There’s more to core work than crunches, you plank. Follow our video guide to preventing injury and boasting performance in the gym
The chances are you’re probably reading this while hunched over your desk. Or curled into a seat on your commute. And that’s the problem. Today’s sedentary lifestyle is causing an epidemic of back pain. At last check the Office of National Statistics revealed that 31million days of work are lost each year due to back, neck and muscle problems.
The source of these problems is most likely your middle – made soft by too much time sitting down and a workout regimen that focuses on Instagram-friendly abs, not core control.
However, if you’re serious about moving, exercising and even sitting at your damned desk pain-free then this three-point plan from Elite Trainer Luke Worthington is the prescription you need.
“Poor core control is often at the root of back pain complaints,” says Worthington. And to wrestle back control your core needs to be trained through three planes of movement: the sagittal (forward and back), frontal (left and right) and transverse (rotation). The three sets of crunches you begrudgingly add to your session no longer cut it.
Here are Worthington’s best moves, across all three movement planes, to strengthen your core, stabilise your body and bulletproof you against pain.
These three exercises in the sagittal plane focus on working your glutes and anterior core (that’s your abs). They work together to stabilise your pelvis, which minimises unwanted twisting through your lower back, easing pressure and pain.
Form tips for maximum core and glute activation:
Cable resisted dead bug: Focus on keeping the handles below shoulder height and pressing as much of your spine to the mat as you can. Exhale as you reach away with your heel.
Cable pull through: With weight on your heels, push the hips back towards the cable stack and then drive forwards to fully engage your backside at the finish. Think ‘belt buckle to chin’.
Anti extension press: The most advanced movement. Think about keeping your ribs down and tucking your tailbone underneath you. As your arms reach up the abs should engage more and more. Make sure you don’t lean backwards.
Frontal plane tips:
Ensure you work both diagonal patterns (high to low and low to high) to engage the full spectrum of muscles and gain maximum stability across this plane.
Start with the kneeling variations. The closer you are to the floor, the lesser the stability demands and the easier they are to perform with perfect form. Once you have mastered the kneeling variation, progress to the standing for greater improvements to core stability and better defences against back pain.
A weak core puts you at risk of injury and resultant back troubles because a lot of sports performance or power work requires rotational (transverse) movement.
When you create rotation with your body, you need to protect your lumbar spine and hips from carrying the brunt of this torque. Training for rotational stability is all about resisting rotational movement, and is therefore the final piece of the core-training jigsaw.
The anti rotation press (or pallof press) works on the principle that as you extend your arms away from your body, the cable has more leverage to try and twist you around, and the harder you must work to resist it.
This series works through progressions from kneeling to standing, and then with an added elevation to give the cable even more leverage for your core to work against.
Form tip: Be sure not to extend your lower back and exhale as the handle moves away from the body to keep your core engaged properly and remain in proper posture.
Master all three videos and, in a matter weeks, you can bullet proof your lower back against workplace discomfort and optimise your movement ability in the gym. Pain-free PBs await.