Home' Fitness Australia : WINTER 2016 Contents I’D RATHER SEE PEOPLE STOP
DOING CURL-UPS ON THEIR
GYM BALL AND INSTEAD ROLL OVER
AND DO THE ‘STIR THE POT’ EXERCISE.
however I’d hesitate to classify them as
a core exercise,” says Nesser, who advocates
for training the core in its entirety, rather
than isolating specific muscles. “ Just like you
can’t improve the performance of your car
by replacing one tyre, you can’t isolate one
core muscle and expect an improvement
in all of them,” he says.10
Another drawback to focusing solely on
crunches or sit-ups is that repeated spinal
flexion movement can damage spinal discs
and increase the risk of injury.11
“ I’d rather
see people stop doing curl-ups on their gym
ball and instead roll over and do the ‘stir
the pot’ exercise [where the core is braced
tight while moving the arms in a small,
circular motion],” says McGill, “ That will
build a more athletic core, reduce energy
‘leaks’ and increase training tolerance.” (See
p.4). He also recommends doing ‘the Big
3’ core stabilisation exercises – the curl-
up, side bridge and birddog (See diagrams
on p.4, taken from Back Mechanic: The Step
by Step McGill Method to Fix Back Pain),
as a daily practice to help build muscle
endurance while sparing the spine of
injury mechanisms and pain triggers.
(Visit www.backfitpro.com to view a video
Another exercise you may want to
incorporate into client core training
programs is the suitcase carry. “ With this
exercise, you hold a weight in one arm and
walk with it,” explains Nesser. “ Basically any
type of exercise that utilises an unbalanced
load will increase the stress on the muscles
of the torso, and that includes an overhead
press with a dumbbell or kettlebell or a
Of course, before trainers begin to build
core athleticism and fitness, they must first
assess their client’s fitness and mobility,
and in the event of a history of back pain or
injuries, speak to their health professional.
“Once a client is out of pain and has good
movement tolerance, then you can build
their bodies back up to their performance
goal,” says McGill.
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Drawing the belly button into the spine
(known as ‘hollowing’) is a technique
endorsed by many a well-meaning trainer.
The problem is, it’s not the most effective way
to engage the core. “If you draw your belly in,
it brings the muscles closer to the spine, so
they don’t work as effectively as guy-wires,”
“Hollowing stems back to the
idea of trying to train a single muscle of the
core, which is not the way the torso was
designed to work – the individual muscles
work together as a unit,” explains Nesser.
A smarter approach is to brace, which
will engage all the core muscles. To guide
clients on how to do this, instruct them
to place their fingers just above their hips
on their obliques, then engage their core
muscles to push their fingers out, advises
McGill. “Interestingly, this activates the full
abdominal wall but it also activates some
of the back muscles to create a guy-wire
system,” he observes. “The key is to then
tune the brace up or down to create
sufficient stiffness to control movement
and/or any pain triggers, but to minimise
any spine loading.”
Other useful cues include activating the
pelvic floor, closing up the urinary tract, for
men lifting the testicles up, or posteriorly
tilting the tail bone. It’s also important that
clients avoid ‘bearing down’, that is, pushing
the pelvic floor down.
For clients who have had abdominal
surgery such as a caesarean section or a
spinal injury affecting the deep musculature,
an ‘isolating cue’ in the initial stages may be
useful, before progressing to a broad scale
core strength program.
ACTIVATING THE CORE:
WHY BRACING BEATS HOLLOWING
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