Exercises You Should Be Doing – Stirring the Pot
People are always looking for new and innovative ways to train their core, and I’m certainly no different. Where I DO differ however, is that I’m not overly concerned about whether or not said exercise will lead to abs that can cut diamonds (although admittedly, it’s not a bad side effect) as I am concerned about what kind of bang-for-my-training buck I’m getting for incorporating it into the programs I write – either personally or for clients.
For me, core training (particularly with regards to plank variations) should help improve things like antero-posterior stability of the entire lumbo-pelvic-hip area, ability to resist anti-extension forces, as well as core endurance (especially for those with chronic lower back issues), to name a few.
But lets be honest, for most of us, planks (and all their infinite variations) are about as exciting as falling on a knife. While I think they’re a great tool in the toolbox for beginners, and are almost a necessity for those dealing with lower back issues, sometimes we need to kick it up a notch.
What Is It: Stirring the Pot
Who Did I Steal It From: Dr. Stuart McGill
What Does It Do: As noted by Dr. McGill on numerous occasions, planks are a great exercise to train core endurance. As counterintuitive as it sounds, most people suffering from lower back pain have really strong backs – the reason they’re jacked up most of the time is because they’re using their backs for everything and are unable to dissociate their lumbar spine from their hips. As well, they have atrocious spinal endurance and stability. So more often than not, after establishing proper motor patterns, the first plan of attack is to gradually build their endurance up using various planks/lumbar spine stability drills, hip mobility drills, as well as improving general movement quality skills.
As I’ve noted in the past, assuming it’s safe to do so (and it’s applicable to the given client), I’d rather make planks more challenging than make them longer, and this exercise is about as challenging as it gets.
Key Coaching Cues: assume a proper plank position on a stability ball – braced abs, glutes tight, you know the drill. From there, you’ll simply move your forearms in a circular fashion maintaining a rock solid position the entire time. Read: there should be as little movement in the lumbar spine, hips, and pelvis as humanly possible. If you have to widen your stance in order to do so, then do it. Conversely, if you want to make it more challenging, narrow your stance. Or just have someone ninja-kick the ball out of no where.
You have two options as far as duration is concerned: You can go for either time or desired repetitions – I prefer the latter. Perform six to eight FULL repetitions going in one direction, then switch, and repeat going in the other direction.
Give it a try today, and let me know what you think!