Sunday, August 15, 2010

Stirring the pot - core exercise (swiss balls can be used for good as well as evil)

Here's an exercise I've been using a fair amount in the past few months. Like quite a few exercises it seems to have been resurrected after Stuart McGill mentioned it. It appears in one of his articles here and is also covered in his excellent dvd The Ultimate Back Enhancing Performance.

People do a lot of stupid things on swiss balls, granted I see less and less people trying to stand on them, and if I do see someone do that I will palm strike them. And at the other end of the spectrum is a backlash from coaches not using the swiss ball for anything. As usual the truth lies somewhere in the middle, the swiss ball is a good tool for certain exercises, and not so good for others. This exercise falls into the good and useful category.

Some clients can't do ab-wheel roll outs or hand walk outs from a plank position, for them stirring the pot is a great exercise, and in many ways this exercise is superior because it also trains anti-rotation in the lumbar area. As we know from McGill resisting rotation in the core area is something most people need to work on.

Before attempting this exercise make sure you or your client can hold a normal plank, there's no point progressing to this if can't hold a standard plank or keep your back neutral.

How to do it
Adopt a plank position on the swiss ball like in the video below. While bracing the core, and by core I mean glutes as well, start to do a stirring movement with the arms in one direction and then the other. Try to minimise the movement in the core area, try not to let the back sag down or let the hips hitch up. In the video you can see I am better rotating one way then the other, in one direction my hips don't move but in the other you can see them lift.

You can vary the speed of the stirring, you can do a small or big stirring movement, you do do it for a set number of reps on each side or do it for time. I like to do it for time or until I feel myself starting to lose form or my abs burning. Not only is it good for anti-rotation, and a stronger core, it makes your abs look better too!

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