Core strength exercises are important because having a weak back can really weaken your training. And we aren’t just talking about the abs and obliques, we need to consider all the muscles from hips on up to the shoulders. This is especially important for preventing low back pain from our workouts.
The most forgot about muscle lies in the hips. This is the gluteus medius. This muscle lies underneath the bigger glute muscle, the gluteus maximus (the muscle we all know about and are familiar with). The gluteus medius is an incredibly important muscle when it comes to providing the stability we need for a stronger core. We don’t want to shift the brunt of the responsibility up to the lower back which can happen when the glute medius isn’t functioning properly... this can lead to low back pain. The glute medius main role is providing stability to the pelvis… the key here is to stabilize the core from the bottom up.
Everytime we lift our leg up, our pelvis wants to fall to that side because our pelvis doesn’t have that dual support anymore from below. This happens every time you lift your leg. So just think how often throughout the day every time you lift your leg up when you walk or run, you have to be able to keep a stable pelvis and we do that with our glute medius on the opposite side (our grounded leg). So we want to keep our pelvis level even when we lift our leg off the ground. So, when we have a weakness of the glute medius, we start to get the leg dropping, which will lead to a breakdown in the responsibility of the glute medius to provide the necessary stability your body needs.
There are some things we can do that are pretty simple to get the glutes firing properly. We can just start with a body weight exercise version of this where we don’t need a lot of space and don’t need to lift a lot of weight. And these core strength exercises are also good because you can do them multiple times throughout the day.
Position yourself next to something stable such as a wall. You stand on your opposite leg and start to allow yourself to drop in the way it wants to letting your glute medius do the work. You end up with your hip dropping out to the side. Now, the exercise here is to get your pelvis back to level. So, from that drop position, bring your pelvis up to a level position. You should feel all the muscle contraction through the glute medius. You can perform this as a high rep exercise (around 50 reps) in a continuous fashion and you will see even people that are really strong at squatting a lot of weight... end up suffering quickly by about 20 reps because of the dysfunction of the glute medius. Keep working hard through the burn to make it to 50 reps, then do the same on the other side.
We can also make this exercise a little more difficult by using a resistance band.
With the Pallof Press, we are getting some added rotation during the exercise. Not only do we not want the hips to drop, but we also want the glute medius to do the work. You do this by controlling the rotation by pressing out with each repetition. The Pallof Press makes the exercise more functional and athletic to what you’re trying to do.
Do 15 presses straight out in front of you. We then change directions of the force by pressing straight up. As you pull up, the band wants to pull you down. Here we need the support for working in the frontal plane also.
Many people go crazy with their core training doing single leg balance training, dumbbell curls, and stuff like that. Just remember, there is a time and place for everything. Just because you do single leg training doesn’t mean you are working on hip stability. For example, if you do single leg training on a curl while trying to improve your biceps, you are actually doing a really poor job on both sides because you aren’t strengthening your biceps as much as you can because of the compromising instability that is happening below that. And you aren’t doing a really good job working the glute medius muscles like you should be if you aren’t working them like I am showing you here.
If you want to do hip stability (especially if you have a back injury) I highly suggest doing these core strength exercises. Just 5 or 6 minutes a few times a week is all it’s going to take.
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