area.

In the next parts we will tackle how we approach the differences in these postures and how to “fix” them or essentially be able to train the core not only effectively but efficiently and safely as well.

If you have any questions feel free to contact us at (814) 882-8001 or on Facebook. I love all the feedback you guys give.

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