5 thoughts on the core from October HMMR Hangout

On Thursday we hosted our most recent HMMR Member Hangout on core strength and trunk stability. Hangouts are one of the benefits of being a HMMR Plus member, they give you a chance to talk shop with some of the best in the business. This month Vern GambettaJames MarshallMike BahnSteve Myrland and several more guest members joined in the conversation and here are a few of the things I learned.

1. Focus on function

The hangout started by talking about the most traditional core training exercise: sit ups. Steve Myrland has a few issues with the sit up. Like other areas of training, it comes down to analyzing what a movement does, and then analyzing what you need in your sport:

“When you talk about transference, what will the sit up transfer to? Getting out of bed in the morning. Once you are vertical, flexing your core is something that gravity is perfectly willing to assist you with. Flexion is not a key function from that point on.”

-Steve Myrland

When we are thinking about training muscles, we should never forget their function.

2. How machines led to core training

Marshall also had a few comments about how strength training machines changed the course of training history:

“We never had the term core until we had machines. Once we had machines we had to put core training in since the machines took the core away. When you sit there doing seated leg extensions you don’t have to use your core. When you try to transfer to sport after using machines, of course that is something you have to train. If you take away the machine and let the human body do the work, there is no need to do specific core work.”

-James Marshall

Some great examples of letting the human body doing the work are below. Another idea is simply sprinting. As I wrote about this summer after our GAINcast with Tony Holler, sprinting is an excellent core exercise.

3. Gymnastics and wrestling are ideal for core training

As Vern wrote about earlier this month and emphasized in the hangout, all training is core training. Two examples of that are gymnastics and wrestling. Both sports are not core training in the traditional sense, but it is impossible to do them without accomplishing everything we want from a good core training sessions. Most athletes would be better off doing 5 minutes of wrestling or gymnastics than five minutes of sit ups.

The problem for many coaches is where to start. If you are not familiar with either sport, it can be intimidating. For wrestling, a good starting point is the video lesson with Andy Stone we put together. That already gave me some safe and easy exercises that I’ve incorporated into training with my rugby team.

For gymnastics, James Marshall recommended starting with hand balance. And just to show how special these hangouts are, he even put together a video afterwards to explain what he was describing.

4. Heuristics for core training

Several coaches shared their heuristics for core training, as well as training in general. Here are a few good ones:

  • “Never make something longer by making something else shorter.” – Roger Eischens (retold by Steve Myrland). There isa give and take with training. Remember that if you give to much, then you might not gain much.
  • “You can’t strengthen something you are supporting.” – Roger Eischens (retold by Steve Myrland). Wear a belt when squatting and you’re not going to help improve trunk stability.
  • “Never sacrifice range of motion for resistance.” – Vern Gambetta. All too often I see people pick up 10-kilogram medicine balls and use terrible movement patterns with little range of motion. Don’t be afraid of moving something lighter the right way.
  • “Soreness is feedback.” -Vern Gambetta. “Soreness if your body’s only way of saying thank you; pain is it’s only way of saying stop. Distinguishing between pain and soreness is critical.” -Steve Myrland. Soreness isn’t the goal of training, but it is valuable feedback we can use as coaches. But as Mike Bahn also discussed in the hangout, we need more feedback.

5. Competitive and collaborative training

Much of core training is done alone. One way to take it to the next level is to add a partner. Then you can take it even farther by adjusting how you interact with the partner. Marshall talked on the hangout about competitive and collaborative exercises. There is a time and place for each. Competitive exercises, such as wrestling, can add a bit of fun and intensity to training. Collaborative exercises are often ofterlooked, but can be even more fun since they are so rarely used. After the hangout Marshall shared one example of a collaborative exercise where athletes must work together in order to achieve a goal. Note the laughter in the video: