I always knew core strengthening was important, but the past few months have really shown me HOW MUCH!
I know talking about core exercises and strength has become a bit uncool for some.
It become very “in vogue” to say that if you squat, press, and deadlift, then your core is strong enough.
Ironically, when posed with this very question of what is “…most influential variable that links pain and performance?” Spine specialist, Dr. Stuart McGill answered, “My response would be an underperforming core.”
Dr. McGill has really debunked a lot of myths of core strength and spine health.
What does he mean?
I’ve found this out the hard way. Due to the tremendous stress that three spinal surgeries have taken on my core, I’ve found that my legs and upper body are tremendously impacted. How so? There are times where I lie down on my back and can’t lift my right leg off of the ground unless I correctly stimulate my core.
Most people don’t realize that the REAL job of the core is to help create a stable base for the extremities to work from. When the body feels unstable the mobility and strength of the upper and lower body get greatly compromised.
Where most people have BIG deficiencies is in the lateral stability of their body. I know, no one ever asked to see your “lateral six pack”, but strength and cosmetics are different beasts. Strength is not necessarily correlated with low body fat levels and low body fat levels or six packs don’t necessarily mean you have a strong core.
The “lateral sling system” is a natural kinetic chain in the body.
The lateral stability of the body is more correlated with performance and health of the low back than any other form of core training. The most famous of these drills? Yea, the side plank! While most think of modern core exercises with the front plank, the side plank is part of Dr. McGill’s “Big 3” of core stability exercises that best represent true core strength and resiliency.
Just do more side planks right? Well, that is part of the story, the other is HOW you side plank as well as how you progress.
One of the most common compensations people make is they don’t full extend their hips and end up in a bit of flexion. The other is that people rest on their shoulders and don’t use their lats. In all reality, when you start doing side planks RIGHT and for the right amount of time (at least 10 second pauses) people often have to come back to their knees.
I know, you might be too “tough” to perform side planks from the knees, but doing them right is more important than gutting through them. So, don’t feel bad if you do need to come back down to the knees.
Second is that we often don’t get both sides of the body active, which we can and SHOULD do! A way we can do this is to take a concept I first learned at my RKC in 2003. When pressing a single kettlebell overhead, we create a fist and almost a punch with the opposing arm. This creates tension on the non-loaded side via something that is called “irridation”.
Using the side plank we want to do the same, that is why using the DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training Side Plank Row can be a supercharged core exercise. Not only do we engage the lateral stability we want in a side plank, but we get even MORE! Check out how to do it RIGHT and see how hard having the right intent of an exercise can be!
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