Done. Finito. That’s all folks. As far as I’m concerned, the pile of abmats will from henceforth on (unless convinced by peer reviewed studies and other experts in lower back performance) be used only as mobilization aids for our QL’s (quadratus lumborum – here’s a good video). The situp is dead to me and it should be to you. Why? Dr. Stuart McGill told me.
In all fairness, he didn’t personally tell me, but his message was well received. After being steered in this direction by Steelworks CF Super Friend, Todd Fluck, a little further digging upon a recent evening’s knowledge devouring session resulted in a total mind blow.
‘Stache afficianado and did I mention he will save your back from exploding?
Stuart McGill, professor of kinesiology at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada and perhaps the most renowned expert on the spine and lower back made a convincing case on the avoidance of certain movements that have been improperly used by coaches to strengthen the muscles traditionally associated with the core (abs, lower back). You can read part 1 and part 2 by simply following the links.
I highly recommend you read both articles. They have given me pause with how I program for my athletes and challenge preconceived notions as to the type of strength demanded by the “core” and how to achieve this desired strength. For those of you who don’t feel like reading the two articles above, here’s something that will convince you to never do another situp in training:
“The NIOSH [National Institute of Safety and Health] have sponsored research that surveyed workers, and their data show that when lumbar loads exceed 3400N, the injury rates go up and interventions are recommended. The problem is that these are for average workers. Who’s average?
Now, the sit-up recruits torso and hip muscles that impose compressive load on the spine for the average male of about 3400N. Performing sit-ups uses some training capacity – compression plus repeated bending – to achieve training of the torso and hip flexors. But remember that this combination of load and motion is a potent cause of annulus collagen delamination.”
Too difficult to understand? Situps are bad for your spine. Stop doing them. I will and so will my athletes. Instead focus on movements that strengthen the core without compromising the spine. The above articles are chalk full of possible exercises worth doing, but below you’ll find some videos illustrating more effective ways to achieve the desired core strength and endurance.
1. Stir the Pot – Use a softer body ball and find out just how weak you are in your core.
2. Landmines – When done right, it helps work muscles in the transverse plane of movement (rotational strength), but also protects the spine.
3. Side Planks – This video really looks at strengthening the QL’s. An important component of that strength is the side plank. Other useful drills for strengthening the QL’s are included.
Today was a bit of testing a hunch. We started off with our normal lateral med ball throw and clean and jerk warmup and then transitioned to some front squats. The conditioning workout was my first stab at including isometric strengthening exercises within a metcon. I kept the weight low on the power cleans as I was more concerned with how the athletes would be able to perform the power cleans with solid technique after being fatigued by the planks. First couple sets seemed to be pretty easy, but the athletes seemed to have run into a wall right around the fourth round. I’ll be slowly interspersing this kind of work into our metcons. The results look promising.
Oh yeah, here’s workout 13.1 for the CrossFit Open.
10 Lateral toss with med ball (#20/16) – Each side.
1 Round Clean and Jerk Warmup: Lift off transitions, rack delivery, jerk step throughs, punch and catch progressions.
3 x 5 reps @ 65% of 1RM
*Sets across. 1-2 minutes between sets.
10 Min EMOM.
3 Power Cleans (65% of 1 RM Clean)
Remainder of minute to be held in plank.
*Score is lowest amount of time held in the plank throughout the workout.