110320 Strengthening the CORE
By Daniel Pare NCCP, CSO, Strength Coach
I am getting lots of phone calls and several people come to my gym asking me what to do to strengthen my abs. I could give them sets of sit ups, leg raises, crunches… and it would be doing… I just like to go the extra mile and basically do the right thing.
Would sit-ups and crunches strengthen the abs? Let’s see. A friend of mine called me a few weeks ago asking me if I could help her. I said sure, what is going on? She says I need you to give me exercises to strengthen my abs. Sure come over. She gets here and the first thing I said is let’s go on the platform and do a squat for me. She was not able to do it. So I started working with her in her quest to actually do the squat.
I had to teach her to stabilize her trunk and that meant to be able to bring her shoulders back (retracted), she also learned to keep her stomach tight while inhaling, she also had to widen her foot stance and keep the heels down and the toughest part was to teach her to start the squat with her hips, they just would not go back.
So we started again and again. Spent a good 15 minutes encouraging her to start at the hips and not the knees, like it’s being done most times. I told her that her core musculature was not string enough. I explained to her that in order for her to be able to do a squat properly she would have to learn to keep her core tight (hips, and trunk). That was not easy at all.
We began using a 75 cm exercise ball against the wall. I reminded her not to sit and sink, but sit and keep tight. That was a challenge. After we got through that one, we used a 65 cm exercise ball. This time we had to widen her foot stance (I did demonstrate all along what the squat looks like when done properly). Each time she is squatting I am pressing on her abs and lower back to remind her to remain tight, push her knees out on the way up and not to loosen up (you want to see one working hard, do this).
Not long after she is down to the 55 cm exercise ball. That is getting very impressive. Let me remind you that we are looking at about 30 minutes now and she can feel the work taking place (hips and hamstrings not the quadriceps) and I sure can see what is happening. She is learning to remain tight at the core and she also kept telling me “there are lots to think about hey, but it feels very good”. At that point I asked her to stand up, away from the ball, grab my hands and squat down so that her hips/buttocks are touching her heels and to squat back up. I asked her to go for 5 reps. At that time she is breathing quite heavier and starting to sweat and she still likes it.
We then go to use the exercise bench and I demonstrated how I squat down on the bench, sit on it while remaining tight and returning to the starting position by pushing back up with my heels and keeping my knees in line with my toes. So she gave that a try. This was very nice to see, she could do it, not every rep, but nearly. I also made her pay attention that every time she kept herself tight, when she was squatting down on the bench that she could come right back up, in a straight line, without any movements at the knees. This was nearly a parallel squat (top of the thigh even with the top of the knee).
She then asked me if I was going to give her some abs to do at home. I told her to keep practicing this one (the squat) and to get good at this for now. She called me an hour later to tell me that she was walking differently (better) and that her abs, glutes and hamstrings were sore (the core). That did not surprise me at all. She had been doing abs prior to calling me!
Daniel Pare NCCP, CSO
St. Thomas Ontario Canada