800 Pound Abs?

Last week, I actually gave my Complete Core Fitness presentation not once but TWICE!

I’ve lost count but I know I’ve given that presentation “live” at least a dozen times this year; and that doesn’t even count all the rehearsals!

Upon completing one of the presentations, Jason Nunn (a professional level strongman) had a fantastic question that I thought I’d follow-up on here.

Here’s his question, in a nut-shell:

“I’m a strongman and a lot of these guys are walking around with an anterior pelvic tilt. Is this something that you’d try to correct? And are there any performance benefits to having that?”

This falls right in line with my post from last Monday – in this case, do we really want 100% symmetry?

I’m going to lean on my experience working with the guys over at Elite first – we’ll discuss strength athletes, and then expand outward and see how this same principle applies to other athletes like sprinters or baseball pitchers.

And if you need a quick primer on what anterior pelvic tilt is, why it could be problematic, etc., be sure to read this article first:

Hips Don’t Lie – Fixing Your Force Couples

When it comes to brutally strong guys, you’ll have a natural tendency to see some degree of anterior pelvic tilt. This is probably due to a combination of factors:

  • Programming that, over the long haul, has been skewed more towards the anterior versus posterior chain.
  • Programming that puts more of an emphasis on lower back versus anterior core strength.
  • A ridiculous amount of connective tissue that is going to limit mobility to a degree (higher squatting = more quads).
  • Our natural environment which has us sitting more and more every day, which leads to a progressive shortening of the hip flexors.

I’m sure there are more factors, but those are the biggies.

So there’s really two questions here:

  1. Should we fix the problem? And
  2. If we do, how do we fix the problem?

Let’s examine both.

Should we fix an anterior pelvic tilt in strength athletes?

In general, I would say that most of these guys need some degree of “corrective” work to improve their posture and alignment. If you’re walking around with a ridiculous amount of anterior pelvic tilt/lumbar extension, it’s only a matter of time before you injure your lower back, pull a hammie or adductor, or develop some sort of overuse knee condition.

How much is too much? I wish I could give you a broad, sweeping answer, but I can’t.

The bottom line is I know it when I see it!

What I tried to relay to Jason was that my goal isn’t to get them to look like the perfect anatomical model for Kendall’s next posture book. In fact, I’m just not sure it can happen.

What we do want to do is get them back a little bit closer to neutral. Not only does this reduce the likelihood of injury to all the above-mentioned areas, but it also allows them to start accessing their posterior chain to a higher degree.

And as we all know, more posterior chain equals bigger squats, bigger deadlifts, faster sprints, etc.

Again, the goal isn’t so much to give them “perfect” posture, but to get them to a point where they can control and manage things a bit better, stay healthy, and improve performance along the way.

Do we need 800 pound abs???

Now, the question becomes, how do we do that?

It’s a great question. Remember, if someone is already skewed heavily in one direction (i.e. anterior tilt), you’re going to need a focal effort to bring them back to the midline.

The easiest solution for the lower-half is to perform a lot more posterior chain work relative to anterior chain work. I would say the bulk of their training in the short term should rely on deadlift variations, good mornings, glute-hams, and possibly even some split-squats performed in the 90/90 style to recruit glutes/obliques but also relax the hip flexors.

But here’s the real kick in the ass you’ve been waiting for.

Jason has an 800+ pound pull, which is ridiculous. So basically, the guy has an 800 pound set of spinal erectors.

How do we balance that out? Don’t make it harder than it needs to be!

Quite simply, you need an 800 pound set of abs!

I said it would be simple – I never said it would be easy. 🙂

This is one of the primary reasons you need a progressive approach to your core training. A guy like Jason simply isn’t going to get by with front plank, side plank, and birddog variations.

He’s going to need to work hard on his anti-extension and hip flexion with neutral spine isolative core exercises.

Furthermore, he’s going to need to perform a ton of big-bang exercises that anteriorly load the body – slosh pipe walks, front squats, and the like will all help him get to where he needs to be.

This is a big reason why I created my Complete Core Fitness webinar series – to show you exactly how to progress through the different phases and get your core training on par with the rest of your body.

Two More Examples

This post is already getting a bit long-winded, but here are two more examples.

High-level sprinters have varying degrees of anterior pelvic tilt. Should we take that away?

The better question, at least in my experience, is this: Are they getting injured?

If they pull their hamstring every single time they run, then yes, I’d probably work to reduce to the tilt to a degree. We combine that with soft-tissue therapy, eccentric hamstring work (and specific work for the knee flexion function of the hammies), and you’re off to a great start.

The same things goes with a baseball pitcher. Eric Cressey is working with some of the best young pitchers in the world today. Do you think he’s trying to take away their external rotation capacity in their throwing arm?

Not a chance.

At the end of the day, the goal is to manage asymmetries – to keep them in check.

The last thing we want to do is take away the gifts these athletes have been blessed with.

Instead, focus on control and managing asymmetries to a degree so you can keep your clients or athletes healthy.

All the best

MR

2 Comments

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  1. Very smart ideas.

    If we have a problem, like some kind of pain, etc., then we need to work on it. That is the obvious, the easy to see. When there is no pain then we must shift our focus to what the other side of the problem/awesome continuum and ask what would make us more awesome. If corrective work is a benefit it shows up with improved performance.

    Now make me a time machine and send me back with this message.

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