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6 Reasons Anterior Core Stability Exercises Are Essential

Written on October 30, 2014 at 7:46 am, by Eric Cressey

This time of year, I'm doing a lot of assessments on professional baseball players who are just wrapping up their seasons.  One of the biggest issues that I note in just about every "new" athlete I see is a lack of anterior core control. In other words, these athletes sit in an exaggerated extension pattern that usually looks something like this:

APT

And, when they take their arms overhead, they usually can't do so without the ribs "flaring" up like crazy.

This is really just one way an athlete will demonstrate an extension posture, though. Some athletes will stand in knee hyperextension. Others will live in a forward head posture. Others may have elbows that sit behind their body at rest because their lats are so "on" all the time.

latsPosture

This isn't just about resting posture, though; most of these athletes will have faulty compensatory movement patterns, too. Once we've educated them on what better posture actually is for them, we need to include drills to make these changes "stick." Anterior core drills - ranging from prone bridges, to positional breathing, to dead bugs, to reverse crunches, to rollouts/fallouts - are a great place to start. Here's why they're so important:

1. Breathing

The muscles of your anterior core are incredibly important for getting air out. The folks at the Postural Restoration Institute often discuss how individuals are stuck in a state of inhalation, with each faulty breath creating problematic accessory tone in muscles like scalenes, lats, sternocleidomastoid, pec minor, etc. These muscles aren't really meant to do the bulk of the breathing work; we should be using our diaphragm. Unfortunately, when the rib cage flies up like we saw earlier, we lose our Zone of Apposition (ZOA), a term the PRI folks have coined to describe the region into which our diaphragm must expand to function.

Zone-of-Apposition

(Source: PosturalRestoration.com)

Bill Hartman has a great video demonstrating good vs. bad breathing here:

 

Step 1 is to get the ribs down and pelvis into some posterior tilt to reestablish this good zone. Step 2 is to learn how to breathe in this position, emphasizing full exhalation.

Step 3, as you may have guessed, is to strengthen these "newly rediscovered" patterns with good anterior core training.

2. Resisting extension.

This one is the most obvious benefit, as the muscles of the anterior core directly combat too much arching of the lower back. If you aren't controlling excessive lumbar extension, it's only a matter of time until you wind up with lower back irritation - whether it's just annoying tightness, a stress fracture, a disc issue, or something else.

3. Better force transfer and lower back injury risk reduction.

The research on core function is pretty clear: its job is to transfer force between the lower and upper body. Spine expert Dr. Stuart McGill has spoken at length about how spine range of motion and power are positively correlated with injury risk. In other words, the more your spine moves (to create force, as opposed to simply transferring it), the more likely you are to get hurt. How do you prevent your spine from moving excessively? You stabilize your core.

4. Indirect effects on rotary stability.

For a long time, I looked at control of extension as "separate" from control of rotation at the spine. In other words, we did our anterior core drills to manage the front of the body, and our chops, lifts, side bridges, etc. to resist unwanted rotation. However, the truth is that these two approaches need to be treated as synergistic.

As an example, every time I've seen an athlete come our way with an oblique strain, he's sat in an extension posture and had poor anterior core control - even though an oblique strain is an injury that occurs during excessive rotation. All you need to do is take a quick glance at the anatomy, and you'll see that external obliques (like many, many other muscles) don't function only in one plane of motion; they have implications in all threes - including resisting excessive anterior pelvic tilt and extension of the lower back.

Gray392

What this means is that you can't simply ignore coaching in one plane when you think you're training in another one. When you do your chops and lifts, you need to prevent lumbar hyperextension (arching) . And, when you do your rollouts, you can't allow twisting as the athlete descends. Finally, you can add full exhales (a predominantly anterior core challenge) to increase the difficulty on rotary stability exercises.

5. Improved lower extremity function and injury risk reduction.

Lack of anterior core control directly interferes with lower extremity function, too. If the pelvis "dumps" too far forward into anterior tilt, the front of the hip can get closed down. As I described at length here, this can lead to hip impingement.

With a squat variation, while some athletes will stop dead in their tracks with this hip "block," others will slam into posterior tilt to continue descending. This is the "butt wink" we've come to see over and over again in lifting populations. When neutral core positioning is introduced and athletes also learn to manage other extension-based compensations, the squat pattern often improves dramatically. This can "artificially" be created transiently elevating the heels, turning the toes out, or by having an athlete hold a weight in front as a counterbalance.

Additionally, athletes in heavy extension patterns often carry their weight too far forward, throwing more shear stress on the knees during lunging and squatting. The more we can keep their weight back to effectively recruit the posterior chain, the better.

6. Improved shoulder function and injury risk reduction.

The lats can be your best friend and worst enemy. On one hand, they have tremendous implications for athletic performance and aesthetics. On the other hand, if they're "on" all the time (as we often see in extension-based postures), you can't get to important positions with the right movement quality. Overactive lats will limit not only shoulder flexion (overhead reaching), but also upward rotation of the shoulder blades. I covered this in quite a bit of detail in Are Pull-ups THAT Essential?. Moreover, with respect to elbow function, overactive lats can be a big issue with allowing throwers to get true external rotation, as I discussed here:

If you're using your lats as an "all the time" core stabilizer, you aren't just at risk of extension-based low back pain, but also problems at the shoulder and elbow. If you can get your anterior core control under control and normalize the length and tone of the lats, your "healthy exercise pool" for the upper body expands dramatically. Getting overhead is easier, and you'll feel stronger in that position. The same goes for external rotation; not surprisingly, pitchers always say that their lay-back feels smoother after soft tissue work on the lats, as an example.

Wrap-up

These are just six benefits of training the anterior core, but the truth is that they could have been broken down in much more detail as they relate to specific injuries and functional deficits. If you're looking to learn more on this front - and get a feel for how I like to train the anterior core - I'd encourage you to check out my presentation, Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core.

AnteriorCore

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The 5 Best Indirect Core Stability Exercises for the Upper Body

Written on November 15, 2013 at 9:24 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Performance coach, Greg Robins.

These tips came about out of necessity in my own program, but can be tremendously useful to just about all gym goers. In the past, I placed most of my core work on lower body training days. Typically, I only have three days where I can really train hard, and only one of those days is upper body focused. That means I need to pack in a lot of volume into that one day.  Realizing that core stability was one of my major weaknesses, I tried to figure out a way to include more core stability exercises without adding time to my training schedule or losing out on volume elsewhere.

With that in mind, I started to do more indirect core work via my upper body accessory movements. In light of this revelation, here are my five favorite movements, why they’re worth a look, and how to perform them. I should note: I have intentionally included a balance of push and pull type movements.

1. Kettlebell Overhead Press Variations

Overhead pressing, when done correctly, presents a tremendous challenge to the anterior core, as we must brace to prevent excessive arching of the low back.

If we make the movement one sided, we add the additional challenge of not side bending. In other words, it becomes a rotary and lateral core challenge.

Additionally, I prefer to overhead press a kettlebell over a dumbbell. The shape of the KB, and the way it’s held, promote a much smoother groove in which to press.

Lastly, the KB press offers some very simple, yet challenging, variations. You can perform them half kneeling (one knee down), tall kneeling (both knees down), or simply hold the KB upside down (bottoms-up) for an added stability challenge.

Check out this video on how to perform the tall kneeling KB press, one my favorite variations. The points discussed in the video carry over to each of the other variations mentioned.

2. Band Resisted Ab-Wheel Rollouts or Barbell Rollouts

Here’s one that probably caught most of you by surprise. In many people’s eyes, the ab wheel rollout is a direct core stability exercise. In many cases, I would agree with you. When a person first begins to learn this movement, without the band, it is far more challenging to hold the proper spinal position than it is to roll back to the start.

Furthermore, the demand on your upper body to roll back isn’t that high when the wheel is unloaded.

Once someone has become proficient at the unloaded wheel, you can actually load this movement. Adding bands to the wheel, or using a loaded barbell, creates quite a bit more work for the upper body, and in turn the core, which is trying to resist unwanted movement.

These two variations will help you not only build a strong midsection, but also add volume targeting the lats and long head of the triceps as well.

3. Split Stance Overhead Triceps Extension

This one is a killer, and I love it. It gets thrown out the window completely by most people, as if it’s just another triceps extension that’s just a waste of time. The truth is, it as a brutal exercise in anti-extension when done correctly.

With the lever arm being so far away from the lower back, even a small amount of weight can create a serious challenge in keeping the core braced and the ribs down. Not to mention, the movement also goes along way to develop the triceps. Lastly, the need to control the load more, and stay strict with the form, usually leaves people’s elbows feeling a lot better than other extension exercises.

4. 3-Point Dumbbell Row

Anyone who has ever done a 3-point dumbbell row – somewhat strictly and with enough weight – knows that is a brutal test in anti-rotation. If you think about exercises like the renegade row, or even a 1-arm push up, the 3-point row offers much of the same benefits.

If you need to be more efficient with your training, and add some additional core training into the mix, I would choose this row over the traditional 1-arm DB row every time.

5. Half-Kneeling Push/Pull

This one requires some set-up, but it’s worth the hassle. The half-kneeling push-pull is the ultimate challenge in moving your upper extremities around a stable mid-section. Unlike many off-loaded push or pull exercises, you do not get the opportunity to brace one side of the body and focus your attention mainly on the moving side. Instead, both sides are actively going through concentric and eccentric motions while you brace the midsection and engage the glutes to keep the pelvis under control. Check out this video, and give it a try:

That wraps it up! These exercises are great additions to the bottom half of your programming on an upper body day and work extremely well in a more full body type programming effort as well. Enjoy!

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Breathe Better, Move Better!

Written on October 16, 2013 at 10:08 pm, by Eric Cressey

Earlier this week, I posted a video on different ways to look at upper body pressing.  In light of the great feedback I received, I have another one for you.  Today, I’m going to talk about breathing, a topic that has taken the fitness industry by storm in recent years. 

We can use breathing to help with relaxation (yoga, meditation), but also with bracing the core to lift heavy weights.  If you have something that can help with two extremes like this, you know it can be “clutch” when it comes to making or breaking your fitness progress.   And, that’s why today’s video will be so beneficial to you:

–> Breathe Better, Move Better <–

This video today focuses on some of the breathing strategies I uses in terms of exercise selection and coaching cues with our athletes at Cressey Performance.  These drills are awesome for enhancing core stability and correcting bad posture. Fortunately, you can have the same great results if you just pay close attention to the cues I outline and put them into action.  And, be sure to keep an eye out for the release of The High Performance Handbook next week!

HPH-main


Categorizing Core Stability Exercises: Not As Easy As One Might Think

Written on October 3, 2013 at 9:58 am, by Eric Cressey

Most people try to segment their core stability work into multiple categories when they are writing strength and conditioning programs.  As I discuss and demonstrate in today's video, though, they aren't as easy to subdivide as one might think:

If you're looking for more assessment, coaching, and programming strategies with respect to core stability exercises, I'd encourage you to check out our resource, Functional Stability Training of the Core. It's available in both online-only and DVD versions.

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 45

Written on June 14, 2013 at 5:03 am, by Eric Cressey

Thanks to CP coach Greg Robins, here are this week's list of tips to help out your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs.

1. Make sure you're using an appropriate set-up for chops and lifts.

2. Consider using “strongman” events for assistance lifts.

To be clear: what I am about to say is not the only time strongman training is beneficial. Furthermore, it’s hard to pigeonhole something into a token term like this to begin in the first place. The traditional strongman lifts, such as the farmer’s carry, hand-over-hand rope pull, and sled towing, pushing, and dragging are exercises from which a TON of people can benefit.

There is one class of individuals for whom these lifts can be especially useful. For lack of a better term, I just call these people “timid.” I don’t use the term negatively, nor do I intend to degrade these folks. The simple truth is that they’re a common example of a great strength conversely serving as a great weakness.

These athletes, or gym goers, are often the “hard gainers” who also tend to be a bit overly analytical. The best medicine for them is a heavy dose of big compound movements. Unfortunately, they are also somewhat predisposed to overthinking every rep and every increase in weight. This provides the obvious problem of stagnancy, thwarting any efforts to enforce a constant theme of progressive overload to get strong.

Enter the “strongman” lifts. The beauty here is in their simplicity, as well as their somewhat self-limiting properties. After our less aggressive individual finishes his or her main lift(s) for the day (they should still be doing them, albeit at a snails pace of progression), consider basing a good chunk of their assistance work around these staples. Having them push, drag, and tow a heavy sled leaves little room for thinking, and a lot of room for doing and character building. Furthermore, carrying weight has a similar advantage. Once it’s in hand there’s only one thing to do: GO!

If you or one of your athletes, fits the bill give these more of your attention. The gains you make in size and strength will be very noticeable. Plus, the mental fortitude these movements build will carry over into the rest of your workouts, and time on the field. As with any exercise, evaluate individuals ahead of time to make sure these lifts fit the person in question.

3. Give your chocolate protein shakes an overhaul.

Chocolate protein powder is a staple. If you’re trying a new brand, you always choose chocolate. If you’ve taken a tour of every exotic flavor, you always return to the old standby. Sure, vanilla is solid, but sometimes even vanilla has a shady aftertaste, depending on the brand. Chocolate is the safe choice, time and time gain.

Maybe though, even chocolate is becoming a bit stale. Another, peanut butter chocolate concoction is already turning your stomach, and chocolate banana was cast away as a viable option a few months ago. Sounds to me like you need a whole new taste to blow your mind, and make protein shakes a frothy delight once again.

Next time you’re at the market pick up some peppermint extract. If you like mint chocolate chip ice cream or York peppermint patties, you won’t be disappointed. In fact, you will likely rejoice in utter chocolate mint ecstasy. Simply add a drop of this elixir to your protein shakes and see for yourself.

pure_peppermint_extract_400

NOTE: I wouldn’t use the bananas with this one either…

Here’s a quick recipe:

8oz Water, Milk, or Almond Milk
A few ice cubes
½ to 1 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt
1 – 2 Scoops of Chocolate Protein Powder
1 Drop Peppermint Extract
Options: Rolled Oats, Greens Powder, Handful Of Nuts

4. Try forward lunges to a step.

5. Try ascending tri-sets for muscle gains.

I’ve somehow found myself coaching quite a few figure competitors over the last few years. It’s not something I write, or even talk about much, but I am fortunate that they have had a great amount of success. It’s a pretty good gig actually. Basically, it involves being handed the best clients in the world. They are extremely focused, and will do everything you tell them – and to a “T.”  The credit belongs to them, though (and not me), so I just choose to let them do the talking.

I will share one strategy I use with them as we enter a more “hypertrophy” based focus in their training. This is also a time when we might be honing in on a certain area, trying to accentuate a body part or bring up a weak point. I call these ascending tri-sets, because that’s what they are (I’m still working on some catchy name). It basically involves moving from a big compound movement, to a more bodyweight style, or larger isolated movement, and finishing with a smaller isolated movement. The reps ascend from low to high, and each exercise targets the same general area.

You can get creative and make up a few examples yourself, but here are a few staples:

Example 1:

A1. Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press x 5/side
A2. Push-ups x Technical Failure (leave a few reps in the tank)
A3. Resistance Band Triceps Extensions

Example 2:

A1. Barbell Romanian Deadlift x 6
A2. Glute Ham Raise x 10
A3. Slideboard Hamstring Curl x 15

If you have a weak point to bring up, or are just looking to mix up your routine, come up with a few yourself and give them a try

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 42

Written on May 17, 2013 at 9:14 am, by Eric Cressey

After a brief hiatus for a much-deserved vacation, CP coach Greg Robins is back with five new tips for you this week.  Before we begin, I should mention that the week-long sale on Show and Go ends tomorrow at midnight, so don't miss out!  Now, let's get to the good stuff:

1. Don't let the distance between the ribs and pelvis change.

2. Base your nutritional approach around foods that you actually like!

The title speaks for itself, but here’s the deal: if you read this series regularly, then you know the importance I place on making a nutrition plan “doable.” Adherence is the key to success. When people decide they are going to “clean” up their eating it’s funny what a drastic “360” they take with their food choices. It’s as if what they enjoy to eat no longer matters. Will power has fallen from the sky and soaked them with its greatness.

The only issue is that most people’s forecasts aren’t calling for will power. There’s a better first step. – one that is more productive in the long run than abandoning ship completely and serving up a helping of things you don’t like.

Make a list of all the “real” foods you DO like. Choose foods that you actually enjoy eating, but also ones that the majority would consider healthy. Choose at least a few in each of the following categories. Here’s mine:

Protein: Meat = Beef (any kind), Poultry = Chicken (Not boneless skinless breasts!), Dairy = Greek Yogurt, Fish = Tuna, Others = Whey, Eggs, Pork, All red meat

Fat: Nuts = Nut butters (any kind), Oils (Coconut, Olive), Other = Avocados

Vegetables: Asparagus, Sweet Potatoes, Spaghetti Squash

squash4

Fruit: Blackberries, Apples, Blueberries, Pears

Other Carbs: Oats, Rice, Quinoa

With this list you have the beginning of your shopping list. From here you can search the web for recipes revolving around these items. Finding healthy recipes that include these things will introduce you to some variety. When in doubt, just go back to the list. Having this – as your first step and “fall back” – will greatly improve your chances of cleaning up your eating.

3. Use the suspension trainer when you don't have a cable accessible for rotary stability exercises.

4. Notice the pauses in your breath to help you relax.

Breathing is becoming a buzz worthy topic these days, and it’s a warranted surge of attention. We’ve only been doing it our whole lives, every day, and every moment. That’s reason enough to open an ear and see what the fuss is about.

One of the interesting things about breathing is that it sort of defines you. We are, in many ways, the product of the breaths we take. For example, when we constantly inhale, and never completely exhale, we tend to adopt an extended posture to support our breaths. Oddly enough, we also adopt a more “extended” way about us. We are more up tight, stressed, and restless.

Interestingly, the rate we breathe at (respiratory rate) actually shows correlation with our life span. A mouse takes 60 – 230 breaths per minute and has an average life span of 1.5-3 years. Whales on the other hand, take about 3–5 breaths per minute and live on average to be over 100 years old. We fall a little shy of that with about 12–16 breaths, and a life span of 70 – 80 years.

Slowing your respiratory rate probably won’t get you anywhere closer to being a whale. However, it does have a unique way of teaching you how to breathe slower, and helping you to relax.

Give this a try: twice a day, stop and observe the pauses that you take after each exhalation and inhalation. Just observing the pauses will cause you to breathe deeper and deeper, as well as begin to extend the pauses themselves.

5. Integrate appropriate breathing with your cable chops.

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Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core

Written on May 6, 2013 at 7:19 pm, by Eric Cressey

I'm pleased to announce that I have a new presentation, Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core, now available for sale. This 47-minute video was taken at a recent seminar I gave, and it's available for immediate download and online viewing for an introductory price of just $14.99 this week only.

AnteriorCore

Like many of you, I’ve grown tired of seeing core presentation after core presentation all saying the same thing.  That’s why I opted to attack this considerably differently, discussing:

  • Functional anatomy
  • The interaction of breathing and core stability
  • What implications the anterior core has with respect to “new age” injuries/conditions like femoroacetabular impingement, sports hernias, SLAP lesions, thoracic outlet syndrome, and lat strains
  • Why no two spines are created equal
  • Why two individuals might need the same exercise, but different coaching cues
  • Progressions and regressions to build your anterior core stability exercise library
  • A model for effectively prioritizing anterior core stability exercises throughout the training week

There’s no travel necessary; you can view this presentation right now without leaving your house.

Click here to purchase “Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core” using our 100% secure server.


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Exercise of the Week: Challenging Hip Mobility and Core Stability

Written on February 18, 2013 at 11:29 am, by Eric Cressey

In this installment of Exercise of the Week, I introduce the supine leg whip, a great exercise that can be used to challenge both hip mobility and core stability to improve health and performance.

For more detailed exercise demonstrations like this, I’d encourage you to check out Elite Training Mentorship, where I upload several videos along these lines – as well as my staff in-services – each month.

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 32

Written on February 8, 2013 at 10:00 am, by Eric Cressey

Thanks to Greg Robins, here are this week’s tips to make your nutrition strength and conditioning programs a bit more awesome.

1. Position your free hand in the correct place during unilateral upper body movements.

2. Improve exercise form by cueing spinal flexion, when appropriate.

In the following video I demonstrate a few exercises where spinal flexion is actually a good cue to keep people in better positions during the movement. It seems counter-intuitive, so what’s the deal?

First off, individuals may start of in a more extended posture. This is often the case with athletes, or really any active individuals. Therefore, cueing flexion brings you closer to neutral. This is something to which Eric devoted a lot of attention in Functional Stability Training.

As someone who is pretty extended, I often find that the appropriate positioning of my spine actually feels rounded over, or flexed. In reality, I am just less extended than usual. Try it out for yourself, and possibly try to grab a quick video so you can relate what you’re feeling to what it actually looks like. I think you will be surprised.

Second, certain exercises fit this description: They are inherently harder to execute without driving through back extension. Additionally, they are not loaded in such a way that erring on the side of being a little flexed is dangerous. With these movements, starting a bit flexed is helping, not hurting.

Third, many people who struggle with “anti-extension” exercises are simply unable to understand what should be kicking in to keep them in the right position. Taking these folks into a position of slight flexion helps them learn to use the abdominals. Before you knock it, try it out. You will find this cue gets most people to neutral, and in the cases where they remain slightly flexed you can gradually teach them to even out.

3. Pull through the floor when performing board and floor press variations.

Great benchers all have one thing in common: they use their lats well in their bench press technique. Using the lats to bench is tough to conceptualize, and even tougher to actualize when training. It was always a major issue for me, and held me back quite a bit. One great way to learn how to engage the lats is with the board press and floor press. When done the way I explain in this video you will be able to get some feed back on the “pulling” sensation you are looking for when lowering the bar. Give it a try!

4. Convert some of your favorite oils into sprays for cooking.

Most of us use oils to coat pans and dishes when cooking. One easy thing you can do to save a few calories, and dollars, is make spray bottles with your oils. It’s fairly easy to find BPA free spray bottles, or you can invest in a Misto, which is a cool little gadget too. I generally use a 3-to-1 ratio of the oil and water in my sprays and that seems to work well. You will notice right away that as little as 6oz of olive oil when converted to a spray bottle will last a LONG time! This means you save money and eliminate unnoticed calories from your diet. Too easy!

5. Consider this blueprint for being a good training partner.

I am lucky that over the past few years, I have had some really solid training partners. When you have a good team, you are always better than you could be alone. Unfortunately, my own schedule and location, has made it tough to keep a training partner around who is on the same page as me with their training. That aside, it got me thinking about what makes a great training partner. Give this a look and see where you can step your game.

  • Be consistent. Nothing is more important to your success in the gym, and nothing is more important to your training partner. SHOW UP, all the time.
  • Shut up and train. We all have better days than others, and your training partner doesn’t need to be dragged into some pity party you are hosting.
  • Coach more. Yelling things like “up!” is a giant waste of your training partner’s time. Unless he or she tends to forget which direction the bar is supposed to move, then take stock in learning what helps them. Talk technique with them, and yell out things that will make or break their lift

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 26

Written on November 30, 2012 at 7:27 pm, by Eric Cressey

Compliments of Cressey Performance coach Greg Robins, here are this week’s tips to improve your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs.

1. Improve your anti-extension core stability exercises with these tips:

2. Improve your sitting posture with one easy step.

This past week we were fortunate enough to have Michael Mullin from Orthopedic Associates in Portland, ME give a guest in-service on how he uses concepts from the Postural Restoration Institute in his practice. I picked up a lot of great tips from Mike, but one in particular I found particularly easy to implement. When asked what people can do when sitting (especially at a desk) to improve posture, Mike suggested simply sitting on the edge of their seat, a concept he referred to as “functional sitting.” By doing so they are in a more “active” position where the body has to stabilize itself more. I’ve spent the last few days putting it to the test and I think it’s a great piece of advice. Give it a try!

3. Appreciate the importance of breathing (namely exhaling) in “core stability.”

Another interesting point that was hammered home by Mike was that the body can draw stability from three major sources: Muscular, Positional (think joint placement), and Gaseous (breathing). As an example, try this:

Make a fist and tense up your whole arm, that arm is under a lot of muscular tension and is stable.

Now relax and completely slouch over in front of your computer, you body is probably hanging out on bony structures now, and drawing stability primarily from the position in which gravity has put it.

Finally, take a deep breath and hold it. The expansion of your diaphragm and lungs has filled you out and is giving you stability.

We need to draw stability from all three sources appropriately; in fact, all three depend on each other. If we breathe correctly, we will be a in a better position. If we are in a good position, we will use muscles appropriately to create stability.

With that in mind here is a quick way to add some focused breathing into a common stability drill. When doing your dead bugs, practice fully exhaling in the bottom position before returning to the top. As you exhale try to depress the rib cage and lower it towards the hips. This will cause the low back to sit heavy into the ground. We have incorporated this at CP, and it has a made a great difference in showing athletes how exhaling activates the abdominals and causes true “core stability” to be trained.

4. Consider your somatotypes when making fitness-based decisions (Part 1).

A person’s body type (also known as their somatotype) is a general classification of their physical composition, as well as certain physiological characteristics. Taking into account your body type is an easy way to individualize your approach for added success in the gym and the kitchen. If this is a new concept to you, first you need to figure out what body type you are most similar to. Then, consider these general guidelines for training and nutrition to optimize your results. For more information, I encourage you to poke around the Precision Nutrition website. Many of these suggestions come from their certification manual. Their web site, nutrition programs and certification program provide an unparalleled source for nutritional information.

Ectomorphic: You tend to be “skinny” through both your limbs and torso. Your metabolism is fast, and in some cases hyperactive. Your tolerance to carbohydrates is great. You tend to be someone who always wants to gain “size”, especially in the limbs (arms and legs). If this sounds like you, use what works for you to your advantage. Go heavy on the carbohydrates; at least 50 – 60% of your intake can come from them. Furthermore, if you are looking to get bigger, limit extra physical activity and focus your efforts on strength gains, and in time, the addition of higher training volumes.

Stay tuned next week and I’ll hit upon another body type!

5. Read into skinfold measurements a bit deeper.

Calipers are often used to measure a person’s body fat percentage. It is a relatively inexpensive way to get an accurate idea of this number, and track progress. One really interesting topic I read about when prepping for my Precision Nutrition exam was the relationship between skin fold measurements and hormone levels. Basically people with similar hormone profiles also tend to carry body fat in the same place. By considering this information you can take a better approach to eliminating body fat as a whole. For example, if you have a high abdominal skinfold you are likely to have elevated levels of cortisol and stress in general. Therefore a better approach to your body fat reduction should include strategies to reduce stress, improve sleep, increase protein intake, and suppress cortisol.

Here are a few more tips for you to consider in relation to where you store body fat:

High suprailiac: Reduce your carb intake, and/or use nutrient timing strategies.

High subscapular: Improve your insulin sensitivity. Consider adding in fish oil supplementation.

High chest: Boost your testosterone by making sure your calories are high enough and you are receiving enough dietary fat.

High triceps or thigh: Reduce your estrogen levels, exercise more, and eat plenty of green leafy vegetables.

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