An Even Stronger Core

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Mountain Climbers

How would you rate your core game? If you have ever done an online workout chances are that you have done a lot of mountain climbers, but not everyone even knows it’s  primarily a core exercise. So are you getting that fantastic core engagement you have always wanted or do you just run out of air? Done right, mountain climbers primarily focus the core and shoulders and create the much needed strength for rock climbing, weightlifting just to name a few.

Now if you just want to flail around by no means am I here to stop you (especially since I make my living off sports injuries), but since we can all use a stronger core here are the common mistakes to watch out for:

  1. Start your climbers off with a solid plank. Sticking your butt up is a big mistake, so if you forget everything else int he heat of the moment, just remember: You are a straight line from feet to head.
  2. Keep that core tight, but don’t hold your breath. Using your diaphragm to breath is core 101, so check out our Deadbug post if you are unsure how to do this.
  3. Pay attention to your shoulders by keeping them tight and over your hands. This can be the hardest bit for some, so try to minimize shoulder movement. 

If you do these regularly you will be creating a healthy, functional base that will take your core game to a whole different level, not to mention create much needed shoulder stability. If you still feel that you aren’t engaging, try going back to basics with a plank and slowly challenge it with movement. 

The Complete Deadbug Guide

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Most of the people coming through the office get this wonderful exercise yet so often I see it done wrong at gyms and fitness studios.  The dead bug is one of the best core exercises because it teaches the most important lesson about proper core engagement:  how to keep your spine stable as your limbs are moving. In other words, if you want to be able to transfer the energy from your feet into your hands when throwing a punch or a ball or swinging a bat, then proper core exercises are for you.

Before I go into any details about the exercise I need to say something you are inevitably going to ignore: Don’t stop breathing! If you’re holding your diaphragm tight while doing this exercise guess what you’re using… your diaphragm, silly! And that’s not even the best way to train the diaphragm so don’t do it.

The Technique

Alright let’s get into it. Start by lying down on your back and bracing your core tight. Really tight. Really, really tight because that’s the whole point of the exercise. Now check in with yourself and see if you’re still breathing from the diaphragm, if you are – good, you’re ready for the next step. Lift your arms in front of your shoulders and your knees in front of your hips. Is that belly still tight? Good.  Now as you gently exhale send your opposite arm away from your body and on your inhale bring them back to where they were. You  should be back at the dead bug position before you do the other side. Now send the other arm and leg away from the body and repeat about 6 times, take a 1 second break and gently building up to more reps.

The Theory Behind it

The reason this exercise is so wonderful is that it teaches you how to control that bubble inside you. What bubble you ask? If you look at the picture of the skeleton you can clearly see how the core is a bubble. It has the side walls which are formed by your abs and back muscles and the tip and bottom are your diaphragm and pelvic floor respectively. Actions like arching our back (second image from the left) too much can “distort” the bubble preventing us from engaging our core properly, so always keep that bubble tight.

To properly maintain that  bubble, you have to keep your pelvis neutral and your low back flat on the floor when you do this exercise. I put together a few pictures to help illustrate this point and show some common mistakes people do when they think they’re getting their best core engagement, but in fact are leaking tons of energy out of their system. You must feel in control of your movement and not just tagging along for the ride. Notice that my belly is flat and not bunched up, which is the other very common mistake and means that you are not using your deeper muscles.

Alright, feeling like you learned a bunch? Good! While there is more to a good, healthy and efficient core, this is everything we at Onsight feel you need to know to get the most out of your deadbug exercise. Still feel like you are missing that feeling of a strong and stable center, why not sign up for an exam with one of our doctors to see what you may be missing.