In the past few months I have been reading a number articles and research studies written Stuart McGill, a Professor at University of Waterloo.
He specializes in spine biomechanics and has published a number of articles pertaining to core stability, what it is, how it responds to activity and how best to enhance its functioning.
In his article published in the NSCA's Journal of Strength and conditioning 9Volume 32, Number 3), he summarizes many of his findings in a 10 page article. The entire article is extremely interesting and I was forced to rethink my take on the "whats, whys and hows" of "training the core".
He discusses the role of the core stabilizer musulature and their role as a preventor of motion as opposed to the muscles of the limbs which create motion.
He goes on to recommend 3 simple exercises, the "Big 3" core stabilization exercises, to enhance core function.
- The abdominal curl up
The curl up varies from a standard crunch. There should be no movement through the lumbar spine. Hands are placed in the small of the back to monitor movement. Elbows are down to begin and elevated as a progression. Maintain the entire spine in neutral, including the neck; lift only the head and shoulders. Compared to a crunch, the curl-up involves very little curl and the upper body and neck stay elongated. There is minimal range of motion. Other progressions involve prebracing the abdominals and deep breathing during the exercise.
- The Side bridge:
The side bridge, or plank can be performed from the knees if you have limited strength or ability to engage the abdominal wall. Begin by lying on the right side supported by the right elbow, hip and knee. Using support of the left hand, press up through the hips until you are supporting your body between your elbow and your knees. The top hand can rest on the hip. Progressions include moving to the feet, and changing your arm position to reach across to the opposite shoulder.
- The Bird - Dog
From a quadruped position, one leg is lifted and then returned, followed by lifting the opposite extended arm. To progress, both the leg and opposite arm are lifted. Making a fist can increases the tension in the extended arm. Further progressions involve drawing a square with both the foot and hand simultaneously. The exercise is performed on alternating sides.