core stability



Movement is the best treatment for low back pain and recovery from discectomy.


4th and final core exercise in our top 4...

If you are a client of mine you probably just felt a shudder down your spine...the beloved crawling pattern. You either love it or you hate it!

I personally love it as it is an awesome drill for:

  • cross-patterning
  • co-ordination
  • core stability
  • core function
  • connecting left & right brain
  • getting back to basics
  • having fun
  • mental stimulation

It also follows on nicely from the previous mentioned BIRD DOG drill, the crawling precursor.

The video demonstrates the basic crawling pattern, there are many other versions of crawling. It is a challenge to fight gravity and this is required of us on a daily basis, so why not try this cheeky little drill yourself and see what you think...feel free to comment below and share your thoughts or experiences.


3rd core exercise in our top 4...


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Another great core activation drill. Awesome for improving Multifidus function; neck & shoulder stability as well as overall core stability.
For full explanation of the exercise please visit "stability exercises" in our exercise library.

If you found this information (or any info on this page) useful, please share.


2nd core exercise in our top Four...

Start the video from 1min 12secs.

This is an awesome drill for core activation. The video pretty much says it all. I use this daily with clients and it's a great follow on exercise from the previous breathing drill. Also, don't forget to BREATHE throughout this drill! Exhale as your leg is lowering. Holding your breath is a cheat ;-)
Give it a go :-)


Four of my top core exercises everyone should make a part of their exercise regime...

First up is...

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The first being BREATHING:
Before you laugh, yes, I did say breathing!
Simple right? Not really. Most of us (myself being a culprit at times) are dysfunctional breathers, this being due to stress; injury; emotional issues; poor health etc. We breathe around 20,000+ breaths per day, that is a lot of opportunity for dysfunction.

We use our core muscles for breathing; simplified our diaphragm & pelvic floor contract together on the inhale to create Intra Abdominal Pressure (IAP), this stabilises our spine & we recruit our remaining core muscles on the exhale.

The dysfunction comes in when we either hold in our stomachs for long periods (females being biggest culprits) or start taking shallower breaths. This makes it extremely hard for normal functional breathing and requires us to recruit our neck and chest muscles with every breath.

To learn how to work on your breathing keep reading. I would highly recommend ANYONE with lower back pain to focus on their breathing especially but really EVERYONE should be doing it...

Visit our exercise library and have a read through our Stability Exercises the first 3 exercises that come up which are about BREATHING.


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There are two very common myths that people have been led to believe and I have them come up repeatedly in my work, I'd like to draw attention to them and ask that you please please please think before taking these myths on board.

Number 1 Myth:  "I need to do situps to strengthen my core"

What I would say to this:  No offence to anyone who has ever used this phrase but it is Balderdash!  

Number 2 Myth:  "I need to use a weightbelt to support my lower back"

What I would say to this:  Please see Balderdash comment above!

Now these are extremely common and easy mistakes to make as these days there is so much access to information out there that it is hard to sieve through the crap and find the honest truth. And I hate to say it but there are a lot of trainers out there who have very basic knowledge and either haven't been exposed to or sought out the truths as yet or don't have the understanding.

There are also issues of jumping onboard the "things that are cool" train and accessorising the crap out of yourself in order to look the part.  Last time I checked, all I needed to train was myself, just a body, maybe some clothes, leave the shoes at home though! 

Maybe a mate of yours trains in a belt and raves on about how "secure & strong" his back feels when he's lifting.  So you're like "cool dude, mind if I try?", then you're like "wow, I can lift more with this belt on and everything feels so tight".  Or maybe your trainer encourages you to wear one as they think it will protect your back.  If any of these scenarios ring true please please please stop and ask yourself WHY???!!!  

This important little 3 letter word has somehow become lost in society.  No one seems to turn around anymore and challenge what they are being told.  Everyone just accepts, particularly if it is coming from someone in authority or if it is someone you should be seen to trust.  Go out there and find the truth for yourself and then challenge it!

The thing with the situps is that your Rectus Abdominus (six pack muscle) is not your core! It does not protect your lower back and if anything can actually make things worse if you overuse your Abs and cause dysfunction in your system.  You can also do harm if you already have core dysfunction (which is highly likely if you have or have had lower back pain) and are doing multiple situps as your back will not be protected throughout the movement.

Your deep core muscles comprise of your Diaphragm (hence why I put so much emphasis on breathing when it comes to core function); Pelvic floor; Transversus Abdominus (TvA); Multifidus & to a degree your Internal Obliques as well.  Your Rectus Abdominus is a global muscle and is not designed to be a stabiliser.  The above mentioned muscles have to work in synergy (when you have a functional inner unit) to control Intra Abdominal Pressure (IAP) on lifting.  If any of them are out of sync and being lazy or even being overkeen and have become overactive then it blows out the whole system.

Weightbelts prevent you from being able to access your breath properly (creating dysfunction) and last time I checked you were born with a weightbelt, it's called your TvA ;-)...try using it!

If you'd like to know the secret to a stable lower back and a better functioning unit, let me tell you...FUNCTIONAL BREATHING! :-)  It's that simple, well initially anyway, that is where you point in trying all these fancy core exercises or thinking 100 situps a day will save your back.  Start with breathing please!  Once again, please check my stability exercises library for the intro to breathing, My Youtube Channel has my video on it as well and you can refer to my facebook page for an awesome interview link on breathing and pelvic floor.

For further reading on why I hate the weight belt and how it is making your back WEAKER & DYSFUNCTIONAL, yes, I said WEAKER, please look back through my blogs for my blog post on the weight belt and all will be revealed in more detail!

Please feel free to leave a comment below if you can tell me the benefits of wearing a weightbelt. Same goes for the situps.  I'm very interested to know what people's views are or what they have been told.


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More often than not I see loads of guys and girls donning the weight belt during lifting sessions, regardless of whether it is a heavy strength session or a metcon that is being carried out.  

When did the weight belt trend begin and what knowledge have we gained since then?  

Do you even know WHY you are wearing a belt if you are someone who puts one on habitually before each session?  

I have tried to breakdown an article by Paul Chek on the subject to highlight the most important points made.  I strongly advise anyone with an interest in prolonging their low back health or anyone currently using weight belts regularly to read the full article here.

Weight belts have been known to be used as far back as the early 1900's, with no clear reasoning behind the reason for their use.  It may have been in line with medical trends back then to use corsets as a treatment for scoliosis and back pain?

These days there has been much research into the area of lower back stabilisation and low back pain resulting in a much more in depth understanding of the stabilising system of the spine.

Cue The Inner Unit & The Outer Unit…

The Inner Unit consists of A)  Transversus Abdominis  (TVA) & posterior fibres of Obliquus Internus, B) Diaphragm, C) Deep Multifidus, D)  Pelvic Floor Musculature.

The Inner Unit consists of A)  Transversus Abdominis  (TVA) & posterior fibres of Obliquus Internus, B) Diaphragm, C) Deep Multifidus, D)  Pelvic Floor Musculature.

These muscles play a vital role in lower back stabilisation!  A study carried out in 1999 concluded that in people without back pain, the TVA fired 30 milliseconds (ms) prior to shoulder movements and 110 ms prior to leg movements.  During each variation of movements performed within the study there was still synergistic (muscles working together to perform a movement) recruitment of all inner unit muscles.  It was noted that regardless of movement plane or pattern of the subjects, the TVA muscle appeared relatively consistent in its activation pattern.  Researchers propose that the nondirectional, specific activation of the TVA relates to the dominant role played in providing spinal stiffness.

 "The TVA, in concert with other inner unit muscles (Figure 1), activates to increase stiffness of spinal joints and the sacroiliac joints (6,7,15). Activation of the inner unit provides the necessary stiffness to give the arms and legs a working foundation from which to operate. Failure of the TVA to activate 30-110 ms prior to arm or leg movements respectively has been correlated with back pain and dysfunction (6, 16). The inner unit is part of a system of stabiliser mechanisms, all of which are dependent on the integrated function of all inner unit muscles." - Paul Chek

Couldn't have said it better myself!  

The Outer Unit consists of many muscles such as the External Obliques, Internal Obliques, Erector Spinae, Latissimus Dorsi, Gluteus Maximus, Adductors and Hamstrings working together with the inner unit to achieve co-ordinated movement.

Here is a simplified version of the inner/outer unit systems.  Using a pirate ship’s mast as a human spinal column. While the inner unit muscles are responsible for developing and maintaining segmental stiffness, the bigger muscles, shown here as guy wires, are responsible for creating movement.

The Inner and Outer Units Simplified

The outer unit muscles of the trunk demonstrated here are (A) rectus abdominis, (B) internal and external oblique, (C) erector spinae; the outer unit actually contains other muscles, which have been excluded for simplification. The inner unit, which contains all the muscles demonstrated in Figure 2. is demonstrated here as (D); the multifidus acting as segmental stabilizers for the purpose of controlling joint stiffness. To tighten the guy wires (A-C), which provide gross stabilization of the ship’s mast without synergistic tightening of the segmental stabilizers (D) would obviously result in increased potential to buckle the mast. The mast represents your spine!

The outer unit muscles of the trunk demonstrated here are (A) rectus abdominis, (B) internal and external oblique, (C) erector spinae; the outer unit actually contains other muscles, which have been excluded for simplification. The inner unit, which contains all the muscles demonstrated in Figure 2. is demonstrated here as (D); the multifidus acting as segmental stabilizers for the purpose of controlling joint stiffness. To tighten the guy wires (A-C), which provide gross stabilization of the ship’s mast without synergistic tightening of the segmental stabilizers (D) would obviously result in increased potential to buckle the mast. The mast represents your spine!

"Recruitment of trunk stabilizers via EMG with and without a weight belt has been studied. These studies concluded there was increased recruitment of the erector spinae and rectus abdominis when wearing a belt. Now that you understand the workings of the inner unit, it should be evident that by recruiting the larger, gross stabilizers without proportionate recruitment of the inner unit musculature responsible for regulating joint stiffness, the result could certainly lead to spinal joint dysfunction or exacerbate an existing condition. It is also likely that prolonged use of weight belts will result in coordination problems within the inner unit muscles and among the inner and outer unit systems." - Paul Chek.

Now, all this said, if you are someone who regularly relies on a weight belt and this article opens up your eyes into entering the world of being Back Strong & Beltless.  Please refer to Part 3 of the article where Paul will talk you through the safe and necessary steps to take in order to wean yourself off the belt.  Your current movement patterns will be reliant on your weight belt and getting rid of the belt all of a sudden will no doubt result in injury.  Wean yourself off slowly and carefully and get your internal weight belt working for you instead!  Just as nature intended!  :-)

All references can be found on Paul Chek's full article.


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To quote Pat Flynn from Chronicles of Strength (love this simple, yet effective way of summing up this whole blog post in 3 small symbols)...

"- = +" :-)

The golden rule in movement:  REGRESS TO PROGRESS!...

For the trainers out there:  please don’t expect your client to “get” movement by handing them a weight they’re not ready for and just expecting them to move correctly by shouting out a few cues to them…it ain’t gonna happen!  

The only thing that happens is they learn bad movement and possibly land up with an injury.  

For the fitness enthusiasts out there: you have to break down movement and work on the weaknesses within a movement pattern in order to progress a movement. Don't just think that practising single leg squats or pistols is going to get you better at doing's only gonna get you injured.  There is a reason why you struggle with certain movements, you need to find that reason and work on it!  Maybe your ankles aren't mobile enough; maybe your hips are unstable; maybe you lack good sequencing in your inner unit (core); maybe you have flexility issues in either certain muscles or joints; maybe fear is holding you back; maybe all of the above! :-o  There are a number of possible, likely reasons but you need to find yours.

Just because your mate did loads of hamstring flexibility and went from finding pistols difficult to being able to achieve them, doesn't mean that's going to work for you.  We're all individuals here and you need to treat yourself as one.  And holding a kettlebell out in front of you is not the answer, yeah, you might feel more stable but maybe, just maybe that is because you have core issues and the kettlebell is forcing your body to react to the weight by engaging your core before you descend, but what happens when you try again without the kettlebell?  

I'd suggest ditching the kettlebell and stepping away from the pistol for a while to work on core sequencing...once you've made progression there, find ways to progress.  I'm just using pistols as an example, this applies to anything in life.  And it takes time, you're not gonna fix things overnight.

So please, think before you cause yourself harm.  If I gave you one Golden Rule of advice it would be CHECK YOUR BREATHING!  This is highly important for any form of stability work.  If your'e unsure, my stability exercise page has a great description of how to check your breathing and how to correct it, I have video links on Youtube to help as well & my facebook page has a link to an awesome interview with Dr Perry Nickleston & Julie Wiebe on the pelvic floor & breathing...Check it out!  Core function begins with breathing!

I repeat:  Regress to progress…Perfection before load…Get assessed if you're unsure...


A great exercise for functionally training your abs and core! Thanks to Stuart McGill for this one!

Want to train your ABS in an efficient, functional way?

As mentioned in the previous Sit-up posts, you all know (unlike most personal trainers), I am no fan of traditional sit-ups. So here is the third of 4 alternatives that will hit your abs hard and give you that burn that you probably desire. As well as increase the function of your core area if done correctly.

No. 3 in our top 4 ab exercises

This is a killer exercise for your abs and core! 
Find a fitball, assume the plank position with a wide stance at the feet to begin with as this will be more manageable at first. Elbows on the ball but aim them to be just underneath the shoulders and about shoulder width apart.
SQUEEZE your gluts, PUSH your elbows into the ball to lift your body away from it. Make sure your butt isn't sticking in the air or lagging towards the ground (think good plank position).

If this is challenging enough then just start with a plank hold and work your way up to achieving 60seconds. Once this is manageable only then attempt the STIR THE POT.

Now you are ready to begin...whilst maintaining as close to zero movement through your torso as possible, gently make small circles with your elbows. Aim for around 6-8reps one way and then repeat the other way. You can then build on the reps as you get stronger or go for time instead. 

This is a great exercise for training your abdominal region to stabilise your pelvis and lower back. If you find your pelvis is rotating with this exercise and you are struggling to control it then maybe go back to the pallof press for a while as it may be a sign that your obliques are not in good working order.

Give it a go and let me know what you think.