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Building a Balanced Core

August 4, 2010

By Gerard Bochese

The following tips are beneficial for maintaining optimal core balance and function and preventing injuries to the spine and extremities.

Maintain perfect postural alignment during exercise

Your brain records joint positions when you perform an exercise.  This information serves to develop an engram, or recorded sequence, that the brain refers to when performing an exercise or movement that is similar to the movement pattern.  For example we store a rotational movement pattern as an engram and call on this pattern whenever we perform some type of rotation.  If you develop motor engrams with poor postural alignment and faulty joint position, your brain will continually recruit the muscles and move the joints in this faulty manner, leading to injury in the future.

Balance repetition and intensity

Your exercise program should have 10% or less difference between flexion and extension exercises in reps and intensity – if you do 3 sets of crunches (flexion), you need to do approximately 3 sets of back extensions to maintain muscular balance.

Train equally in multiple planes of motion

We often only train in forward and backward motions (sagittal plane) but we need to train side-to-side motions (frontal plane) and rotational motions (transverse plane).  Multi-plane conditioning is particularly important for sport and physical work conditioning.

Train on a curved surface

Exercising on a curved surface such as a Swiss ball or bosu ball allows the spine to move through full ranges of motion, from extension to flexion.

Use proper respiratory mechanics

Inhalation is coupled with extension. Because elevation of the arms is also coupled with extension you can improve performance in most exercises requiring elevation of the arms (upright rows, military press) by coupling them with inhalation.  Exhalation facilitates flexion of the trunk.  Therefore, when performing abdominal crunch exercises you may improve performance by exhaling as you flex.

Keep the tongue in the correct position

It is important to maintain proper tongue position when performing abdominal exercises.  Putting the tongue on the roof of the mouth behind the front teeth closes the flexor chain of the neck – this means that the muscles of the front and back of the neck work together equally to improve stability of the head and neck region.

Activate the transverse abdominis (deep abdominal wall)

When performing any lift that loads the spine, it is very important to activate the transverse abdominis.  This muscle is important for activating all the major stabilizing mechanisms of the low back, as well as having a powerful influence on your ability to transmit strength and power from the upper extremities to the lower extremities (and vice versa) through the core.  To activate the transverse abdominis perform a “drawing in” maneuver as if you’re pulling your belly button into your spine.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 20, 2010 10:29 pm

    Admiring the time and effort you put into your blog and detailed information you offer! I will bookmark your blog and have my children check up here often. Thumbs up!


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