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Why THESE Core Exercises Are SO Important

Yesterday I wrote about how we aren’t training function like we think! This is SUCH an important discussion because functional training gets written off by so many people because we don’t really think about human movement when we train, we think about gym training when we workout. I hear coaches all the time saying, “functional for what?” That is why you will see that these core exercises demonstrate a better understanding of what functional fitness means.

Because it doesn’t matter if you are a powerlifter, an athlete, someone who wants to drop body fat, gain muscle, etc. Our bodies STILL function all the same ways. A powerlifter still has to squat, deadlift, and bench press because THAT is their sport, yet their body isn’t wanting to do those exercises because that is not what it is designed for, we try to squeeze our bodies often into those exercises. Sport and health aren’t always the same thing, but we can accomplish so much if we go back to how our body works.

Why are the core exercises we are focusing upon such powerful representations of functional fitness? They go back largely to the movement pattern most ignore in the gait (locomotion). I know, why do you care? No one asks you how your gait is looking today, nor how pumped your gait muscles get. Yet, for all these goals, you SHOULD care about gait. Why?

core exercises

For real world discussions, the study above points out that so many issues of the body can be traced back to not walking, running, and moving in locomotion well. Which is funny because almost NO ONE in strength training and fitness circles discusses this fact. Imagine if we just raised our awareness of gait training how many more people we could help and how improving the function of our body would result in better fitness gains too.

It is important to remind our industry that loaded carries (farmer’s walks and such) are forms of loaded gait training, but that isn’t where most people should start. One of the things that makes gait so complex to begin with is that 60-70% of our time is on single leg. Not just are we on single leg, but we are moving with direction and having to react to an unpredictable real world. That is WAY more complex than pretty much anything we do in the gym.

With that in mind, we shouldn’t be starting people with loaded carries. If the studies are already showing us that most people walk badly, then why load them? The place to start is on the ground, let us take gravity away first and then slowly bring it back in. Like what?

Physical Therapist, Dan Swinscoe, gives us some great examples of these strategies in both the dead bug and hip bridge variations above. Why are these so powerful core exercises that make an actual difference? For one, it isn’t about “burning the abs” but connecting the chains of the body. Our core is over 35 muscles that must work synergistically to help our body function more efficiently.

As you see from the study below, much of our gait issues can be solved by learning how to use core exercises in smarter ways.

core exercises

What Dan is doing with these two Ultimate Sandbag exercises is teaching how the kinetic chain can work better to stabilize our lumbo-pelvic area (which I love how the researchers help us realize this is really core!). Cool, but what does this REALLY mean? By pulling apart the Ultimate Sandbag we engage the chain reaction of grip, shoulder, lats, and core from the top down. In the bridge, Dan goes more single leg because the feet (not squeezing the glutes) is how we use the glutes in real life and teach them to both stabilize and produce force at the same time.

I always show professionals how connecting these chains make an immediate difference on our performance. 

This is different than how many people train because most people are still bodybuilding. That doesn’t make them bad people, but they aren’t accomplishing what they think. Does it mean we now just train our core exercises all on the ground? Of course not! We want to build and what a great way to build core exercises that will help develop better strength and help us improve that gait pattern than being half kneeling.

What you see above is how we take the lessons of being half kneeling and bring it into more dynamic actions. In all the drills we broke down you see this diagonal patterning. Why?

We spoke about last week that the physical therapy system of PNF (you know the one with a lot of contract-relax stretches) is actually a system by neuro therapists to teach the body how to work more reflexively and to meet how our nervous system wants to use our body. If you look at our body, we are actually set to move in diagonals (largely why our opposite arm and leg swing during locomotion).

You see these diagonals and why exercises like the MAX Lunge are so unique core exercises. 

Combining understanding of the body and how to connect the chains isn’t just cool science information. It is the way we can change how well people move, how strong they are, and how good they feel in such a short time. Functional training is a REAL thing as is the importance of smart core exercises.

The key is our knowledge of the body and how we create exercises that just don’t stress the body, but match what our body is designed to do. Below you will see how we keep adding layers. We do want our core exercises to be performed in more complex environments, but we have to do this is a systematic manner otherwise we just chase exercises. Have purpose with our exercises and understand where our training goes and you will be amazed at what we can accomplish!

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