Why You Should Stop Focusing on Core Exercises – Part I

Hi – welcome to this edition of Integrative Movement Insider™ (IMI). Jenice and I hope this edition of IMI finds you well.

If you work with the general population like we do, then you undoubtedly work with a number of folks that have musculoskeletal issues that affect their ability to perform their daily activities with ease and without chronic tightness and/or discomfort.

Did you know that many of these issues are directly related to their non-optimal core stabilization strategy?

These non-optimal core stabilization strategies often manifest as:

  • Low-back tightness or discomfort
  • Mid-back and neck tension
  • Inefficient and uncoordinated movement

You see, when individuals have a non-optimal core stabilization strategy, they will often present with these common issues that causes them to visit their chiropractic physician, physical therapist, and/or massage therapist.

Did you know that the core exercises many of your clients are doing – the very ones that the majority of us learned – could be contributing to and/or perpetuating these types of issues?

I’ll share a quick client story with you before I send you off to this week’s IMI video to explain how.

In the early 2000’s, I was working with Sarah, a 33-year old client who was referred to me by her physical therapist to progress her to functional activity after her ACL surgery.

At the time, core training was all the rage and much of the pre and post-surgical ACL rehabilitation research was looking at the link between the core and ACL injuries.

So I did what any good health and fitness professional would do…I got to work on ‘strengthening’ Sarah’s core.

Initially, things seemed to be progressing well – Sarah was enjoying our workouts, she was progressively able to chop and rotate with greater loads, hold a longer plank position, and was feeling in her words, ‘much stronger.’

However, a funny/not-so-funny thing began to happen.

About 6 months after beginning the program, she started complaining about being tighter in her mid-back and neck. Another thing she mentioned is that while she would occasionally use an inhaler for her asthma, she reported she had to use it more frequently.

And she began having a reoccurrence of lower back pain that she hadn’t experienced in years.

Unfortunately, at the time I didn’t know what I didn’t know. However I remember thinking it was odd that the more Sarah was training and the ‘stronger’ she was getting, the more symptoms she started experiencing.

Sarah was one of the first clients that really started me thinking about the effects my rehabilitation and training programs were having upon the individuals I was working with.

I started studying a lot of the research around developing the core and more particular, the muscles of the deep stabilization system. And then Jenice and I went to work using this information on our clients and ourselves.

Working with Sarah and putting her through a variety of different types of core stabilization/strengthening programs – thank goodness she was really sweet and patient with me – we eventually figured out a strategy for helping her develop a better core stabilization strategy.

This process ultimately put us on a path to discovering the system we currently use with our clients, our patients, as well as the professional athletes we work with.

Today, the core training strategy we use with our clients looks much, much different than it did in the early 2000’s however, what doesn’t look different is the exercises we use.

As a result, over the years we’ve been increasingly more successful with helping individuals:

  • Gain greater range of motion and flexibility without stretching
  • Decrease long term stiffness and discomfort
  • Improve function and ability to do the things they need, want, and love to do

In this 3-part series, I will be covering the one key to helping your clients develop a more optimal functioning core. That key is:

Help your clients develop a more optimal low-level core stabilization strategy and integrate this strategy into their higher-level patterns.

What is helping your clients develop an optimal low-level core stabilization strategy all about?

I’ll explain it in the video.

While I used to think it was all about the core exercises one was doing or not doing, I now know it is much more about the strategy they are using than the exercises themselves.

Watch for Part 2 of this series coming to you soon.