Tag Archives: core strength

Build Strength with the Farmer’s Walk

26 Dec

Farmer’s Walk

Most of us are fairly traditional when it comes to working out at the gym.  We don’t stray far from exercises like the bench press and squat (nothing wrong with that… they’re beneficial exercises).  And, of course, if you’re a guy you spend way too much time working on your arms.

The farmer’s walk is a weighted carry exercise that’s terrific for building functional strength.  This exercise will not only challenge your core, it will also strengthen it, making you stronger in everything you do.

At our facility, our athletes also perform other variations of weighted carry exercises, including:

  • Suitcase Carry (same as farmer’s walk, carrying weight on one side instead of both)
  • Overhead Carry (hold weight overhead with both arms)
  • Waiter’s Walk (same as Overhead Carry, using one arm instead of both)
  • Weight cradled in arms against chest
  • Weight carried at shoulders with elbows tucked and facing down, and palms facing each other

Here’s How to Do the Farmer’s Walk

Grab a pair of dumbbells (you can also use kettlebells or weight plates), each weighing about a half your body weight (1/3 for females), and let them hang at your sides.  If you have to, you can use lighter weights.  Try to maintain perfect posture — head and chest up, shoulders back, core tight.  Walk 60 feet with perfect form.


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Strengthen Your Glutes to Avoid Injury

25 Nov

brewkendall_fullsize_story2[2]Here’s one for the baseball and softball players, quarterbacks, and shot put and discus throwers (and any other “throwing” athletes).  According to researchers at Auburn University, stronger glute muscles may help you ward off throwing injuries.

Athletes activate their glutes when throwing, stabilizing their core and reducing their risk of shoulder injury.  When you generate power from your lower-body, you reduce stress on the small, injury-prone muscles of the shoulder.

Ironically, these findings aren’t necessarily new.  There have been several studies showing that throwing and “hitting” athletes (baseball and softball players, hockey and lacrosse players, etc.) who are capable of generating large amounts of lower-body force can reduce the stress caused by upper-body rotational torque.

Strengthening your glutes has broad application, and can benefit athletes in everything from running and jumping to throwing to lifting.  Try exercises like deadlifts, hip extensions, and lunges.

Please see related articles:

Strengthen Your Glutes With Hip Raises

Strengthen Your Hips and Glutes with the Mini-Band Lateral Shuffle


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The Deadlift Exercise: Straight Bar vs. Hexagonal Bar

8 Jun
Straight Bar Deadlift

Straight Bar Deadlift

Hex Bar Deadlift

Hex Bar Deadlift

The deadlift exercise is commonly performed to develop strength and power, and to train the lower-body and core.  It is widely used by athletes of many sports to enhance power and strength.

The deadlift exercise is particularly useful because it is a multi-joint exercise that activates several large muscle groups – including the legs, hips, back, and torso – and involves the lifting of heavy loads.  This elicits a larger stimulus to which the body must adapt, making it ideal for enhancing muscular strength and power.

Traditionalist and “hard-core” lifters would argue in favor of the straight barbell deadlift but, at our facility, we favor the hexagonal barbell.

We work with a diverse variety of athletes, ranging from professional athletes to young, scholastic athletes, and we’ve found that using the hexagonal bar for the deadlift exercise simply makes more ergonomic sense.

The athletes’ ability to grip the hexagonal barbell at their sides – as opposed to in front of them, with a straight barbell – leads to a safer movement pattern/range of motion (less inclination to lean forward and over-activate the lower back, keeping the emphasis of the exercise on the hips and legs), and the ability to lift more weight safely.

A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared muscle activation and power characteristics while performing the deadlift exercise with straight and hexagonal barbells.  In the study, researchers corroborate and confirm the benefits of the hexagonal bar deadlift, stating that “… the hexagonal barbell may be more effective at developing maximal force, power, and velocity.” (Camara, K., et.al.)


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Work Your Core, Not Just Your Abs

25 Apr

theplankmain[1]When most people hear “core,” they think “abs.”  Actually, your core includes the muscles of your torso — shoulders through hips (deltoids, abdominals, gluteals, and lumbar spine).  These muscles initiate, generate, and resist movement (running, jumping, hitting, and throwing), strength, and power.  If you’re not strong through your core, it won’t matter how strong the muscles of your arms and legs are, because you just can’t compensate for a weak core.

Exercises that integrate your entire core elicit greater muscle activation than exercises that isolate the abs.  There are lots of exercises that target the muscles of the core, but not all core exercises elicit significant activation in a way that enhances functional gains and peak performance.

Benefits of exercises that active your core musculature include:

  • maximize strength
  • improve endurance
  • enhance stability
  • reduce injury
  • maintain mobility

Here are some core exercises that will help you maximize strength,improve muscular endurance, and reduce injury:

  • Plank (4-point, 3-point, 2-point)
  • Hanging Leg Raise
  • Medicine Ball Toe Touch
  • Swiss Ball Leg Raise

Rotational exercises, like the one’s listed below, help to strengthen the core through all 3 planes of motion:

  • Russian Twist
  • Lateral Medicine Ball Slams and Throws
  • Kettlebell Woodchopper and Corkscrew

Anti-Rotational exercises — those for which you move your arms and shoulders laterally but do not rotate your hips (for example, the Russian Twist – Bench Holding Stability Ball) — are still another way to effectively strengthen your core.


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Youth Pitchers Need Pitch Counts

4 Mar

pitcher in controlWith baseball season upon us, young athletes everywhere are — and have been — preparing for the upcoming season.

Unfortunately, overuse injury in youth baseball players has become a major concern.

According to a Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study, injuries throughout the baseball season (shoulder and/or elbow pain) are on the rise in young athletes, and surgery rates continue to increase.

“With the increase of injury in youth baseball, there has been more focus on the causes of the overuse injury.  Of the proposed causes of overuse injury, fatigue or lack of adequate rest has been hypothesized as major precursors.” (Oliver, G. et.al.)

Fatigue leads to altered mechanics of the trunk, arm, and knee; and significantly diminishes shoulder flexion and internal rotation strength.

Young arms need limits.  Pitchers (and other players) should not throw to the point of fatigue.  Pitch counts should be implemented and monitored for practices, games (including simulated games), bullpen sessions, and scrimmages.

According to Dr. David Geier, orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist, youth pitchers should avoid the following risk factors:

  • Pitching for multiple teams with overlapping seasons
  • Pitching on consecutive days
  • Pitching in multiple games in one day
  • Pitching with arm fatigue or arm pain
  • Pitching in showcase events
  • Pitching throughout the year

Dr. Geier also stresses the importance of working with a knowledgeable, experienced trainer to improve core (shoulders through hips), shoulder, and upper-body strength and stability.


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The Best Core Exercise You’re Not Doing

18 Dec

DSCN0353DSCN0354The Plate Press is a terrific core exercise that’s cleverly disguised as an upper-body, horizontal-push exercise.  Once you try it, though, you’ll realize how core-intensive it really is.

To perform the plate press exercise, you’ll need a decline bench and a weight plate.  Here’s how to do it:

  • Sit upright on a decline bench, holding a weight plate against your chest.
  • Make sure your legs are securely “locked” around the bench’s padded supports.
  • Lie back until your torso is horizontal (parallel with the ground).
  • Do not let your shoulders or back touch the bench.
  • With a slow, even pace, push the weight plate away from your chest (like a bench press).
  • Repeat for desired number of repetitions.

Initially, try 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions each.  Start with a light weight plate — 10 lbs. — until you get the hang of the exercise, then challenge yourself by gradually increasing the weight.


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Improve Strength, Stability with Unstable Loads

18 Nov

synrings6[1]The next time you perform the barbell squat exercise, try it with an unstable load — weights suspended from the bar by elastic bands or SYN Rings — instead of loading plates directly on the bar.

This exercise is more challenging than you think — you’ll want to cut your usual squat weight by about 50%, to start.

Squatting with an unstable load will increase activation of the stabilizing (core and lower body) musculature, and produce significant ground reaction force (GRF) — important for tasks such as sprinting and jumping.

You can perform other exercises with an unstable load, most notably the barbell bench press, which will engage the stabilizing muscles of your torso, in addition to your upper core.


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Improve Strength, Stability with Offset Training

9 Nov

IMG_3660[1]Offset training — loading one side of your body — makes lower-body exercises like the lunge and split squat more challenging.

When performing offset lunges, holding the weight in the hand opposite your working leg engages your glutes more; while holding it in the other hand emphasizes your quads.

Offset training can also be a useful upper-body training strategy.  For example, performing a dumbbell bench press while holding dumbbells of different weights in each hand.

At its simplest, offset loading is using a higher load on one side of the body. This can be accomplished by holding a heavier weight in one hand compared to the other, holding weight only on one side of the body, or loading a bar more on one side. The greater the difference in resistance from one side to the other, the greater the offset and the greater the demands on stability.

For example, if you’re doing farmer’s walks with an 80-pound load in one hand and a 60-pound load in the other, you’ll have a 20-pound offset, with a total load of 140 pounds. Now if you’re to use a 100-pound load in one hand and a 40-pound load in the other you’ll have a 60-pound offset, but still a total load of 140 pounds.

The greater offset will demand more core stability and strength to maintain a neutral spine while still using the same overall load. Being able to use the same load with a higher demand on core function is another benefit of offset loads, and another reason offset loading will help you break through strength plateaus.


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Strengthen Your Core and Legs to Throw Harder

31 Aug

It may seem counter-intuitive, but ball speed relies on lower-body power, according to an Ohio State study.

There’s nothing new about this information, and the rationale is pretty simple:  Pitchers who throw hardest put more force into the ground.

“A strong, stable core helps transfer energy through your hips and up your trunk to your arm,” says lead study author, Mike McNally, CSCS.

Lower-body exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges, glute-ham raises, and Romanian Deadlifts are great for strengthening your hips and legs; while plyometric training can add explosive power.

A recent Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research article also supports medicine ball training — throws and slams — as another effective way to improve throwing velocity.

Since medicine ball throws and slams, performed properly, require considerable core and lower-body engagement and activation, these exercises are an ideal complement for athletes wanting to improve throwing velocity.


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Core Strength and Stability is the Key

15 Jun

bosu-ball-exercise-ball-elevated-push-up_-_step_2.max.v1[1]If you’re an athlete training to improve your performance, developing a strong, stable core — shoulders through hips, and not just abs — should be a priority.

Since every athlete’s strength and power are generated from the core musculature, movement-based, multi-joint exercises — including rotational and anti-rotational exercises — are important components of a well-designed strength and conditioning plan.

Here’s an article from EXOS titled, Why a Strong Pillar is Critical for Soccer, that discussed and simplifies the benefits of a strong, stable core, including:

  • Balance and stability
  • More effective and efficient movement
  • More muscular endurance/less muscular fatigue
  • Injury risk reduction

Although the article addresses soccer, the principles apply to all athletes and sports.


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