Functional Stability Training for the Core

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When I imagine some of the more popular pairings in our pop culture, those pairings that, when I think of one I automatically think of the other, a few instantly come to mind:




Peanut butter and jelly

Scorsese and DeNiro

Ross and Rachel

DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince

Jersey Shore and vomiting in my mouth

Of course, that’s just a short list and by no means exhaustive…..but you get the idea.

In much the same way, with regards to the fitness industry, we can come up with a few similar pairings: Westside Barbell and powerlifting; Pavel and kettlebells; Mondays and bench press; and lastly, Satan and Tracy Anderson.

All kidding aside, when I think of one of the more “dynamic” duos in the industry – not to mention two guys who put out a TON of quality content – it’s hard not to think of Eric Cressey and Mike Reinold.

Coincidentally enough, earlier this week the two of them released their latest product together, Functional Stability Training for the Core, which is the first module in an on-going “system” that I feel is really going to change the game and raise the bar in the industry.

Now, I know what some of you may be thinking:  the industry needs another core product like we need another Kardashian spin-off.  To that I say….touche!

But today, rather than just say “hey buy this!”(which you totally should), I’d like to shed a little more light on why I feel this product is worth a look.  I was there when it was filmed, and I’d like to showcase some major take away points I walked away with.

What separates this product from the masses?  Read on, and find out.

1.  I guess the most obvious starting point would be to define what the term Functional Stability Training actually is.  Are we talking about BOSU ball hell here?  Um, no.  Not even close.  In fact, you’re getting a 10-minute time out for even thinking that would be case!

In simplest terms (using Mike’s own words) Functional Stability Training is the integration of physical therapy and performance enhancement training, the integration of exercises and manual techniques, and the integration between mobility, strengthening, and dynamic stabilization.

In short: it’s an attempt to bridge the gap between the manual therapy side of things and the strength and conditioning side of things.  Both are separate entities, of course. But it’s important to note they DO work synergistically to (hopefully) reach the same goal, and it behooves many fitness professionals not to recognize that.  We’re all on the same team here, people!

2. Low back injuries suck (no surprise there), and contrary to popular belief, we typically can’t link one specific incident (lifting a box), but rather a history of excessive loading as a culprit. The lumbar spine will buckle at 20 pounds with no muscular contribution.  Hence, to prevent this, it’s crucial to increase spinal stiffness – 360 degrees – through muscular contraction.

As Reinold puts it:

  • De-emphasize lumbar mobility
  • Increase muscular stiffness to protect the spine
  • Emphasize endurance, and not strength

3. Think you’re doing your birddogs and deadbugs correctly?

Chances are, you’re not. You’re actually butchering them. No, really.  Stop it.  Just stop.

Mike made it abundantly clear that one of the best ways to “progress” people is through addition by subtraction.

In case you weren’t picking up what I was putting down above, it’s imperative to TRAIN NEUTRAL SPINE.  Like, all the time.

Learn to train abdominal bracing, and to teach the proper muscle firing patterns when coaching the birddog, deadbug, etc. As an example, many trainees will compensate lumbar extension for hip extension, and it’s important to stop any aberrant motor patterns before they start.

Mike goes through a plethora of  cool progressions with the birddog, deadbug, front plank, chop and lift, as well as many others.

In addition, he also dives into lateral chain progressions (side plank, anti-sidebending holds), as well as rotary chain progressions.

4.  Eric made an awesome analogy and referred to spondylolysis as the new ACL epidemic. For those wondering what the hell “spondy” is – it’s essentially a fracture in the pars interarticularis. A spinal “ouchie” using the non-technical term.

I can tell you first hand that we’re seeing more and more younger athletes walk into our facility (Cressey Performance) with “spondy”, and it’s rather disconcerting to say the least.  As Eric noted (citing a study from Soler and Colderon 2000):

  • high prevalence in extension rotation sports:  baseball, track and field throws, etc.
  • L5 is most common (84%) followed by L4 (12%)
  • Bilteral 78% of the time.
  • Only 50-60% of those diagnosed actually reported low back pain

Like whoa! Think about that for a second. Flipping the numbers, that means 40-50% of those with spondy report NO pain and are asymptomatic!  Just because a new client walks in with no discernible “issues,” and says they’re pain free, doesn’t mean squat!

In a way, it stands to reason that you kinda have to assume that everyone you work with is walking in with some sort of back shenanigans going on. Chances are, you’re already working with plenty of clients around disc injuries in the first place.

Well, maybe that’s a little drastic – but you DO need to be aware of the statistics and how they may play into how you go about initiating your clients into strength training. Just sayin….

That said, when you KNOW you’re dealing with a case of spondy, are you prepared? Do you know what red flags to look for during an assessment?  How will you go about structuring a training program?  More specifically, now that back bracing is standard procedure, how would you go about developing a program with an athlete or client who has to wear for weeks (even months) on end?

HINT:  you’ll want to avoid pronounced axial loading (trap bar is an excellent choice here), there should be no rotational training for the duration of the bracing; all plyos and med ball work should be linear, you’ll stress anti-rotation training.

5.  The question, then, becomes:  if “x” number of people are walking around with backs that look like they’ve been through a meat grinder, how do we prevent disc issues from becoming symptomatic in the first place?

For the short course, Eric notes:

  • Avoid lumbar flexion, especially with rotation and compression by increasing ankle mobility, increasing thoracic mobility, increasing hip mobility.

  • Stabilize the lumbar spine within a ROM it already has.  Meaning, don’t be an a-hole trainer and think that EVERYONE has to squat “ass to grass.”  Some people just don’t have the mobility (yet) to get there, so if that means utilizing box squats, so be it.  The important thing to remember is to squat in ROM where they’re successful and work from there.
  • Deload the spine.
  • Be careful with early morning training.

And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg to be honest.  Mike and Eric leave no stone unturned with this product – other topics covered include:

– how to handle and deal with sports hernias

– the dealo behind “anterior knee pain”

– how to handle EXTENSION in athletes

– how to assess core movement quality (in this section, Mike offers a TON of progressions)

This would be a SOLID addition to any fitness professional’s library.

Functional Stability Training for the Core is on sale for the introductory price of $77 from now (4/19) until this Sunday (4/22). After that, the price increases to the regular price of $97.  Even then, considering the over SIX hours of content you’re getting, it’s still a steal.

====> Functional Stability Training <====



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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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