I wanted to follow up the Movement & Myofascial Lines article with another one focused on training core within those patterns. If you haven’t read that first article yet, CLICK HERE
But Logan, based on what we’ve learned at the PPSC, doesn’t every movement train core? Isn’t that the point of pillar stability and the bracing techniques?
High five – you’re right! BUT at the same time, we talk about the Carry pattern and incorporating developmental positions into our training programs. For a lot of people, we’re going to see Core Stability deficits when we put them through the Train Smarter Strategy Session. That means we need to have strategies and exercises to bring up weak areas or patterns for our clients to ensure that they move better, train successfully and can work on getting stronger over time. I use the following exercises for new clients with big deficits, sure. But I also use them in my own warmups and workouts and with clients who have trained with me for a long time and are long past any corrective or foundational phases.
Remember what John says – the lowest exercises on the pyramid can always be programmed. When you load them correctly, they can be punishing! The same goes for how we progress our 6-phase dynamic warmups and for how we periodize our programming long-term including stability/foundation and de-load phases. Not every client (myself included) is chasing a 500lb anything. Taking these mostly bodyweight exercises and changing their training effect via variables like ROM, speed, complexity and volume can be just as beneficial as manipulating load!
There are LOTS of ways to train core in these lines but I’ve pulled together a few of my favourites – some may be familiar to you and, if I’m lucky, some might be brand new! I’m also showing some mobility drills which I would use a P3 progressions for clients who need to work on mobilizing in certain lines. The linchpin P3 drills taught in PPSC are still my go-to but some clients need/want more mobility and/or variety!
CORE & SUPERFICIAL BACK LINE MOBILITY DRILL – CRUNCH 2 EXTEND
**Start supine with knees bent and feet flat, bringing hands beside your ears *light touch – avoid pulling the head into flexion
**Curl up (leaving low back on the ground) and then bring knees to elbows – your goal will be to keep 1 side in contact here throughout the drill!
**With feet dorsiflexed, drop one heel towards the ground and then extend the leg (hovering, not resting on the ground)
**Keep your knee straight and pull your leg/toes towards your face – stop just before your knee bends *really work to keep your crunch tight – this is active mobility for the whole back line!
ALTERNATE LEGS – slow tempo is the way to go; I’m a fan of a block of time rather than reps. Make the focus QUALITY reps in the given amount of time. *that also means quality breathing. I usually cue inhale on the heel drop and exhale on the leg flexion since maximizing the spinal flexion links to the exhale.
SUPERFICIAL BACK LINE CORE: BRIDGE PROGRESSIONS (HAMSTRING BONUS)
There’s over 5 minutes of 3-5 reps of exercises in this compilation video. Here’s a couple things to think about:
The glutes are not part of the superficial back line. But of course, they are important in hip extension. 2-foot bridge exercises are the place to start, especially with clients who have a hard time finding pillar stability (ex. low back arch, rib flare, failure to achieve full extension, mild back pain with doctor’s approval to exercise)
GROUND BASED EXERCISES are going to allow for more proprioceptive feedback in the supine position, making it easier for clients to feel the position of their pelvis and spinal alignment. Take the time to make sure they are set up, braced and breathing properly before having them lift their hips. It’s tough to improve movement when dysfunctional strategies/muscle imbalances are already engaged!
TOP-DOWN EXERCISES (like a bodyweight hip thrust on a box) have an awesome isometric opportunity. Getting your client set up in full extension and asking for a timed hold is a great way to progress from floor-based options. Again, adding movement before clients have proper awareness of pillar stability and the desired movement (ex. hip hinge, not spine rounding/arching) means we are either accepting less than optimal form and we’re going to load them prematurely, increase the risk for injury and/or create frustrating plateaus.
OFFSET VARIATIONS – none in the video unfortunately – are a great way to start to move towards unilateral loading. The kickstand or 1.5 stance options create a “working leg” but maintain the ground contact which helps clients manage rotation.
SINGLE LEG VARIATIONS now incorporate the functional lines (and the spiral line… haven’t covered that one yet. Note: ask for it in the comments if you want more of this stuff!) As Rotation King David Otey revealed in his Master Class lecture, implementing rotation starts with anti-rotation & anti-flexion drills (after dynamic mobility!) Performing bodyweight single leg bridge variations is a kick ass way to increase the challenge, add integration and see carryover into regular life and athletic movement. And if you coach clients to good stability and irradiation, they will feel their glutes in new, exciting and fiery ways!
BRIDGE EXERCISE DEMANDS BREAKDOWN – the video is mostly grouped via type of equipment so it’s not a straight progression flow like the awesome PPSC programming pyramids
Should actually show a low ROM 2-foot hip bridge
Next up would be the full ROM 2-foot hip bridge
1st exercise in video is full ROM single leg hip bridge (added contralateral arm pattern)
BANDED GLUTE BRIDGE – technically a progression but also a great way to feed abduction for clients who need the physical cue so could be used as the first bridge exercise
BLOCK HIP BRIDGES – adds adduction. Tight adductors are still weak. I like this variation both for people who demo adduction in the squat and bridge screen AND for clients with a really weak core. Cueing up adduction connects to intrinsic core activation via the…? Functional Front line! Great choice on a lunge-focused day.
HIP BRIDGE MARCH would be a great option after an offset hip bridge or for clients who can manage rotation successfully. This incorporates an iso-hold with alternating single leg focus. Harder than it looks – this is your opportunity as a coach to make sure that anti-rotation is rock solid before progressing to loaded hinges.
HIP BRIDGES VS. GLUTE BRIDGES – up here in Canada I teach that hip bridges are ground-based and glute bridges are elevated. You don’t have to be like me, just wanted you to know where I’m coming from. Complaints can be addressed to my ex-pro boxer assistant instructor and PPSC event bodyguard @luishuete on IG. Cheers! *The added demand of “glute bridges” is that we’ve removed the proprioception from the mid-low back and glutes. Clients will have to know where neutral is in order to generate pillar stability and keep it through the hinge movement. Most common error is the pelvis heading for the floor and the ribs staying elevated (aka, rib flare = low back arch)
You could add an offset glute bridge (I’ve also seen it called “B Stance”) between the 2-foot and 1-foot variations.
Adding a plate, DB, sandbag, etc. is a great way to add load without going straight to the barbell. While YOU might think that no barbell = no bueno, your clients may not feel the same way. The barbell hip thrust is a good exercise but it can be timely to set up and cumbersome to get into. Especially for clients with mobility issues (older adults, return to fitness clients, etc.) Put yourself in their shoes, load them progressively but do it in a way that is comfortable and that builds their confidence!
HEELS ON BOX – increased hamstring demand because you’re isometrically “pulling” the box towards your butt as your lift the hips *not appropriate for something working to overcome synergistic dominance (aka hamstring cramp) in a bridge BUT a great exercise to strengthen weak hamstrings once they can do it successfully!
STABILITY BALL VARIATIONS – increased hamstring demand (isometric “pull”) and obviously increased stability demand. The ball will reveal if you put more weight in one foot vs the other. I love programming these for less-traditional clients (people that get bored or are scared of the iron) AND as primers for big lifts or that sweet end of workout burnout set.
The straight-leg hip press variation is great because it focuses on hip extension – not the hamstring curl. Call it a curl regression. I use it a lot for newbie clients, especially older female clients who need to work on years of sedentary posture/core strength deficits. The stability ball really makes them focus on control and quality. So, it’s challenging without being heavy/risky. Lots of ground contact and a small ROM.
The glider variations are sneaky tough. Since you’re staying quite low to the ground, watch for clients arching their back. It’s a big challenge to stay in spinal neutral WHILE doing the hamstring curl. For sure a more advanced bodyweight variation!
BOSU PLATFORM TILTS – challenges the client via instability and lots of older clients (and athletes) need foot & ankle exercises. Even though it’s iso-hip extension, you’ll feel the work shift in and out of hamstrings and you flex and point.
Now we look at adding complexity with total body integration. Some clients get sick of “those boring floor exercises” when they are focusing on single movements and yet their movement quality or pain-free training options are still limited. This is what I call “hiding the spinach in the chocolate cake” – I need them to build up some foundational capabilities but they need to enjoy their workouts and “get sweaty” or else they’ll quit me because it felt too much like rehab. And while these may look simple, especially with lighter loads, this is actually myofascial fitness! Incorporating different lines, different movements, maintaining the standards of each movement in concert – heck yes!
TRX HAMSTRING ROCK VARIATIONS – if you’ve completed a suspension training certification, you’ll know that the exercise is easier or harder based on the pendulum principle. If you start past the anchor point (closer to the wall than where the TRX hangs down) it’s pretty easy because gravity moves you down towards the anchor point and you can use a bit of momentum to make it up the other side. But if you start further away from the wall that the anchor point, you now have to “pull uphill” the whole way. If you really came to play, feel free to add a row at either the knee extension or knee flexion part of the rock OR go single leg like HERE!
SUPERFICIAL FRONT LINE MOBILITY DRILL – COBRA
*Shown here is the assessment.
0-6 inches is a low score
6-12 is moderate
12+ is exceptional (assess for hypermobility!)
For clients who score low to moderate, the assessment is the exercise. It can be regressed by putting the hands on the floor beside the ribs to slightly assist with the lift. It can be done for reps.
SUPERFICIAL FRONT LINE ADVANCED MOBILITY DRILL – FASCIAL BURPEE
*This is done for 3-8 reps at a time. It’s NOT cardio. It’s NOT for weight loss/HIIT/burning calories. Movement quality is KEY. Getting tired means loss of the myofascial “bounce” we’re looking for. Example: I use it in the P6 superset for advanced clients before a heavy front squat KPI or OH squats, clean & jerks, snatches, overhead carries, etc.
SUPERFICIAL FRONT LINE CORE: PLANK PROGRESSIONS
PLANK EXERCISE DEMANDS BREAKDOWN
RKC PLANK – as we teach in the intro for PPSC, this hardstyle plank teaches total body irradiation. If you’ve taken a Canadian PPSC (or I snuck into one of a few US based courses) we take things up a notch by trying to extend the sternum away from the belly button WITHOUT dropping the ribs out of the pillar. As on the happy skeleton pictured above – imagine the lever length from the front of the pelvis all the way up to the sternal manubrium. Increasing the length of that space really dials up the challenge in the plank when you fight to maintain a neutral spine.
PLANK TAPS (the Davies test) is a shoulder stability assessment (if you want it to be.) The original test is hands 36” apart (but I’ll scale this a bit for clients under 5’5”) and you allow the client 3 tries of 15 seconds. If you take the testing parameters out of it and slow things down, it’s a great P3 drill for clients who need to work on core & shoulder stability. *You can also have them perform this on an incline using a bench or box. Watch for the feet or legs getting floppy/knees bending! Cue up those tight quads to keep the front line integrated.
Hello triceps (my fave!) I watch most people perform this with a lot of torso rotation. Imagine your whole back is a tabletop and the drinks are really full. Don’t spill anything! This increases core stability, irradiation (especially when you centrate the shoulder properly by screwing the hands into the ground and engaging the pecs & lats) AND your triceps will get much more work!
Arm extensions & box climbs could be called quadruped progression/bird dog variations too. Similar to the hi-lo plank, there’s an anti-rotational demand (so that means the functional & spiral lines are in play!)
PLANK TO PIKE (and inchworm/pushup combos) are some of my go-to drills for shoulder stability on pressing days. The down dog position (pike for you non-yoga types) is a loaded overhead position but because it’s closed chain (hands on the ground) you can stop at any point in the ROM. Since we endorse PAIN-FREE training, for some clients that means only a few inches of movement into that pike at first. You can also perform this on a box/bench so that more bodyweight is in the feet instead of the hands/arms/shoulders. This one also shows up in my upper body ESD and/or active recovery days. Adding the knee/shin/ankle taps is rotation via dynamic mobility (so requires a prerequisite stability!) and can be a nice spiral decompression.
PLANK ROTATIONS – an easier place to incorporate the rotation vs the pike position (especially for people with limited hamstring ROM.) I like cueing this one to be mostly thoracic rotation so if your right arm is reaching up towards the ceiling, thing about squeezing the right glute and trying to keep the front of the right hip pointing down towards the floor. For lots of people this will mean that their arm doesn’t make it anywhere near the ceiling. That’s ok.
LANDMINE PLANK PRESS – a cheeky way to program for clients who want to press but who need more core work ;b But, in all seriousness, a killer P4 for a press day. Take a wider stance with your feet for sure.
LANDMINE CABLE PRESS – similar to the landmine drill but harder. You can cheat a bit and push down into the barbell to stabilize in the landmine version. Nowhere to cheat with the cable! I do this one with a light weight (obvs?) and an open hand since it’s more about core and shoulder stability than grip strength & irradiation through the forearm. I find this also helps with less trap engagement.
Foot drivers like plank jacks, toe taps, etc are just more variety. Once clients have a baseline stability, drivers make iso-holds more interesting/bearable. These are GREAT ways to challenge more advanced group participants while still being able to show the holds for your beginners.
PENDULUM PLANK – adds in a little bit of lateral line mobility
Stability Ball (or TRX or Glider) Crunches & Pikes – I’ll be honest, I haven’t programmed a floor crunch in a long time (besides just doing random stretches and ab stuff when I’m watching TV.) And I’m not a fan of the hip flexor dominance and pulling on heads/necks that I see a lot of at the gym. However, I dig and do these plank-based flexion movements a fair bit. Bonus shoulder stability, less spinal flexion but still a ton of demand on the abs? Yes please!
ADD ROLLOUTS HERE – I love/hate them. They hurt every damn time. That’s probably why I don’t have a video of them – my face would be inappropriate and/or anyone who could lip read might get offended! Lol. But seriously, rollouts are great – IF YOU MAINTAIN THE PLANK! Don’t hero a standing to full rollout with an Instagram-worthy booty popping up!
PLANK SIDE DROPS – capitalized to show my mad love. These feel AMAZING (or you are suddenly informed of your complete and total lack of lateral and spiral mobility. Depends.) But either way, you owe it to yourself (and your clients) to try them out. Keep your hands flat and active, arms straight and only go down/over as far as you can maintain your stability, breathing and level of comfort. If you’ve never done them before, ease in. You’ve been warned. And encouraged ????
Just kidding…here’s the rollouts. Well, some regressions anyway. See better humans rocking them out here. #goalz
RAQS – who says core has to be all static and slow? Plank show up everywhere!! For clients who can do them well, throw them some fun sometimes! (Works well in group programming.)
Hope that gets some programming juices flowing!
Know how to do it yourself before your program it. You should know how to set it up, what it feels like, where the likely “leaks” are AND how to regress and progress it before you show it to a client. Walk the walk. Do the work. Master the craft.
You still have to squat, hinge, lunge, push, pull & carry at least 2x per week. Often the movement in this article will be P3, P4, carry regression or emotion choices. As with the “complexity” options, you can work developmental positions or core standards into some of your other exercises. This is ESPECIALLY important for people who don’t like weights as much. I know, it’s a bummer. But they are out there. And they need our help. Zumba is great, but it’s not training. Learning how to put your own preference for the iron aside and show up FOR YOUR CLIENT is pretty important.
You can earn the right to show them barbell things by starting first with smart/safe training inside of fun and non-scary exercise options. My mom has been working with personal trainers for about 6 years now. But she only started doing barbell RDLs and elevated deadlifts 2 years ago. It’s pretty freaking awesome that my 66-year-old mother does barbell lifts (and kettlebell stuff and TRX burpees) but her kind, patient and client-centric trainers who worked with her from day 1 knew better than to throw that at her at the beginning.
Lighten up sometimes – training should be fun! You either “have to” or you “GET TO” do it for the rest of your life!
If you’re enjoying the myofascial line content, drop a comment below. Part 3 would be (more) core training options for the lateral & back/front functional lines!