Complete Core Training

By Alli McKeeMarch 1, 2016

Video Transcription: 

Hi guys Molly Galbraith from Girls Gone Strong. Today I want to talk about complete core training. At my gym J & M Strength and Conditioning in Lexington Kentucky, we subscribe to the Gray Cook and Mike Boyle joint by joint approach. That says that some joints in the body need to be more mobile - they need to move more, and some joints need to be more stable - have the ability to resist movement.

You go up the body:

-- The big toe should have more mobility, the feet should have more stability
-- The ankle should be more mobile, the knee should be more stable
-- The hip should be more mobile, the lumbar should be more stable and the thoracic should be more mobile.

So what what we are going to talk about before training today is stability of the core. or stability of the lumbar spine. A lot of people train their core with movement. They do crunches, they do side bends, they do all these rotations. I know some people have really good results with that, but what we are looking for, at least at my gym, is a kind of risk-to-reward ratio of this movement. So we tend to train the body for anti-movement. We train the body for anti-extension and anti-flexion, anti-rotation, anti-lateral flexion and then hip flexion while maintaining neutral spine. I am going to take you through 4 of those exercises today.

The first is what we call leg lowering on your back. I’m going to simply lay on my back, put both of my legs up in the air, straightening my legs as much as I can, and flexing my toes back towards me. I am pinning my lower back to the ground, tucking my pelvis under, pinning my lower back to the ground. I am going to keep one leg up while I slowly lower and raise the other leg. Now I am trying to maintain pressure on my lower back, keep my lower back to the ground the whole time. If this is too difficult or if this bothers your back you can always lower your knee to your chest or you can wrap a band around your foot. Only go as slow as you can while maintaining contact with the ground with your lower back. That’s a anti-extension exercise. Most people will not be able to maintain their lower back on the floor and their lower back is going to want to come up off the ground.

Next is a hip flexion with a neutral spine. We like to do what we call a slow mountain climber, get into your push up position so it looks like you are going to do a mountain climber, but you really slowly bring your knee up towards your chest. Don’t bring it to your chest, most people can’t maintain their neutral spine through that full range of motion, so just towards your chest. If you want to make it more difficult hold your knee a little bit longer. You are in a nice neutral position, bring the knee towards the chest, maintaining a nice neutral spine, and again for more of a challenge hold your knee up towards your chest a little longer.

The next exercise is a anti-rotation exercise called a pallof press. You can do this a ton of different ways, for instance, you can do it half kneeling position or a tall kneeling position. I am going to show you standing position today. With the pallof press a lot of people underestimate how difficult this exercise is going to be, and even when they perform it they don’t find it that hard, You are going to take a band or you can use a cable machine. You are going to step out, and it should be around sternum height. We like to put our feet relatively close together. There are a lot of videos of the pallof press where people are like this, well this is going to make you body more stable and the point is to make your core do the stabilizing for you not to base out really wide and get your stability from your stance. So you are here, shoulders are back and down, the last thing you want is for your shoulders to be here. Shoulders back and down and even more importantly ribs down and ribs to pelvis. Maintain a nice tight core. Knees slightly bent (just for comfort), shoulders back and down, you are going out and again I am resisting the pull to go this way, so it’s anti-rotation. Row back in, press it out, row it back in. Again you can do this from tall kneeling position, you can do it from a half kneeling position and you can do it iso where you just hold it out for about 20 to 30 seconds. You have a lot of options. Pelvis tucked, ribs down, shoulders back and down, press it out and row it back.

The last one is an anti-lateral flexion and I am going to do a carry with that one. We have a great article written by me about three different carry variations -- well I guess it's great, I like it! Pick up a dumbbell, kettlebell, farmers handles, whatever you like. Pick it up properly, make sure you push back into your hips. So pick it up properly and we like to carry it about an inch or so away from the body. A lot of times people do a carry and if they do one arm suitcase carry with one arm like I am going to do then they will cock their hip out and balance the weight with their hip. We like to have people hold it about an inch away from their body. Stand nice and tall and again I am resisting the urge to do this flex lateral. Nice and tall, walk. You can put it down and switch arms or you can just switch arms if it's not that heavy. Walk back again, I am struggling to stay upright, I am struggling to keep my ribs down, so that's the carry the suitcase carry for anti-lateral flexion.

So those were 4 exercises: the leg lowering, the slow mountain climber, the palloff press, and the suitcase carry. Those are some of my favorite ways to get complete core training. I hope you guys enjoyed the video


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About the author:  Alli McKee

Alli is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. She's contributed to and modeled for a number of major publications including Oxygen magazine and the New Rules of Lifting: Supercharged. You can find out more about Alli on her personal blog at

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