The easy way or the hard way?

So I was in the gym last week where I saw a guy frantically squatting with a swissball arched to his back, ball pressed to the wall. He had two dumbells in hand, each around 10 kg. He squatted with the ball, and down he went. I was curious. Who told him that loading weights and squatting with his back against a swissball wedged against a wall was a good thing? I asked, ‘where are you feeling the force of the squat?’. The bloke was unsure. He then piped up and said, ‘I’m strengthening my glute muscles’ he said. Right. He wasn’t, of course. He was, in fact, working his quad muscles and very little else. Think about the line of force and centre of mass whilst resting/squatting with a swissball against a wall.

Because he was continuously pushing backward to keep the ball against the wall and trying to keep the dumbells stable, he was putting a hell of amount of force through his knee joints. His gluteals had no way to saying ‘hey, what about me?’ as he managed to isolate them by loading up his quadriceps and putting force through his knee ligaments and tendons instead.

So what’s my point? Think about where you are feeling the exercise. In this situation the guy wanted to target his gluteals but was actually working the wrong muscle group, performing the wrong exercise and was probably half way to injuring himself thanks to excessive loads. Sometimes simpler is better.

Get your squat technique correct and practice squatting with nothing more than your body weight. The main goal of strength-based exercises is to increase the strength in your muscles and the ability to produce as much force as you can whilst ensuring quantity trumps quality.

Allow your muscles to develop as much force as possible through a range of motion, giving you the right foundation required before you decided to ‘load up with weights’.

The strength built can later be transferred to power which is critical in a lot of movements we perform daily and in sport.



What hell is ‘the core’ anyway?


The core. What does it mean? It’s a word that gets bounded about with little meaning or explanation. What are muscles involved? How can they help with performance? Where are the muscles located? How do they work mechanically? The core, or the midsection of your body, entails so much more than getting a sculpted six-pack and looking like an Adonis.

The core – how it helps running performance

Firstly, let’s ditch the word ‘core’ for a moment and replace it with ‘midsection’. After all, your body’s midsection is your adnominal muscles, both deep and superficial, as well as your oblique muscles.

A strong midsection is crucial for power transfer to your arms and legs as it helps maintain proper posture, leading to improved efficiency and for the runners, improved run economy. A strong midsection helps facilitate better performance through your hip flexor muscle group.

However, improving strength through your midsection requires more than copious amounts of sit-ups. A high proportion of people perform sit-ups incorrectly. Think about the angle of your spine, the angle where your ischial tuberosity (the pair of sitting bones) and foot/knee placement of a sit-up. If your spine, feet and knee joints aren’t positioned correctly, chances are all a sit-up will do is build your quad muscles and skip the midsection. Great if you’re after strong quads but not so great if you’re trying to improve power through the mid.

Moreover, while abdominal exercises, like crunches and sit-ups, work the front of your stomach (the rectus abdominis), they only reach a small percentage of muscle groups in your midsection. Go beyond the ‘abs’ and you’ll find that the midsection includes muscles in the lumbar region of your lower back, hips and pelvic region.

How to improve your midsection/core

You can actually tone your midsection while doing everything from running, sitting straight at work or even driving a car – it’s about keeping the area activated.

To improve your core, email me for more.