Take a minute and try to remember the last time you went to your local gym. What were the majority of the people doing? Now I can tell you every time I go to mine, the heat and the smell of sweat are mostly concentrated in the weight room. People are all about the gains and rightfully so, but so few dedicate enough time on core stability. Now I know you do your cardio abs workout and the like, but core stability means a lot more than just abdominal muscles. I will challenge you with a couple exercises so you can see where you stand in terms of stability.
Take a look at the exercise in the video above. Now I do recognize that I run the risk of pissing some people off because this exercise appear too easy. It is indeed very easy to do this exercise with the wrong form. However once you start paying attention to where certain parts of your body are in space, things will suddenly get challenging. In the video I’m doing the bird dog, and my first challenge is to maintain a neutral spine in that quadruped position. Believe me I thought it would be easy to find my neutral spine in this position but it took me a few weeks before I could get the hang of it. A neutral spine is just like you saw in the beginning of the video. I know people’s body varies across the spectrum but ideally you should have a curve on your neck, upper back and a slight curve on your lower back. When you do the bird dog those curves should be present as close to as they would if you were standing. Good proprioception of the spine takes some training so I recommend first try this exercise next to a mirror so you can pay attention to the curves. Your back should neither be too flat nor too curvy. Once you find that neutral spine, slowly kick out your right arm and your left leg. If you’re not stable enough your pelvis will start to rotate as you extend that leg. In order to keep your pelvis neutral you have to engage your transverse abdominus, the deepest abdominal muscle, by using the drawing in maneuver. This maneuver is what you would do if you were trying to fit a tight Jean over your belly button. The transverse abdominus connects to your spine via the thoracolumbar fascia. When you activate your transverse, it pulls on the thoracolumbar fascia, which then pulls onto your spine to keep it more stable, thereby keeping the pelvis neutral throughout the motion. In summary you have to keep your spine neutral, fire your transverse abs and keeping your pelvic neutral as you alternate between arms and leg. The major challenge is to pay attention to all of those cues as you do 15 reps of this exercise. Record yourself with your phone or have someone look at your form because it will become harder to maintain as you go through the repetitions.
The same cues apply with the plank exercises: a neutral spine should be present, so your butt should not be too high nor too low; the upper back curve should be present to avoid putting too much of your weight on your forearms. How long does it take before your body starts to shake? The longer it takes, the more stable your core.
It’s great to incorporate those exercises into your routine but the true benefit lies in doing them correctly. Remember the cues I mentioned earlier: neutral spine and transverse activation. If however you have back pain, and you notice that it’s very challenging to do these exercises, you owe it to yourself to consult with your Physical Therapist to check out your back.
Thank you for reading and when you have questions about those exercises, don’t hesitate to contact me!