Posts Tagged ‘functional core’

No, this article and/or exercise is not a joke. Babymakers may be my favorite ab exercise and is also great for increasing sagittal plane movement in the hips.

I have previously addressed my distain for traditional ab exercises like crunches. Most ab work consists of shortening the muscles and placing strain on the back. Babymakers, on the other hand, work to lengthen the muscles of the rectus abdominis and hip flexors as the hips move into anterior tilt. Because the anterior tilt occurs first, this movement pattern fits with the idea of having an eccentric contraction (lengthening) before an concentric contraction (shortening). Needless to say, hip mobility is also improved while no tension is placed on the lumbar spine as it is during a normal crunch. Shoulder stability is also added if you add movement like I did in the video.

The burn generated by crunches is still there so if that’s something you can’t live without, so no worries. Try it out and let me know what you think.

It amazes me how we can make ginormous technological advances over the past 40+ years, but do not change the exercises or training methods used. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing every old school exercise that doesn’t use the fanciest and latest equipment we have today. The pushup is in my top 3 favorite exercises. It is very discouraging, though, that with all the research we have available to us in this day and age people still prescribe the same things they did when they were growing up for no other reason then that’s what they did when they were growing up. Women used to smoke when they were pregnant, too.

So what’s so terrible about crunches or sit ups?

Dr. Stuart McGill, world renown back specialist, has conducted research that shows repeated bending of the spine can, overtime, contribute to damaging spinal discs. Not one of my goals of working out.

Tie the idea of Long and Strong into the rectus abdominis. The abs are not different from any other muscle group. If shortened through improper training, performance will be inhibited and chance of injury will increase. Is there any movement in every day life where we start with our back in a neutral position and contract our abs, rolling our shoulders forward towards the ground? NO! There is always some kind of extension of the abs before the contraction (think stretch-shortening cycle). Let’s look at a pitcher throwing a baseball and a tennis player serving.

In both cases, the lengthening of the abs is clear immediately before the transition from loading to acceleration occurs. Even if you know nothing about exercise physiology or biomechanics, it doesn’t make sense logically to train your abs in a way where you start with your rectus abdominis in a neutral position and shorten it when this motion doesn’t happen in sports or life really. Most of America spends 8 hours of their day slouched over in a chair. 8 hours of muscle conditioning a day is a lot to overcome.

Extreme kyphosis. The spine should be more “S” shaped, not “C” shaped.

Give your body a chance and train in a way that combats poor back health instead of encouraging it. For the average person, this will help align the rib cage in its proper position and thus put the lower back in a more favorable position as well.

As related to sports, specifically baseball, it is much more beneficial to train the lumbopelvic control (lumbar=lower back). Research has shown that pitchers with better lumbopelvic control had a lower WHIP (walks+hits per innings pitched) and more innings pitched in a year.

What should I do instead of crunches? 

Planks: Make sure your lower back does not sink, but maintains its proper curvature while holding the plank. This might mean holding it for a short period. I like doing a plank for 15 seconds followed by a 5 second break and repeating instead of holding it for 45 seconds or a minute. You can also progress to 1 leg and/or 1 arm planks which will really challenge the lumbopelvic control as you try to keep your hips level.

Bird dog: Kick one leg back with your toes pointed down while extending 1 arm until your body is completely extended like a hunting dog. Again, make sure your hips are not rotating, but your butt is remaining flat throughout the whole ROM.

Rollouts: This is an advanced exercise that I probably wouldn’t prescribe to many non athletes. Start on your knees with your arms on a ab wheel or barbell. Roll forwards keeping your back in a neutral position as far as you can go. When you hit your end point, pull the bar or wheel back towards you and return to an upright position.




These are only 3 of countless exercises you could do instead of traditional crunches. For additional information, you can check out Mike Robertson’s blog or this article with Dr. Stuart McGill. Try these exercises out and let me know what you think.

If you were to take a poll of the general public trying to find the #1 excuse they don’t workout on a daily basis, I would bet the answer would be “Because I don’t have time”. While this is a poor excuse for many reasons, most of us don’t have the luxury of 2 hours set aside every day for us to devote to some type of physical activity. So when we do get to the gym, we want the most bang for our buck. This is also true for most college teams. With hour restrictions and coaches wanting to get as much time in on the field as possible, the time in the weight room gets whittled down.

The good news is there are ways to get a really good workout in with limited time, and still hit a wide range of muscle groups. Let’s look at a few exercises that demonstrate this point:

1. Overhead Step Up- The main point here: Anything you do single leg/arm and anything you do overhead should automatically turn the exercise into a core stability exercise along with the main muscle group you are trying to work. One leg is clearly less stable than two so it causes us to brace more during a rep (although you should be bracing your core during any kind of squat, deadlift, etc). An overhead exercise moves the weight farther away from the center of gravity making us less stable. This causes our shoulders and our core to constantly adjust to the weight moving so we don’t tip over. Shoulders, core, legs. BAM! 3 birds with one stone. If you want to go super crazy try going 1 arm and holding a dumbbell or kettlebell over your head.

2. 1 Arm Farmer Walks- After reading the above exercise, you immediately recognize the 1 arm part and think core, and you would be correct. Make sure your shoulders are level and not tilted down towards the side the weight is on. If done properly, you will feel this in your lateral core. It also is great for grip strength. This is a great exercise for a sport like baseball or lacrosse where grip strength is important, and much more useful than just doing wrist curls. For those of you that have never heard of a farmer walk, it is very simple. You pick up a weight in one hand (probably a DB or plate), hold it by your side without any shoulder tilt, and walk. I like to try for 40 yards of walking for one set and do that 3 or 4 times.


3.  Jumping Rope- I wanted to make sure and include something for the cardio lovers out there. I have always liked jumping rope as a warm up as I could feel it get my shoulders and lower legs loose, along with breaking a slight sweat. You are forced to maintain proper posture and it has an explosive element to it. It also forces you to land on your toes which reinforces proper running technique.

4. Push-ups- I’m going to save an in-depth look at push ups for a post of its own, but it’s definitely worth mentioning in this article. If you do a lot of push ups in one day, either your back (poor technique) or stomach (proper technique) will be sore the next day, along with your chest of course.

Workout out smart, and hard, and you can get a solid workout in a limited amount of time. This list is by no means exclusive. If you are strapped for time, find exercises that target multiple muscle groups that you want to work on a given day instead of just sticking with the single joint exercises on the machines.