The Best Exercise You Are (Probably) Not Doing

Most people out there have the wrong idea about how to strengthen the core.  Doing sit-ups and crunches are a sure fire way to NOT improve core strength, and worse, could result in potentially injuring your lower back.  If you are one of these people, or a healthcare practitioner who wants to learn a better way to have a strong core for yourself or your patients please continue reading.  

Crunches are not a functional core exercise.  Typically they are performed incorrectly which results in increased shear and strain on your lower back.  If your doing crunches, specifically with low back pain, try substituting with the pullover for not only a better workout but a safer one!  

Crunches are not a functional core exercise.  Typically they are performed incorrectly which results in increased shear and strain on your lower back.  If your doing crunches, specifically with low back pain, try substituting with the pullover for not only a better workout but a safer one!  

Enter the best core exercise in, well, ever.  The Kettlebell Pullover.  This is an exercise that I introduce to every client as I believe that it sets the foundation for strength and efficient movement.

Why You Should Use it

  • Challenges The Core

    • When done correctly this exercise is taxing.  It looks easy at a glance, but when you maintain a posterior pelvic tilt and a rib pull (video demo at the bottom), you will feel this “whoa!” moment.  This is the type of exercise that the better you get, the harder it becomes.  If it is not difficult, you are not doing it correctly.

  • Teaches Proper Breath Patterning for Abdominal Support

    • Proper breathing is very important for your lower back and core.  Breathing properly helps maintain tightness in the "right" muscles and gives your spine more support by increasing intra-abdominal pressure.  It is like wearing a weight belt without actually having to wear one.

      • Being able to control your breath will ensure that you won't end up like those who wear a weight belt while walking around the gym (or for arm curls.)  Save those the weight belts for when you really need them, as most research only supports the use of them when attempting maximal lifts (not for exercises to be performed in 3 sets of 10

You can leave the weightbelts at home for this exercise.  In fact, just leave them at home in general.  

You can leave the weightbelts at home for this exercise.  In fact, just leave them at home in general.  

 

  • Reinforces Technique at the Top of Squat and Deadlift

    • During the set-up for the squat or deadlift, it is a common habit for people to hang out in an anterior pelvic tilt.  This places increased stress on the lower back.  This exercise will help you build tension and find a better neutral position.  This will carry over to the top of your lifts and take excessive force off your spine.

  • Trains the Deep Core Musculature (Multifidus, transverse abdominus and obliques.)

    • These muscles are very important for back health.  Studies have shown that those with recurring back pain have weak multifidi as well as delayed firing of the transverse abdominus/obliques - training them reflexively will greatly reflect their natural roles as stabilizers. 

The Technique

  • Start Position

    • Start lying on your back, with hips and knees bent at 90 degrees.

    • Grab kettlebell, medicine ball or dumbbell with arms extended over the chest

    • In this position, you will have a slight arch in your lower back.

  • The Movement

    • Flatten your lower back and sternum into the ground.  (Place an increased emphasis on your sternum and ribs)

    • Once flat, take a deep breath into your belly.

    • Reach your arms back as far as you can without any part of your lower back coming off the floor.

    • Once you reach the point in which your back wants to lift up, pull your ribs and spine harder into the ground and bring arms back to starting position.

  • Progressions

    • Make this exercise harder by

      • Lying on a foam roller

      • Putting your feet on the floor

      • Extend one leg outwards

If you can master this exercise, you will get the most out of all your other core exercises. You will move better and have improved muscle activation and technique, not to mention a stronger, injury free back.  

You can check out a video demonstration by Joe here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgSiOJik1e4 

Which exercises do you find helpful that other healthcare professionals or trainers are under-utilizing?  

Have a Happy Holiday and New Year!  Thanks for reading our posts this year.  We will be back and try our best to do better in 2016.  Until next time, Happy Rehabbing!