Even as someone who was just getting into the industry at the young age of 21, I quickly realized everyone and their brother wants to train their abs, or learn how to get a 6-pack.
Let’s take a little trip down memory lane – and I’ll be sure to share with you all the things I did well, as well as the things I did wrong along the way!
Starting Out as a Strength Coach
Other than the typical “how do I get sick abz” questions, I think the first time I really got interested in core training was in 2000 or 2001. Two things distinctly happened that year:
- I was a research lab assistant and graduate student in biomechanics, and I had to write a paper on “core” training.
- I worked with our women’s volleyball team at Ball State, and virtually every girl I inherited had some degree of back pain.
The paper was interesting, and the only article I clearly remember citing was by some guy named McGill. He was talking about the various ab exercises that were out there, and what kind of loads they put on the spine.
Needless to say, this was eye-opening stuff, especially at the time. I remember clearly thinking:
“You mean those Supermans I’ve been doing to help my squat aren’t good for my back???”
Needless to say, I had a lot to learn – and I’ve continued to learn from Dr. McGill ever since then.
So here I am a graduate student with less than a year’s worth of in-the-trenches experience, and I’m doing my best to help these girls with back pain.
The problem was they had back pain, but they loved training abs.
Let’s be honest here: Most athletes not only enjoy feeling good, but looking good as well. So if you can give them something they enjoy doing (and they feel gives them benefit), they will buy in wholeheartedly to your programs.
These girls had been dumped by the wayside by their previous coach, so I did everything in my power to make them diesel.
We actually squatted heavy in-season, and put on average an inch on their verticals.
We trained their posterior chains hard to keep their knees and backs healthy.
And of course, I threw in a bunch of random core training exercises to keep them happy!
I figured the core training would help them hit the ball harder, decrease their back pain, and hopefully keep them coming back for more. And since I knew the various planes of motion and movement, I figured I could create some serious ab circuits that would train their core in all the various movements.
Looking back, some of these ab circuits were ridiculous. We started off with high-rep “ab circuits” – stuff like this:
- Crunches, 2×25
- Russian Twist, 2×15-20 each
- Superman, 2×20
- Bicycles, 2×50
- Prone Contralateral Arm/Leg Raise, 2×20
Seriously, this was stuff I used to write! Maybe not verbatim, but close.
One of the girls’ favorite in-season ab circuits was a superset:
- Physioball crunches where a partner held their feet and they did loaded crunches/sit-ups with a low cable stack, 3×10, superset with
- Hanging leg raises going through a full range of motion, 3×10.
So needless to say, I had a lot to learn.
I could make the girls sore.
They loved the workouts.
And for the most part, their backs didn’t get worse.
In my estimation, though, I got really lucky.
My First REAL Job
After my time at Ball State, I moved on to a more rehab-focused job at the Athletic Performance Center.
This was a lot different than before – no longer was I working with high-level athletes. Instead, a lot of my work was focused on chiropractic rehab patients, and people in varying degrees of back pain on a daily basis.
I was so far out of my wheelhouse it wasn’t even funny. And I knew if I wanted to be successful, I needed to learn a different set of skills than what I was currently using.
The next 3 years were a whirlwind.
I did a one-day private consult with Craig Liebenson that literally opened my eyes to functional anatomy, assessments, and prehab/rehab training.
I read everything I could get my hands on. Two staple texts were Stuart McGill’s Low Back Disorders and Ultimate Back Fitness Performance books, but literally anything core or low back related was good in my book.
Over those 3 years, I got to work with a ton of different people – from beat-up and beat-down lower backs to some pretty high level athletes. And at the end of the day, I started to realize that all that crunching and movement around the core and lumbar spine probably wasn’t necessary.
And in a worst case scenario, it was probably injurious.
On Tuesday, I’m going to unveil my newest product, Complete Core Fitness. This is over 3-hours of downloadable material, and covers everything you want to know about the core:
- My philosophy and thoughts on core training,
- The pertinent functional anatomy,
- The assessment process I use to determine how well someone’s core is (or isn’t!) working,
- The various phases of core training I take my clients and athletes through, and finally
- How I program and coach the exercises to get maximal benefit.
Needless to say, this is a fantastic product and one I think you’ll benefit greatly from.
So next Tuesday, I’ll expect to see you back here.
Until then, have a great weekend!
All the best
(Photo Courtesy of the Ball State Daily News)