Friday, May 9, 2014

Programming Core Workouts - Part 2

Adding in the Hips and Motion

Part 1 is here. Now we are going to add three more basic components to our core workout. These additions have to do with the hip musculature. While these muscles are used in the previous exercises there are two basic reasons to work them separately:
  1. They are often inactive - Modern living frequently leads to the muscles being poorly used. They get tight or weak. Whether from sitting too much or faulty movement patterns or both. As such it is useful to target them specifically.
  2. The hip muscles generate motion - while the trunk muscles prevent motion. The previous exercises are geared towards preventing torso motion. But we need to be able to move around this stable core. These exercises work this aspect.
Once again we have three basic directions - front, back and sides - which define a complete approach.

Front - (iliopsoas and rectus femoris) While the rectus abdominis prevents extension of the back and create a a stable torso, these muscles are used to flex the thigh. Our objective is to train to keep the back flat, with the abs, while being able to generate leg motion.

Back - (gluteus maximus) Weak abs and a tight back frequently lead to hip extension being tied to back extension. Our objective though is to train hip extension while maintaining a flat back, which requires co-activation of the abs while extending at the hip. As well as training to separate back and hip extension.

Side - (gluteus medius) Another muscle that is under utilized in daily life, this muscle serves to stabilize and move the hips laterally. Again the objective is to be able to move the leg laterally while keeping the torso still.

(The side muscles can also be thought to include the adductor group. However, this group serves a different kind of role, is worked separately from the core muscles and is less likely to be problematic)


Our objective with these muscles is activation and movement pattern related. As such it is useful to include these exercises with the warm-up instead of trying to build-up strength with them.

Deadbugs - The link is to a blog post by Tony Gentilcore. There are two key related points he makes: 1) keep the back flat on the floor, really press it down; 2) the number of repetitions is limited not by your leg muscles but by how many you can do while keeping the back flat. As such 5-8 reps per side is generally the limit, but do 2-3 sets.

Bird-dog - The animated gif with the link isn't perfect, because the objective is maintain a nice neutral spine throughout the movement. 5-8 reps per side is good for 2-3 sets.

Mini-band walks - The mini-band walks will place a strong demand on the glute med muscles, enough that people new to the exercise often have the feeling of having worked a muscle they didn't know they had.

These three exercises as part of the warm-up helps round out the core program and make it more complete and functional. Easier and harder versions of all of these exist and some of them will be discussed later in the series.

Next time we'll be discussing how to organize the great diversity of available exercises and start looking at exercises that require a bit of equipment.

(Parts III, IV and conclusion about programming)

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