Goal Oriented: Spare your spine. Tips on core training done right

10 June 10:15 am

Goal Oriented: Spare your spine. Tips on core training done right

By Kevin Miller

Last week I was asked by someone “what is my favorite core exercise”. This is a question that I am asked probably 3-4 times per week by various people.  Over the past few years the topic of “core” training has been thrown around by doctors, coaches, therapists and weekend warriors. If you were to ask ten fitness professionals what their definition of core training was I guarantee that you would get ten different answers. The fact that people are talking about topics like this is actually good in my opinion. More people need to educate themselves on what they can do to improve their overall health and fitness.  The problem with a question like this is that some trainers will offer up exercises, that in my opinion, could potentially do more harm than good.

Before I share with you some video clips that I have put together I want to offer up five of my LEAST favorite core exercises.   What we all need to remember is that there is no perfect program. However, there are some exercises that could dramatically increase your chance of injury.

Here are five common core exercises that I believe you should avoid:

1. Regular crunches: I will do a full blog post in the near future as to why I dislike this exercise. I would not waste your time doing one regular crunch where you simply pull on your neck let alone multiple repetitions that a lot of people do at the end of their workout. This exercise could lead to back pain as well as neck pain due to the repetitive flexion that you go through while doing this movement.

2. Partner leg throw downs:  This is a popular exercise with a lot of boot camp instructors. I think the last time I did this was JV football (5th-6th grade) because we lost a game. The only thing this will get you is a sore back.

3. Seated crunch machine: This machine is a waste of space. Think about it for a second, I am going to sit down, lock my hips down and flex my spine over and over. This may be the worse piece of equipment in most commercial gyms. Please stop doing this.

4. Russian twists with a medicine ball: I’ll admit a mistake when I make one. I used to do this exercise a couple of times a week. The problem with this exercise is that most people get all of their movement from their back (Fyi, you do not want to do this, you want to get movement from your thoracic spine and hips. Fyi, your thoracic spine is the middle to upper portion of your back) and they end up twisting back and forth. This could set you up for an injury down the road. If done properly there may be a place for a rotation exercise similar to this however, the traditional Russian twist is not on my list of safe core exercises anymore.

5. Stability ball crunches:  I actually like using the stability ball for some exercises but not for a crunch. A friend of mine e-mailed a video the other day of a guy who did six minutes straight of crunches on a stability ball. Now, I don’t mind reverse crunches (I’ll share a video in the future) however, lying on this ball while pulling your neck over and over looks painful to me and not the least bit athletic. This has neck injury written all over it.

Below is an introductory video where I talk briefly about core training followed by three separate videos that cover a few of my favorite core exercises.

Please keep in mind that these are only a few exercises that you can choose from. As I stated above there is no perfect program. As a coach I try and learn something new every day. As an athlete, coach or someone simply looking to stay fit you owe it to yourself to educate yourself on various training topics so you can achieve optimal health and performance.

As always, if you have questions please feel free to contact me.

Thank you, 

Kevin Miller

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