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If You Want A Stronger Core, Fix Your Shoulders & Hips!

Everyone wants a “stronger core”. In fact, I want a stronger core! But the core is a contentious topic. So I will try to keep it simple. The core is not just your abdominal muscles. Your core is a dynamic complex of all muscles that work to stabilize your body during movement. So when you think about it this way, your shoulders, your back muscles, your hip flexors, and your glutes are all a part of your core. Even your feet!

In fact, when I tell someone during a session that they should “feel it in their core”, what I really am saying is, “You should feel all your muscles working together as one unit right now to stabilize you, beginning from your center and radiating outward”. I don’t mean that they should be “squeezing their abs in”.

You can flex & squeeze your abs all you want, but there are other more effective ways to ensure that you are actually strengthening your “core”. Plus, this excessive tensing can actually be counterproductive and trick your body into thinking you are in danger, which actually results in the creation of pain, particularly when dealing with back pain.

A strong core is a powerful asset because it keeps us balanced, enables us to produce force & control it, it prevents injury, and so on. I’d like to think the core is really just a concise way of referring to the entirety of your body, working as one efficient machine. If you have a strong core, you have a well-rounded, balanced body. And this is what gets rid of and prevents back pain!

It has nothing to do with abs or six-packs. In fact, when i had my most well-defined abs, my body was actually beginning to fall apart on me – because I wasn’t taking care of my hips or shoulders!

So, in order to strengthen this innocuous complex of our body, we have to fix the primary issues we tend to see in our bodies today. We tend to see similar issues, because most people tend to live a similar, sedentary lifestyle, lacking certain, critical movements. fortunately, there are some really simple ways to resolve these issues!

Let’s first examine what’s going on in our bodies, and then introduce 4 fundamental exercises which will help to restore balance in your body. [Please note – there are of course deviations from this, but these are the most commonly seen issues]

THE ISSUES:

Tight hips, underactive glutes, shifted pelvis, excessive arching in low back, rounded shoulders.

Let’s break it down further.

Most of us have extremely tight hip flexor muscles, as a result of sitting. These muscles become stuck in a shortened position, which makes them tight.

Then, this shortened position of the hip flexors causes an anterior pelvic shift (think of sticking your butt out – that’s what this looks like).

This shortened position of the hip flexors also makes it difficult for us to activate our glutes (this is because the primary function of the major glute muscle is hip extension, which is the opposite of hip flexion. so too much hip flexion = too little hip extension = sleepy, underactive glutes). I know, that was a mouthful.

The anterior pelvic shift then typically correlates with an excessively arched low back.

And on top of all of this, our shoulders become stuck in a forward, rounded position due to all this sitting.

This may not always be the sequence of events, but once you have acquired one of these issues, the others will naturally occur. This is because the body is one kinetic chain, so if one thing is out of place, something else will naturally shift out of place as well. When this happens, our “core” is definitely not working optimally to keep us stable, balanced & powerful! Everything is out of alignment and out of whack, which makes any movement much more difficult.

The good news is, there are really simple, really powerful exercises you can do for about 3-5 minutes a day that will enable you to maintain a strong core, and a balanced body for the rest of your life!

The exercises are below – they are links to YouTube videos and under the video in the “Description” there are specific instructions on how to perform each exercise.

EXERCISES TO FIX HIPS & SHOULDERS FOR A STRONGER CORE:

THE MORAL OF THE STORY:

The moment I stopped excessively doing sit-ups and other “core exercises”, and started actually taking a look at what was going on in the entirety of my body, at the joint level, my “core” began to regain it’s strength. I felt so much more enabled to do any movement I wanted with ease. We must take care of every part of our body. Again, because everything is connected, we must take care of everything in order to have a truly strong, functioning core. The good news is, all it takes are a couple of well-executed, simple movements to begin to restore your strength!

Give these a try and let me know if you start feeling more balanced, more powerful & more capable of doing any crazy movement/exercise/activity you want! I would love to hear from you!


To learn more about Melanie Daly and her personal training, please visit her website: http://www.backpainpersonaltrainer.com/

Is Your Core Stability Actually Hurting You?

Core, core, core. Core stability. Core strength. Brace your core. Hold your abs in. Squeeze your abs.

Where did this come from? No truly, where did this idea come from?

Because when you ask the top physical therapists who are on the cutting edge of pain science, they can’t seem to find ANY literature that suggests core stability and bracing your core is actually proven to be beneficial for your back and your back pain.

Now, let me get one thing straight before you throw something at me out of anger and confusion.

CORE STRENGTH IS GOOD. Yes, having a strong core is, of course, important. Strengthening muscles and improving our ability to move with mobility, strength, power & balance is always helpful.

However, when you ask Peter O’Sullivan, a world renowned physiotherapist from Australia (see video above), he will tell you that we have taken this concept WAY overboard. Basically, we are now treating our body as if we are doing planks all day long. Planks are great, but, is it great if we are doing them all day?

Let me give you an example. Let’s say I told you to hold a bicep curl all day long, every day. No rest. Your muscle will be under tension and under load the entire day. Do you think that this will get you stronger? Or is it possible that you will actually, at some point, become weakened and tight due to overusing that muscle?

The same goes for our core. Exercises that strengthen this innocuous complex of muscles we like to call the core are incredibly powerful. But does that mean we should be doing them all day? Yet this is what we are essentially doing, unknowingly, all day, every day.

A large majority of the population who experiences either chronic back pain (that has resulted from no particular injury) or recurrent, random back pain tends to brace themselves into these positions and movements that are “tensing their core”. We don’t even realize it! But as a result of being told that core stability is great and will protect our spine, and that we should stay as upright as possible, we are actually increasing the amount of compressive load in our spine and leaving it more vulnerable to seemingly random pains and strains.

Here is another analogy to help clarify. Think about your car. If you were to go on a road trip and you knew the road was going to be pretty bumpy, would you over-inflate your tire to give you more protection from all those forces? Or would you actually allow for a little bit of give in the tires to protect you from those forces? Which situation would subject you to more force? I’m pretty sure an over-inflated tire would actually make the car quite stiff and unable to absorb those forces. The same goes for our spine when we “squeeze our abs”, or “brace our core”. We come rigid, stiff, and vulnerable to external forces.

Again, strengthening your core during your workouts is great, but if you start doing it all day, that’s when you start to actually put your back at more risk.

So, what do you do now? Well, start paying attention to your resting postures and your movements. Feel your stomach with your hands. Are those muscles contracting? It will take some practice to understand whether or not they are, as at first, you may think that’s just what those muscles are supposed to feel like all day long.

Try this for me – try to be as loosey goosey as possible in your stomach. That’s right. Try to be as flabby and sloppy in your core as possible. You don’t hear that often do you? Ha! But truly. Just let it go. Incorporate some relaxed, diaphragmatic breathing to try to let those core muscles go. Let your entire body just relax. Let your shoulders and spine round and slump forward. Just let everything go and let gravity do its job.

I bet if you are experiencing some back pain, or even sciatic pain, that if you start to relax and let this muscular tension go, you will pretty soon start to feel those muscles relax, and your pain subside. Let me know how it goes. And as always, if you have any questions, or even if you want to jump on a quick video chat to ask me if you’re doing it correctly, do not hesitate to reach out! I love to help as many people as I can.

Good luck!

-Melanie, your Back Pain Personal Trainer


To learn more about Melanie Daly and her personal training, please visit her website: http://www.backpainpersonaltrainer.com/

The Best Abdominal and Core Exercises

Toned, washboard abs will keep your partner happy and boost your self-confidence with every outfit you put on. So get ready to pull those tight pants out of your dresser, this is the abs workout guide to six-pack abs and a flat, toned core!

<strong>Bulking</strong>

Many women can become too concerned with the number they see on their bathroom scale. You might think if that number is getting higher, something is wrong. A proper bulking regimen may add a couple of pounds to your scale, but the results in your mirror will tell a different story.

The basic concept of bulking is to consume more calories than you are burning off in your workout. If you are looking for some clean foods to add to your bulking diet, try chicken, turkey, rice, pasta, fish, eggs, peanut butter, steak, and yogurt. Usually, exercises that work out your abs are done in sets of about 20 repetitions.

During bulking, pick three abs exercises per day that involve some weights or added resistance. Do reps of 10-12 for three sets each to increase the size of your abs. Some of the ab exercise options to chose from are cable crunches, Russian twists, hanging leg raises, decline crunches and abdominal machines. I’ve outlined these exercises in detail below.

<strong>Cutting</strong>

One excellent way to prepare for summer or a vacation where you’ll be in a bathing suit is to implement a cutting routine before your trip. Typically, cutting takes place in the months after you finish bulking. The majority of food choices for your cutting diet can remain the same as your bulking diet if you just eat less of them; these are all healthy foods.

Make sure to drink plenty of water while you are cutting. Don’t think that cutting means you have to starve yourself! You should still be eating three meals per day, with a snack or two mixed in if need be. Continue to eat foods that are high in protein, but cut out some of the carbs like bread and pasta.

<strong>Cardio</strong>

An important aspect of both bulking and cutting is cardiovascular workouts. During the bulking phase, skipping cardio can cause you to gain fat from the excess calories instead of gaining clean muscle. When you are cutting, cardio exercises help ensure that fat gained from your bulking phase get burned off.

Running, biking, and swimming are all cardio exercises that you can pair with abs workouts. Other exercises focused on abs can double as a cardio workout if you do them at a fast pace, 60 seconds or longer. Some of these exercises include wall push-ups, hot potato squats, mogul jumps, and kettlebell juggling, which are all outlined in detail below.

<strong>Abs Exercises</strong>

Unlike other body parts, you can train your abdominal muscles every day. You can do many of these exercises with little to no equipment, in the comfort of your home. These exercises should be done in 2-3 sets of 15-25 reps, or 2-3 sets of 60-second intervals. Rest between sets should be between 30-60 seconds. Here I’ve selected some of my favorite exercises you can do at home without equipment!

<strong>The Bird Dog Exercise</strong>

<strong>The bird dog can be used as a warm-up exercise in addition to an abdominal workout.</strong>
<ul>
<li>You can do 5 to 15 reps per side in a set. Three sets is a sufficient workout.</li>
<li>Start with a strong base of your hands under your shoulders and knees directly beneath your hips.</li>
<li>Point your toe when your leg is fully extended, but make sure to keep it straight.</li>
<li>After full arm and leg extension, touch your knee to your opposite elbow for a more difficult variation.
<strong>Single-Arm Wall Push Up</strong></li>
</ul>

<strong>If the name weren’t obvious enough, you’d need a wall to perform this exercise. So, unfortunately, this can’t be done in an open field.</strong>
<ul>
<li>The wall should be an arm’s length away from your starting position to maintain proper form.</li>
<li>Keep your feet wide for a strong base.</li>
<li>Mix in a push-up rep in-between walk up reps to make this more challenging.</li>
<li>Clench your core and abdominals for the duration of each movement.</li>
</ul>
<strong>Mogul Jumps</strong>


<ul>
<li>Start on your hands and knees, and then slightly lift your knees off the ground using your toes and hands as support.</li>
<li>Rotate your belly button, hips, and chest to one direction as you hop your legs to that side.</li>
<li>Keep your spine in a straight line with the rest of your body.</li>
<li>With your legs already to one side, hop directly to the opposite side instead of going back to the starting position first.</li>
</ul>
<strong>Figure 8 Pelvic Tilt</strong>

<strong>The figure 8 pelvic tilts primarily focus hamstrings, glutes, and pelvic hip muscles.</strong>
<ul>
<li>To remove your quads from the workout, lift your toe on the foot that is planted on the ground.</li>
<li>Squeezing your glutes the whole time will maximize your results.</li>
<li>Make sure to get a full hip extension at the top of the motion.</li>
<li>Thrust upwards as soon as your butt touches the ground at the bottom of the motion.
<strong>Rotating Side Plank</strong></li>
</ul>

<strong>Rotating side planks are a variation that you can mix into your regular plank routine.</strong>
<ul>
<li>Lift one arm off the mat, pointing it straight up in the air while opening your body and turning to that side.</li>
<li>Hold that position for 30-60 seconds or even longer if you can.</li>
<li>If you are unable to hold that position for extended periods of time, just hold it briefly, before returning to a regular plank quickly alternating sides.</li>
<li>Rotating side planks build strong abdominals, oblique muscles, and lower back.</li>
</ul>
For more workouts like these, including abdominal and core exercises that implement equipment, please visit <a href=”https://homefitnesslife.com”>Home Fitness Life</a>.

 

30-Day Plank Challenge

We are 7 days into our 30-day squat challenge. Have you guys been keeping up?! We’ve just done our 80 squats for the day, and we had a thought, “Let’s incorporate another challenge to get a full body workout.”

In comes the 30-day plank challenge. The challenge pushes you to hold your plank a bit longer every few days as the month progresses. By the end of the month, the goal is to hold a 5-minute plank. Planks are not only a great exercise for your core, but the benefits of planking include a stronger back, and better balance and posture.

The best part about it is it’s quick and you can do it anywhere. So join us! Print out the schedule below (put it next to your 30-day squat challenge) and get ready to start incorporating planks into your everyday life!

30-day-plank-challenge-chart


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