Core training is definitely one of those terms that tends to be beloved on one end and bashed on the other. I get it, such a term gets misunderstood all the time that causes many coaches to hate even hearing the term being mentioned. That doesn’t mean core training isn’t real or super important to our fitness, movement, and functional strength.
While most think core training is just about training the abdominals, science has taught us it is far more. Real core training is about integrating the entire trunk, pelvis, and kinetic chains of the body. Many overlook the role of the foot, ground engagement, and tension in developing core strength.
We want core training to not just about working the abdominals but being reactive, fluid, and learning to RESIST movement. Yes, the major shift in understanding functional training is how the core is far more about resisting than producing movement. The idea of a plank isn’t to get great a planking but learning to brace at the RIGHT time to keep proper posture and balance.
One of the very best ways we can use core training is by using a simple concept of single limb training. While single leg training has gotten a lot of publicity for its ability to have carryover to core training and real world strength, many forget equally, upper body training should have elements of single arm training as well.
Sure, you might think, “I do that!”, which is great, but it is just the start! Our ultimate goal is to progress where we can combine elements of single arm and leg training. Why? Most of our everyday movements actually do just that, if we look at running, walking, jumping, and more, very often we have a one leg dominant side and a one arm dominant side working. We think of this as cross patterning, but this comes in many forms.
Ultimate Sandbag Arc Press Leg Threading
While it many fitness professionals know that single leg training is good, they get frustrated in getting people to the point where they can benefit from this form of training. Strength and stability have to be developed at the same time and we can’t just rely on sagittal based exercises to build these qualities.
When you see where to start and have a plan of where you are going, these types of challenges aren’t as intimidating. A great example is our Ultimate Sandbag Arc Press Leg Threading series. While we are showing this as a series, you can split these movements into individual components.
The half kneeling position allows us to introduce the stability challenges of single leg training. Even though both feet are engaged in the ground, the split stance introduces a need to resist the frontal plane. It is this quality that experts such as Dr. Stuart McGill describe as essential for real core stability. That is why Dr. McGill uses the side plank for his “Big 3” core stability exercises over the front plank.
The Arc Press is not only a single arm push/pull, it is not only a single arm movement (yes, two hands are on the Ultimate Sandbag, but only one pushes and then the other pulls), but it is a way to amplify both anti-extension and helps build strength to resist the frontal plane as well.
Leg threading helps build our core three dimensionally and focuses on stability and strength all at once. Learning to transition from one position to another is a great way to build movement and strength at the same time. We also get to teach proper ground integration of the feet and hands which most miss when it comes to building core strength.
Kettlebell Sprinter Stance Deadlift Series
One of the biggest challenges for coaches is moving people from the ground to standing positions when it comes to these unstable movement patterns. Unfortunately, most coaches progress instability too drastically and become frustrated. The solution is rather a simple idea of DVRT in changing body position.
Using the Sprinter Stance (a heel to toe relationship) we have an incremental change to instability so that we can build strength and competency in such an environment. We get to see if we can still perform the hip hinge pattern under a new condition of slight instability. This builds anti-rotation and anti-lateral movement qualities. In other words, we instantly change the deadlift into a three dimensional exercise.
The kettlebell is a great tool to add to this series due to the fact that gripping activates the core and the way we can apply the load of the kettlebell in many ways allows us to progress the movement in more ways than just going heavier!
Ultimate Sandbag Drags
One of the exercises that have become VERY popular from our DVRT system is our lateral drags. The obvious part is the plank that we see during this movement. Unfortunately, most people miss a lot of the subtle aspects of the drill and progressions that make it so powerful.
Most coaches focus just on moving the Ultimate Sandbag side to side. In reality, we look for far more aspects of this exercise. First and foremost, how we create tension into the ground with our three points of contact (stance arm and feet), if we don’t maintain this ground action, we lose stability and strength.
Positioning of the body and load are also important as one of the keys of these Ultimate Sandbag drills is not to just resist rotation and flexion, but to integrate the chains of the body such as the lat/core/glute series. That means if we place the hands and/or weight in the wrong position we don’t make this connection and put excessive stress into the shoulders, something that can turn this powerful movement from a great corrective exercise into one that may damage the body.
Lastly, the drag is SO important. While most think we are just transferring weight, the drag creates friction which creates a unique stress in the body and amplifies these anti-movement strategies. Lifting the weight up and just moving it to one side is good, but not NEARLY as productive as focusing on a quality drag and keeping the intent of the movement.
Ultimate Sandbag Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats
Coach Mike Boyle has made the Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat (RFESS) into a powerhouse drill. We probably don’t need to convince you of the value of this exercise, but we can discuss why kettlebells are such a wonderful tool in building of it.
One of the beautiful aspects of Ultimate Sandbags is how they can be positioned on the body to make the same weight feel heavier or lighter. This is important for coaches that are looking to maximize their equipment or those that run groups where different fitness and ability levels can use the same loads but in different ways.
We can also use the varying loading positions as to develop stability and strength at the same time. It won’t take much load to make the RFESS challenging and accomplish our goal of building more functional core strength and stability. The RFESS represents a higher level of real core strength, but adding Ultimate Sandbags to it just takes the training to a whole new level!
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