Archive for the ‘Core’ Category

At some point in time you’re going to experience back pain. It’s quite common, and at times can be tricky to work around because it’s so complex. For reference, I’ve injured my lower back twice and it’s no joke. Quite discouraging actually. And unfortunately, I had to take a few steps back on my training. So, I can relate if you’ve had back problems.
In this post, I want to address some of the issues revolving around back pain and offer general guidelines that will ultimately get you feeling good and back in the iron game.

What NOT To Do

1. Stretching Will Actually Do More Harm Than Good


Whenever people experience pain they have this¬†behavioral habit of¬†stretching the painful area. ¬†Let me tell you: the site of the pain, is almost never the source of the pain. Stretching is not inherently bad. You just have to be more selective of your approach when trying to ease the pain ‚ÄĒ and I’ve found that painful areas rarely like being stretched. It just causes more instability.

You might provide yourself with some pain relief, but the problem is that it’s only temporary. More often than not, the pain comes back worse than before.¬†Thus begins the vicious¬†cycle of repeating the process over and over again.¬†I understand the rationale behind it, but to give some context ‚ÄĒ¬†it’s the equivalent of repeatedly banging your head against the wall.

To drive the point home, the last thing you should be doing is stretching your lower back. You’re actually doing more harm than good.

2. Do Not Stop Training


While continuing to train at a high-intensity is unwarranted, pressing the pause button and remaining sedentary is not exactly the best route either. Even worse if all you do sit all day long.

Suffice it to say, it’s still¬†possible to strength train. ¬†It all boils down on focusing what you can do and¬†listening to your body.¬†The key is doing the right workouts. Placing an emphasis on spine sparing exercises will pay dividends in your longevity. ¬†Have some common sense. If the movement hurts, then don’t do it.

You’re not doing yourself any favors by running 3-5 miles¬†on hard pavement, doing a set of box jumps, or attempting to set a PR in your squat.

What You Should Be Doing

1. Strengthen Core Stability


If your lower back keeps acting up, it’s most likely a lack of stability rather than mobility. As such, strengthening your core is priority numero uno¬†when it comes to keeping your lower back healthy. The inability to properly brace or stiffen your spine results in your passive restraints taking up most of the stress.

2. Single-leg Training and Glute Work


As I mentioned earlier, placing an emphasis on spine sparing exercises is of primary importance. Prioritizing single-leg training and glute work have tremendous value, specifically for folks suffering from acute or chronic back pain. Performing any single-leg work (Assisted 1-leg RDL, Bulgarian Split Squats, Lunges, Step-ups) reduces the shear and compressive forces on the spine that you would otherwise experience in traditional bilateral lower body movements.

Yes. The hip thrust¬†mimics an “inappropriate” motion, but make no mistake¬†‚ÄĒ if you want to transform your backside and keep your lower back healthy, these are¬†money.

3. Make Simple Modifications


Once your symptoms have begun to wind down and you start to feel good,¬†it’s easy to dive back into your normal training regimen with gusto.

Not so fast.

Tinkering with different variations or altering your set up with an exercise can make a world of difference.  For instance, setting up for a conventional deadlift might not bode well for the vast majority. But with a trap bar, kettlebell, or a landmine, you can shift your weight more posteriorly further reducing the likelihood of aggravating your lower back. Similarly, lying flat on your back for a bench press can be a hassle. Opting for an incline press is more user-friendly because it eliminates the need to excessively arch through the lower back. Remember, keeping your spine neutral under load is the way to go. Compromising that can potentiate another injury causing your lower back to flip you the finger.

I’m happy to announce that I’m taking clients for my online fitness coaching. If you want to get stronger, build lean muscle, and decrease body fat, learn more about my coaching here. 

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Having a nice set of abs does not come from a thousand sit-ups or crunches. While traditional core exercises can play a (small) role in developing an aesthetically pleasing mid-section, abdominal definition is the result of proper nutrition, not core work. If you want those muscles to show, pay attention to what you eat.

With that in mind, it’s important to know the primary function of your core musculature¬†‚ÄĒ stabilize and prevent unnecessary movements.

Here are my top five core exercises to build a solid core.

1. Bodysaw


These are one of those “so simple, yet so effective” exercises. I’ve done this¬†in the past, but I’ve never truly appreciated it until recently. The action is like that of a saw, with a forward and back motion coming from the shoulders. Interestingly, I’ve¬†found this to be so much more¬†effective than¬†rollouts on the stability ball, for two¬†reasons:

  • Most notably, less complaints of back pain (provided you do them correctly).
  • There were some cases where my clients would have a tendency to use their triceps with stability ball rollouts.

You can easily progress this by going further back. But beware, this exercise is not for the faint of heart. You’ll really feel them in your abs.

It’s important to note that to execute this movement properly (and with most core exercises), you¬†have to brace your core and squeeze your glutes.

2. TRX Fallout


This is very much like an ab wheel rollout¬†because you’re essentially engaging your anterior core to resist extension. ¬†Although, I’m more partial to this exercise because not everyone has access to an ab wheel, and it’s a much easier set up. The good thing about the TRX Fallout is that it can be easily regressed or progressed by adjusting the length of the straps, and walking in front¬†or behind the anchor (attachment point).

To increase the difficulty, simply set up behind the anchor. To make it easier, set up in front of the anchor. Avoid excessive arching of the lower back by squeezing your glutes and bracing your core. It should be a straight line from your head to your feet.

3. Suitcase Carry


Generally, those with limited hip mobility¬†are folks that experience chronic lower back pain. A basic core exercise such as the side plank is a simple, yet effective way¬†to develop the lateral stabilizers ‚ÄĒ thus, reducing stiffness and/or pain of the lower back while improving hip mobility. To be honest though, side planks can be a bit boring.

To kick it up a notch, the suitcase carry¬†does a great job of working your lateral core and grip strength. Think of it as a loaded dynamic version of the side plank. You’re basically walking with a load¬†(preferably a kettlebell) in one hand.

The main objective here is to stay upright with no lean and keeping your shoulders leveled.

4. Shoulder Touch Push-ups


Integrating different push-up variations¬†are one of the best ways to strengthen your core. There’s a variety of ways you can go about it. ¬†For simplicity’s sake, though, we’ll cover Shoulder Touch Push-ups.¬†You’re killing two birds with one stone. Here’s why: there’s obviously a tremendous amount of anterior core engagement in the push-up position. Adding in a unilateral component¬†such as this in particular challenges core rotary stability. Put simply, it fries your core from two planes of motion ‚ÄĒ trust me, that’s a good thing.

If you want to make it harder, try performing it on a medicine ball.

5. Reverse Plank Walks


Traditionally, doing this in a forward fashion bothered some of my clients wrists, so a tidbit I picked up from Coach Ben Bruno was to do them in reverse. Adding a mini-band solves the issue of sagging and/or shifting of the hips, which maintains anterior core stress.

One way of making these harder is to deliberately make larger excursions as you move backwards.




I’ve provided you with a couple¬†of my favorite core exercises. ¬†These movements will strengthen the muscles surrounding the hips and spine. Thus, allowing you to move and perform¬†better. While I’m of the belief that you can build a pretty solid core¬†with some good ol’ fashion heavy lifting, you still have to throw in some additional core work. Give each of them a try and let me know how it goes.

I’m happy to announce that I’m taking clients for my online fitness coaching. If you want to get stronger, build lean muscle, and decrease body fat, learn more about my coaching here. 

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