Technique Tuesday: Ab Rollout

Technique Tuesday: The Ab Rollout

The Ab Rollout is one of those exercises that you’ve likely seen on late night infomercials when you’re up waaay past your bed time.  For 3 easy payments of $19.99, you too can have the abs of your dreams by using this fitness wheel.  The fitness wheel will give you all the ab gainz you could possibly want.

If you’ve read previous articles on core training or the plank, you’ll remember that the role of the core is to resist movement.  You want to maintain spinal stability in a neutral position while moving.  That is one of the great things about the plank.  It’s an isometric anti extension exercise.  The Ab Rollout is at its base level, a plank, but with movement, which will make it significantly more challenging.

In order to perfect the Ab Rollout, there are a few steps that you’ll need to take to get there.

  • Perfect the Plank
  • Avoid Common Mistakes
  • Earn Your Next Progression

Perfect the Plank

The first step in doing an Ab Wheel Rollout is hammering down the technique of your plank.  If you are unable to maintain a plank with a neutral spine, then you must master this technique before graduating to something more challenging.  .

Common Mistakes

There are a few breakdowns of the rollout that we want to avoid in order to get the most out of the exercise.

  • Leading with the Arms
    • Performing the movement by leading with the arms will put the rest of the body in a less than optimal position.  This could be due to strength issue.  A great cue to remember is to think about initiating the exercise from the hips, while keeping the glutes contracted.  Then letting the arms and upper body following.
  • Low Back Arching/Caving
    • This is a result of not enough bracing, or just plain not being strong enough to perform the exercise.  You have two choices.  Brace harder through your abs and glutes, or pick an option that you can perform.  We want to avoid putting the back into a compromised position.
  • Hips Shifting Back
    • This is more of an issue on the return to start.  Rather than pull the wheel back while keeping a neutral spine, there’s a tendency to just shift the hips back up.  This disengages your core and leads to 1/2 an exercise, which could be another sign of some core weakness.

Earn Your Next Progression

Much like you wouldn’t jump from a stationary lifestyle to squatting 200 pounds on your first day of training ( I haven’t seen a couch to 200lb squat program yet) you wouldn’t try a rollout before conquering the basics.  This means we don’t advance until we’re ready.

  1. Physio Ball- In the kneeling position, place the stability ball in front of you. Reaching your arms out at a 45 degree angle, place your hands flat against the ball. Once you have braced your core you can begin extending. Be sure to contract everything, if you keep constant tension through your body it will make the movement as well as maintaining your form through the exercise much easier. Once you have extended as far as you can while keeping that modified plank position, you can start retracting your body to the start position under control.
  2. Glide Disc Negatives- from the same kneeling position, place each of your hands on the glide disks. With a tight, contracted core and glutes, extend your body to that modified plank position. While maintaining that good form, continue moving your hips toward the ground as your arms extend further overhead, until you are completely parallel to the floor. The key is control. Once your form begins to suffer or you have reached the end point of the extension, collapse to the ground, sliding your hands to your sides and push-up off the floor and return to the start position.
  1. Ab Wheel Rollouts- This is it! All your regressions and practice have lead to this exercise. Begin in the same manner, kneeling on the floor grasp either side of the Ab Wheel and begin in that kneeling plank position and once again think about bringing yourself into a plank while the hips and arms extend out to the floor.  Once you have extended out parallel to the floor or as far as you can while maintaining control and proper form, you will engage your lats while keeping your glutes contracted and return to the kneeling plank position.


Are You Strong Enough to Run?

What does strong enough mean?  Or in the case of this title, strong enough to run?  Would deadlifting 200lbs make you strong enough to run?  Maybe, maybe not. When it comes to running and being strong, expressing strength is more a matter of resisting forces put on it, than creating them. although you will create force into the ground to push you forward.

Everybody runs or can run, but not everyone that runs does so efficiently with good form.  Sometimes it looks a little wonky, like Elaine Benes trying to dance or like a calf trying to walk for the first time.  While running is a natural movement (for some), it does require a number of things to work synergistically so as not to get injured.  How often are you thinking of stride length, frequency, how your foot is landing, hip shifts, arm movement, etc when you go for a simple run or jog.  Or maybe its yogging, it might be a soft ‘J.”  Probably never.

Strength has more to do with running than you think, and it doesn’t just stop at the legs.  Think of running as a full body exercise, where all your muscles are coordinated to fire to ensure you absorb the forces appropriately.  And if there is a weak link in the chain, you can bet that your body will find it, and expose it.

Everyone can run, but not everyone SHOULD…..right away.

As a runner you may think that strength training doesn’t necessarily apply to you as running is all you need to either stay or get in shape.  I had that thought once, and it didn’t work out too well for me.  Achy knees and a lot of hip pain from poor mechanics.  Don’t let my mistake be your downfall.  Let’s learn from it.

Mechanics or Phases of Running

Breaking down the mechanics of a stride, it’s a series of single leg exercises, with 2 different phases:

  • Stance- This is where the all your bodyweight is on a single leg and typically where breakdowns occur.  This phase can also be broken down into smaller phases:
    • Initial Contact- Your foot first hits the ground, and as you touch down, the knee and ankle flex a little to absorb the force of the ground, and the foot pronates or turns in slightly.  This can create the first break down if we don’t have a requisite amount of strength or motor control.
    • Midstance-  Once the foot and leg are underneath the hip, you enter what is the midstance phase.  This is where all your weight is on the one leg.  Again, there is potential for injury here.  An over pronation at the foot can cause a chain reaction up the leg into the knee and hip.  Hip stability is also vital here as you need to be able to load the base leg in order to set yourself up for the propulsion phase.  It’s a basic load and explode situation.  Your muscles, tendons, and fascia are all storing up elastic energy from the previous phase, waiting to use it.  Lacking necessary joint stability and strength will hinder your stride, and really, your ability to run efficiently.
    • Propulsion- The final stage where the foot starts to come off the ground, starting with the heel.  This is where you will use all that stored/absorbed energy and push off to get into the next phase.  The ankle, knee, and hip all go through extension in order to achieve this.  Additionally, your foot/ankle should supinate, however this doesn’t always occur due to poor mechanics or poor shoes.  Either way, this is another instance in which we need to corrections during running.
  • Swing- From the moment your foot loses contact with the ground, till the moment it touches down again is the swing.  In this phase, your body needs to prep the leg and foot for that initial contact phase again.

There is a third phase where both feet are simultaneously off the ground, and if you freeze frame a runner, they appear to be floating or hovering off the ground.

So as you can note above, each phase of running comes with the potential for injury if the right mechanics aren’t in place.  This means a combination of strength, stability and mobility.  Thankfully we can incorporate strength training that focuses on those three aspects, and we can likely avoid injury or any aches and pains.  Then we can get back to doing what we love, which is running.

The Training

Putting together a strength program for a runner is a little tricky as you want to build as much strength as you need to avoid injury and resist the forces of running, but without putting on weight that may potentially slow you down.

Single Leg Exercises–  Being that running is largely a single leg exercise repeated over and over again, it’s important to include these into your program.  That doesn’t mean eliminating bilateral exercises like squats and deadlifts, as those will set a large strength base.  It just means adding in more single leg variations to maintain or improve hip stability.

Examples:

  • Lunges
  • Single Leg Deadlift
  • Step-up
  • Split Squats

Core Strength & Stability– Everyone uses these terms, but no one really knows what they mean.  In terms of running, the core needs to be strong and stable in order for the body to transfer forces from the lower body to the upper body, otherwise we just look like one of those wacky inflatable tube guys outside car dealerships.  And no one wants to look like that when they run.  Nor do we want to have any injuries or pain when we’re running.  If we lack the necessary core stability, meaning the control of the movement of the hips, it could result in hanging out on passive structures instead.  Have you ever gone for a run and your back was killing you halfway in or when you finished?  Yea that’s one, poor mechanics, but also lack of muscular strength and the ability to stabilize the hips.

Examples:

  • Anti-Extension – Plank
  • Anti Lateral Flexion – Side Plank
  • Bird/Dog
  • Anti Rotation – Pallof Press
  • Chops

Hip Extension Activation & Strength– The main mover for hip extension should be the glutes, however many end up predominantly using their hamstrings.  Hamstring injuries occur in part because they aren’t strong enough to control the eccentric contraction of the muscle, meaning a contraction as the muscle lengthens.  But also because the hamstrings compensate for a lack of glute strength.  It’s vital to the health of your hamstrings to get your glutes strong.  Then you can focus on strengthening the hamstrings via eccentric exercises.

 

Running is a simple way to exercise and probably one of the most accessible to those of all levels, from beginner to advanced.  Now that the weather is getting nice, more and more people will be out there running.  Just because you can run, doesn’t mean you have to run or should.  Take account of your strength and stability, but also look at your own mechanics to see if running is for you.  Then you can move on to what could be the most important, whether or not you actually enjoy running.


Core Exercises You Should Add

 

When you think core exercises, you might think this image here:

Image used under license from Freestock.com

<a href=”http://www.freestock.com/photos/man-at-the-gym-doing-abs-9791299″>Image used under license from Freestock.com</a>

Or it might be the person on a mat somewhere in a gym in Anytown, USA doing endless amounts of crunches in all sorts of various positions.  How many ways can you do a crunch? The world may never know.  The hope is that by doing those crunches you’ll achieve that aesthetic “6 pack” look.  But that’s largely dependent on low body fat, which is an entirely different post.  What we’re really looking to do is train our core to resist movement and to provide stability.  In other words, they’re meant to resist forces acting on your body.

There is a lot of research, mostly done by Dr. Stuart McGill, on spinal biomechanics for flexion exercises and how much compressive force there is on the spine.  Most of the exercises listed below are going to look like they don’t do much, but they will have a tremendous impact.  These fall under the categories of anti-extension, anti-lateral flexion and anti-rotation.  Additionally there are drills like get-ups, crawls, carries and breathing that play an important role in core training.

Speaking of the core, have you ever seen that movie, The Core?  It’s freakin epic, who knew the middle of the earth was a giant geode?  Go watch it…seriously go now.

Basic Anatomy of the Abs

Think of your abdominal muscles like a cylinder or a box.  You have your front (rectus “the six pack”), your sides (obliques), the back (multifidus/erectors), top (diaphragm) & bottom (pelvic floor, which is severely underrated).

When training the abs, we stick to flexion exercises like crunches and sit-ups because that’s what we know.  However, that only trains one aspect or one muscle of the abdominals, rectus abdominus.  There are other muscles that need to be engaged as well.  We need to start thinking of training our abdominals as a unit if we want to strengthen all of our movement patterns and actions while exercising, as well as in everyday life.

Unfortunately, the importance of such training is severely underrated in a typical gym setting.  How often do you see people  If we think about how power and force runs through our bodies, the wave of contraction in all exercises and movements runs from our center, out to our extremities. So let’s take a look at some essential methods to train our abdominals as a whole that everyone can benefit from by adding to their routine.

Anti Extension

  • Rollouts- Can be done with a number of tools like the TRX, glide discs, or an ab wheel (yes those actually do serve a purpose). A great variation or regression to this exercise is performing slow negative rollouts where you resist the movement all the way to the floor.  This can increase your core strength and stability through a full range of motion till you are able to do a full rollout.   Make sure you’re engaging your abs and your glutes.  This will ensure your spine stays in neutral.

  • Dead-bug with Banded Resistance- The classic dead-bug exercise is great for creating anti-extension strength. Adding a band in, to fight extension of the arms will put a lot more demand on the abs, especially as you extend one leg.  One important tip is to make sure your low back keeps contact with the ground as you extend the leg.

 

Anti Rotation

  • Chops- Chops can be performed in multiple directions with different effects on how your abs will work. At AMP we have a wide array of tools in order to do chops, from ViPRs, to bands, to medicine balls.  The main two involve a downward chop and an upward chop.  In addition, you can perform these in a number of positions, including a standing position, to tall kneeling, to half kneeling.   In this variation demonstrated, we’ll start in a split stance while chopping from high to low with a ViPR.  The important thing to remember is you are trying to resist movement, not create it.
Chops and Lifts
  • Horizontal Pallof Presses- Just like the chops, these can be from different static starting positions. You can progress these static exercises to more dynamic ones by adding in movement patterns, but for now let’s stick with holds.  In this variation, the starting position is a half kneeling position with a band press out.  These were even a topic of a Technique Tuesday video that you can check out here.

Anti Lateral Flexion

  • Side Plank- The most basic form of an anti lateral flexion exercise, it will definitely challenge you.  Make sure you are lined up correctly, with the feet, hips and shoulders all in alignment.  Too many people stick their butt out and lose out on all the gainz possible.
_DSC1695
  • Vertical Pallof Press- Just as with the horizontal Pallof press, these can be performed with various starting positions. In the exercise shown, we’re going to be in a tall kneeling position, while pressing a band overhead.

Miscellaneous

  • Breathing- This is usually one of the first drills I teach to my pre-natal clients, but works well for just about any client. It has tremendous carry over to other exercises, namely the Banded Pullovers mentioned earlier.  This is an underrated and often overlooked exercise that can make your abdominals stronger.
  • Crawling- When was the last time you crawled around on the ground? This last exercise may not look like much, but requires stability throughout your entire body, especially your abs to perform.  Integrate your entire abdominals with these slow beast crawls.
  • Loaded Carries– There are numerous ways in which to carry heavy things around.  From Farmers Carries, to Offset carries, to Overhead Carries.  You can basically do anything you want here as long as you have the right technique.

 

Takeaway

Next time you hit the gym, avoid the line for the ab machine, steer clear of the crunch marathon going on in the corner, and use some of these killer exercises.

Remember this: An exercise doesn’t need to look intense in order to have an intense change on your body.

Simple movement, or in this case, the resisting of movement, can be a great challenge for your body and give you the change you’ve been looking for in strength and aesthetics.

The core serves a purpose, stabilizing the pelvis & spine.  If they can’t do what their intended purpose is, your body and your performance will suffer.  Don’t have abs that are “all show and no go.” Make sure they can function as well.

And remember, no matter how much abdominal training you do, you’ll never see them till you get your nutrition in check.


Eliminate Low Back Pain

Eliminate low back pain by becoming a better mover and making your entire body stronger.  We have become a society of weak, poor movers and it has led to many people having various injuries, none more notable than back injuries and back pain.  Back pain is debilitating and can sideline the best of us, but the best thing you can do to help that is to move, move more, and become a better, stronger mover.

At some point in your life you are going to experience low back pain.  It’s surefire statistics, that at some point you’ll have a nagging ache or pain in your low back.  Sometimes it happens to be because we lifted something the wrong way or pushed a  little too hard on a certain exercise.  Other times it could be because we have something actually going on in our back.  Or it could be for no reason whatsoever.

Back pain or really any soreness & tension in the back draws the same reaction from just about anyone.  That they need to rest it before they “throw it out” or they should avoid such and such an exercise.  Basically because back pain can suck so much, people get scared at the slightest hint of anything going on in the back.  THis often leads us to make sure we inform our clients that they may experience some back soreness after their first time deadlifting, or doing some of the exercises listed below.

Commonly the go to is core stability or core strength, and while I would agree that it is an important aspect to preventing back pain, the other route to take is actually making the muscles of your back stronger, and resistant to fatigue.  If you’re standing right now, your erectors (the muscles that run the length of your back on either side of the spine) & your quadratus lumborum (deep back muscles) are working.  Now stand there for hours on end.  Those muscles are going to fatigue, and no doubt pain may set in.  In fact, people with poor muscular endurance in their low back muscles are more likely to develop an issue.  What do you have to do to not only strengthen your back muscles but also increase the muscular endurance?

A big part of that, like mentioned previously, is because our core muscles are weak and can’t handle certain stressors.  Another part of that is that our back muscles lack the muscular endurance.  When that happens, there ends up being a breakdown and we experience pain.

One of the reasons many people, especially those coming off back injury fear lifts such as the deadlift is that they think they are going to do damage to their lower back, when in reality a strong deadlift done with proper form will strengthen your back within a neutral spine.  What this means is that the muscles surrounding your lower back, specifically the erectors get stronger and can handle more stress.  So doing something stupid or lifting something incorrectly won’t be as much of a problem for you as it was before.

Outside of strengthening our core muscles through various exercises like deadbugs and planks, there are other exercises specifically geared towards making our back muscles strong and more durable.

The Exercises:

Sorenson “Plank” (in GHR) – This exercise is commonly used as a test for muscular endurance for the low back muscles.  In fact, there is a big discrepancy in holding times between those that have low back pain and those that don’t have pain.  This seems to suggest, as I mentioned before that muscular endurance is an important aspect to avoiding low back pain. _dsc1725

Back Extensions (in GHR) – Similar to the positioning for the Sorenson Plank, you are going to go through a particular range of motion.  It is important to note that you do not want to hyperextend the back at the top of the movement, but just come to parallel.  Another tip is to make sure you are squeezing your glutes in both this exercise and the one above. Almost think of how you finish a deadlift or a kettlebell swing.  It’s more about the hip extension than the back.

Good Mornings– Typically done with a barbell, you can also use a band as in the linked video to accomplish the same effect, however with a variable resistance.  Not only is this a great exercise to strengthen your erectors, it will also strengthen your hamstrings and glutes. So bonus for you!

Bird Dog- What looks like an easy exercise can be hard to control if you don’t have the necessary core strength.

Side Plank- You may be thinking that this has nothing to do with the lower back, but a side plank activates and strengthens that tiny muscle called quadratus lumborum we mentioned before (QL).  What it controls among a lot of things is lateral flexion of the spine and weakness here can cause you to lean one way or another.  Additionally it has a big part in walking mechanics and it’s important to have plenty of strength endurance in both QL’s.  Try side planks and maintain them for at least 20-30 seconds.  What is important to note is that your body should be in a straight line through activation of the glutes.  Imagine you are standing in a straight line, and then maintain that in a side position.

_dsc1695

 

Takeaway

What shouldn’t you do?  Well when you feel back tightness, the usual go to is stretching you lower back for relief.  Right? And it can feel really good.  Almost instant relief, but that feeling is only temporary.  Those muscles are meant to maintain stability and if you just stretch them, you’re trying to bring length to an area that just wants to maintain rigidity.  What ends up happening is a reflex in which the muscles get defensive and tighten up more so.  What you can do is work on some SMR techniques using a lacrosse ball, or see a licensed massage therapist for some sports/medical massage.

 

 


Loaded Carries

loaded-carry

Carry Yourself To Real Core Strength

Loaded Carries are about as basic of an exercise as you’re going to get. In fact, they should be a staple of your program along with the other fundamental movements of push, pull, squat, and hip hinge that can be loaded heavy and trained hard, all while enhancing full body resiliency against injuries in the process. Whether the goal is to get stronger, build muscle, rehab an injury, or build work capacity, loaded carries are the way to go. It’s why they are a staple of Dr. John’s FHT Program.

Loaded carries, no matter what variation you choose, challenges the core more than any crunch or direct core training exercise ever could, but also provides a test for grip strength and full body stability. As if that isn’t enough to start carrying some heavy weights, as an added bonus, for many of these variations, shoulder stability is challenged, creating more ideal shoulder positions to train from, and hence optimized shoulder health.

If you want to build strength, improve your metabolic capacity and bulletproof your shoulders and back against potential injuries, loaded carries need to be a staple in your programing.

Full Article posted on DrJohnRusin.com