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Band Anti-Rotary Hold I sometimes have to laugh at our industry.

We often just do what were told without putting any thought into the matter. Brilliant physical therapist John Pallof created the Pallof press or anti-extension press many years ago. Why is it that we can hold a front plank (anti-extension) or side plank (anti-lateral flexion) for extended time but we arent allowed to do the same isometric -style with anti-rotation training? I prefer the band or cable anti-rotary hold to the Pallof press. I believe it works the muscles much harder since they cant rest! Start off with the Pallof press, but when you master it move onto the band anti-rotary hold and dont be afraid to move out really far when using bands. If youre a strong guy like me you can move way out and challenge your core very hard with this movement. It may not appear like it, but this exercise is absolutely brutal! It makes people want to puke its so hard. Barbell Suitcase Isometric Hold The barbell suitcase hold is the ultimate anti-lateral flexion exercise. Its also a great grip exercise once you get really strong. If youre not very strong, you can just use a dumbbell. But once you outgrow the dumbbells, you must move on to a barbell. Ive used 185 lbs for this movement in the past. Weighted Dead Bugs Dead bugs are an awesome exercise, just like planks side planks, glute bridges, and bird dogs. However, all of these exercises have one inherent flaw; theyre too easy for advanced individuals. The remedy for this is simple. Once you master bodyweight add resistance in the form of ankle weights and dumbbells. In this video Im using 10-lb ankle weights and 10-lb dumbbells. Dont allow the lumbar spine to extend or flex. Cable Chops and Lifts Chops and lifts are kickass exercises that integrate a ton of muscle and help the entire body to become more coordinated. They work large, global muscles while

realy challenging core muscles such as the glute medius, upper glute maximus, adductors, multifidi, external obliques, and internal obliques. Here is a quote from Gray Cook, the physical therapist/strength coach who really brought these movements to the forefront of the strength training industry: Chopping and lifting can be used as corrective exercise, core conditioning, or generalized strengthening. Many use the chop and lift as a complete upper body program while others use it to complement the big pushing and pulling lifts. The moves are often hard to classify because they incorporate pushing and pulling. There is much more going on in a chop or lift than pushing and pulling though. Chopping and lifting is based on PNF patterns that are spiral and diagonal. When two hands are involved together in the same direction crossing the mid-line of the body in a downward or upward movement, it is called a chop or lift. -Gray Cook There are many different ways to perform chops and lifts. Technically chops and lifts only include upward and downward diagonal patterns, but I feel like the pure rotational variations in the transverse plane have tremendous merit even though they arent multi-planar or true chops and lifts. Similarly, youre supposed to chop to the bottom knee or rear leg and lift to the upward knee or front leg (if using a half-kneeling or staggered inline stance), but rules were always made to be broken. Here are some ways to tinker with the exercises: Stance 1. Tall Kneeling (On Both Knees) 2. Half Kneeling Front Leg Inside (On One Knee) 3. Half Kneeling Front Leg Outside (On One Knee) 4. Parallel Stance (Both Feet Parallel With Another in an Athletic Stance) 5. Inline Stance Front Leg Inside (One Leg in Front of the Other) 6. Inline Stance Front Leg Outside (One Leg in Front of the Other) 7. Single Leg (I Dont Like this Option) Movement Angle

1. High to Low (Chop) 2. Low to High (Lift) 3. Straight Across (Rotation Press) Stance Orientation 1. Facing Perpendicular to the Cable 2. Facing at a 45 Degree Angle Away from the Cable 3. Facing the Cable Column 4. Facing Away from the Cable Column Handles/Implements 1. Dual Rope Handles (Rope Folded in Half) 2. Long Rope Handle 3. Core Bar attached to Cable (Nick Tumminellos ingenious invention seriously,check it out!) 4. Cook Bar attached to Cable (Gray Cooks bar) 5. JC Bands (Juan Carlos Santanas Bands) 6. Gray Cook Bands 7. Plate Loaded Core Bar (I like the cable version better for chops & lifts) 8. Medicine Balls (I like the dynamic method where you throw the ball, not where you hold onto it throughout the movements) 9. Towel (Looped Through Caribiner) Rep Styles 1. Sequential Pull then Press Straight Out Without Crossing Midline of Body 2. Sequential Pull then Press While Crossing Midline of Body 3. Flowing Movement (My Favorite) As you may know I used to teach high school mathematics. The way you figure out the number of total combinations possible is to multiply the number of combinations in each category together. So 7 x 3 x 4 x 9 x 3 = 2,268 different combinations of chop & lift movements!

Side Rant Another thing I often find humorous in our industry is how ever trainer/coach who uploads Youtube videos demonstrates exercise form with super-light weight while looking like a robot. While I realize that this is often necessary to teach beginners proper form so they dont screw it up, strong people tend to use more weight and be less robot-looking with their form once they figure out the movement and learn where to move and where to stay tight. For this reason, I uploaded the following three videos to show how I perform chop and lift movements with substantial weight. As I said before, I like lifting heavy. I often hear how chops and lifts are precision-movements that shouldnt be loaded up heavy. I dont tend to listen to this advice, as I load everything up heavy! My form is not nearly as strict as what you often see online but Im using a lot of resistance and still controlling the weight. I prefer to perform the exercises this way as opposed to going really light and staying super-strict. Quid pro quo; everyone has their own preference.

The Winners Based on this experiment, here are the top three exercises in terms of mean and peak activity for each muscle part: Rectus Abdominis Mean: Chin Up, Hanging Leg Raise, Ab Wheel Peak: Chin Up, Hanging Leg Raise, Swiss Ball Crunch Internal Oblique Mean: Ab Wheel from Feet, Ab Wheel from Knees, Bodysaw Peak: Ab Wheel from Feet, Bodysaw, Tornado Ball Slam External Oblique Mean: Ab Wheel from Feet, Hanging Leg Raise, Bodysaw Peak: Turkish Get Up, Hanging Leg Raise, Bodysaw Erector Spinae Mean: Kneeling Cable Lift, Landmine, Reverse Hyper Peak: Kneeling Cable Lift, Tornado Ball Slam, Lumbar Extension Can We Isolate the Upper vs. Lower Rectus Abdominis? Since I could only test four muscles at a time, I opted to go with the lower rectus abdominis, external obliques, internal obliques, and erector spinae. Last year I conducted a test where I placed electrodes on the upper and lower rectus abdominis and the study proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is indeed possible to place more tension on the upper or lower rectus abdominis depending on the type of ab exercise you perform. For example, shoulder-to-hip flexion (think crunch) movements hit the upper abs harder than they work the lower abs, whereas hip-toshoulder flexion (think leg raise) movements hit the lower abs harder. Below is an example from last year's study that illustrates this phenomenon. Please note that the MVC for this experiment was obtained by simply flexing the abs as hard as possible from a standing position, which explains the relatively large percentages.
Exercise 50 lb Weighted Swiss Ball Crunch Lying Leg Throw Upper Rectus Abdominis Activity 438.0 mean % 1205.0 peak % 224.0 mean % 474.0 peak % Lower Rectus Abdominis Activity 136.0 mean % 248.0 peak % 273.0 mean % 595.0 peak %

Advantages and Disadvantages Some exercises have inherent advantages in terms of EMG activity while other exercises have inherent disadvantages. For example, weighted uni-planar isolation core exercises with high levels of stability almost always equate to high levels of muscle activation. Case in point: the weighted crunch. How could it not activate a ton of rectus abdominis musculature? You're lying on your back on a stable floor while isolating sagittal plane trunk flexion. On the flip side, total-body multiplanar integrated core exercises with a degree of instability sometimes equate to lower levels of activation. Case in point: half-kneeling cable chops and lifts. These lifts are integrated diagonal patterns based on PNF principles that teach the core how to produce quality movement that isn't specific to any single muscle. Although these total-body multiplain exercises don't necessarily elicit high levels of core EMG activation, they're very worthwhile because they correctly train the stabilization and force transferring function of the core (as Gray Cook has touted for ages). A lot of guys need to get away from rectus abdominis dominance (trunk flexion, posterior pelvic tilting) in order to allow for the inner core unit to effectively perform its task of stabilizing the spine during movement. Also, the external oblique activity of every rotational exercise was at a disadvantage because I placed the electrodes on the same side as each other for each muscle tested. So I tested right-side external oblique activity along with right-side internal oblique activity. Although both sides of the internal and external obliques are active during rotational exercises in each direction of rotation (right and left), the external obliques are known to be more active in opposite side rotation while the internal obliques are known to be more active in same side rotation. For example, a half-kneeling cable chop to the right would activate more left-side external oblique and right-side internal oblique. Since I tested both right-side internal and external oblique for each rotational exercise and failed to test the activity going in the opposite direction, external oblique activity may not be truly represented for rotational exercises in this experiment. However, past research that I have conducted indicates that the difference isn't as pronounced as one would think. Isometric core exercises have a distinct advantage for mean activity because there are no periods of reduced muscular activity at the start or end of the repetition. The muscles are highly activated right at the start until the end of the set. On the contrary, an exercise like the Turkish Get Up is at a disadvantage in terms of mean activity because the lift is so complex and has so many phases that there are periods where certain muscles aren't working very hard, which reduces the levels of mean activation.

Functional Anatomy

When we discuss the abdominals, we're essentially discussing four muscle groups: the rectus abdominus, external obliques, internal obliques, and transverse abdominus. Each has specific individual roles, but let's keep things brutally simple here: Rectus abdominus Trunk flexion, posterior tilting of pelvis External obliques Contralateral rotation (unilateral), ipsilateral side bending, trunk flexion or posterior tilting of pelvis (bilateral) Internal obliques Ipsilateral rotation, ipsilateral side bending, trunk flexion Transverse abdominus Abdominal "hollowing"

Our current line of thinking when examining the ab muscles is geared toward producing motion (e.g. rectus abdominus contraction leads to trunk flexion). However, Sahrmann states in her book, Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes, that a significant role of the lower rectus abdominus and external obliques is actually preventing motion, or promoting stability of the lumbo-pelvic region. So, while many of you are focusing the majority of your ab training on trunk flexion movements (e.g. crunches), you should be working on the opposite movement: posterior tilting of the pelvis. This allows us to function from a more efficient position biomechanically.

So now that we know the functional anatomy, we need to critically examine how most athletes are performing their ab work. I bet that quite a few of you are still doing a few sets of bent-knee crunches and calling it a day! Simply put, if you have a traditional bodybuilding or powerlifting posture (APT/excessive lumbar lordosis), you need to get cracking on strengthening your external obliques and lower rectus abdominus.
The Revenge of Paul Chek?

Now, I know that some of you are going to think I've fallen off the wagon and gone all Chek-style on you, but let's examine what's really going on. First off, we're not talking about simple abdominal hollowing; what we want here is posterior tilting of the pelvis. The transverse abdominus (TVA) hollows; the external obliques and lower rectus produce posterior tilt. Yes, it's true whenever you perform one you get the other to some extent, but there's a difference. Just keep the end goal in mind: improved posture and better performance. As well, I'm in no way telling you to practice these movements under load (squatting, deadlifting, etc.)! The goal is to improve your static posture so that you produce better movement. Sucking in before you squat or deadlift not only puts you at an increased risk for injury, but is fundamentally wrong. Why would you want to correct static posture in a dynamic movement? It makes much more sense to approach it the other way, e.g. fix the static posture and then allow dynamic movement to occur naturally.
Implications on Physique and Performance

Why do the exercises I've outlined below? I'll give you three reasons:
1) Improved recruitment

This is probably the most overlooked aspect of proper core training. While everyone has been caught up in simply activating the glutes, they're only fighting half the battle. I'm not telling you to stop the glute activation/strengthening work, but why not strengthen the lower abs/external obliques as well?

The goal here is to decrease the anterior pelvic tilt/lordosis in static posture so that when you take that posture into dynamic movement, you get better glute activation. Better glute activation very simply means more weight when you squat or deadlift. Whether you're a powerlifter, bodybuilder, or just an average Joe who wants a better physique, those things alone should convince you to try out some of these exercises.
2) Improved physique

I don't know about you, but since I work out, I feel like I should be rewarded with a physique that makes me look like I work out. Regardless, when you start to develop that APT/excessive lordosis posture, you get the appearance of having a bigger "gut" than you should. Therapists trained in Rolfing call this a "spilling" of your guts or organs, or "shortening the core." While other weight trainers understand that this is a functional thing that allows more weight to be moved, to the lay public it flat-out looks like you have a fat stomach! Simply put, training the external obliques and lower RA will not only strengthen your abs, but give you a more aesthetically pleasing look to boot. Dr. Stuart McGill has talked about this extensively, but perhaps the most injurious position for our spine is end-range spinal flexion. If we go back to Panjabi, hes talking about what Id call happy spine optimal. If you want your spine to be happy, and your goal isnt to break World Records in the deadlift, this is where you need to spend at 99.9% of your training time (and waking life). On the other hand, if your goal IS to break World Records, or to be the absolute strongest beast in your gym, theres going to be a little risk involved. The key here is to at least stay in that Im not going to blow a disc optimal range. Most deadlifters intuitively know where this is, and theyre smart and simply drop the weight when they get out of position. If youre not experienced, or not pulling at least 2x bodyweight, dont even consider doing a full-blown round back deadlift. Last but not least, you have what I consider to be the N=1 crowd. And unfortunately, most of us know someone like this. This is Cro-Magnon man, the guy that lifts like an absolute idiot, never gets injured, and is super strong to boot. I hate this guy, because hes also (invariably) the loudest mouth in the gym as well.

Look, this guy isnt normal. His spine, his psyche, whatever, he is different and not like us. He can get away with anything and life to tell about it. While we can look on in awe, that doesnt mean we need to take his training advice. Remember my goal: To keep you lifting as heavy as possible, for as long as possible. No exceptions. - See more at: