Vail Daily column: Enough core training already
January 8, 2014
Last week's article discussed the shortcomings of core training as a cornerstone in fitness programming. Today, my goal is to enlighten the reader on what needs to happen after core strength has been developed, and the possible consequence of not getting stronger in larger context movements.
Early in the fall, I was asked to help perform some very basic fitness assessments for the Vail Living Well Summit. On the first morning as we set up at the Vitality Center, I was on the front drive assisting with some tables as a woman drove up to the curb.
WHAT'S THE POINT
She was frantically trying to get to the center to teach a core training class for which she was running late. She kindly asked for assistance to get her car as close as possible to the center in order, for someone else mind you, to carry a "heavy" pump to inflate stability balls.
As I approached the trunk of the car to carry this heavy item, she declared it was impossible to carry the pump that far. The distance to the Vitality Center was too far since the pump was "so heavy." The distance from the car to the center was 100 feet and the pump weighed 35 pounds at best!
Here is the rub. It doesn't matter how stable and strong your pelvic floor is, how active your psoas is or how effective your core training has been on helping with your posture if you cannot even use that strength to carry out the everyday activities of life and sport. What point is there to this nonsense if you cannot even carry a mere 35 pounds 100 feet, regardless of gender?
Assuming you have no severe joint dysfunction or pain, once you have achieved core strength you must perform exercises that stress the entire chain of joints (ankles, knees, hips and shoulders) in a dynamic form that causes enough stress for the system to adapt and get stronger.
EXERCISES TO TRY
Do the following two exercises:
Farmers walk: Grab two weights that are relatively heavy (dumbbells or kettlebells). Pick them up off of the floor, hold them arms extended at the sides and start walking. If you're asking yourself what muscles these work, the weight isn't heavy enough. If the weights are heavy enough, you will find out quickly what muscles are being worked.
Goblet squat: Hold a dumbbell or kettle bell with both hands like you are holding a goblet (the big beverage mug) at chest height. Squat 20 reps. Once you get to 10 reps you should feel like you can't continue, struggle very hard to get 20.
If 20 is easy with the heaviest dumbbell in your gym (not hotel gyms in which the heaviest dumbbell is only 50 pounds) this article isn't for you — you should be barbell training instead.
NOT KNOCKING CORE TRAINING
To be clear I am not trying to knock systems that focus on core training. I am simply trying to get you to evaluate why you are doing whatever it is that you're doing.
Fitness programming needs to have outcomes in mind, and core training alone will only strengthen your core and will neglect joints that are so vital in your day-to-day activities. Core training alone may just place you among those not strong enough to carry a small object from your car.
What happens when you are hiking with your 5-year-old and she rolls her ankle and is crying and can't walk? What about when you get a flat tire on Independence Pass in a snowstorm and you are without cell phone service? What happens when you throw an awkward turn on the ski mountain and need to quickly right a wrong? You guessed it; you will need strength and force production throughout all of the joints involved.
"Strong people are harder to kill and are more useful in general," said Mark Rippetoe.
Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards' passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at http://www.r2hp.com or 970-401-0720.