Dr. Mike Prebeg regularly heals my clients. He always stays ahead of the curve. I know when I send clients to him to get fixed up (not because of me hurting them but due to pre-existing issues) they get the best treatment available. We are also on the same page in terms of what core training is and what people are generally doing wrong to improve core stability.
Dr. Prebeg is a chiropractor who specializes in the treatment of sports injuries. Through the combination of ART and Contemporary Medical Acupuncture, and joint manipulation he has helped athletes of all levels with injury recovery and in performance enhancement.
Dr. Prebeg practices as a consultant with Athlete’s Care Clinics located in the greater Toronto region. Dr. Prebeg is currently a consultant with many Olympic and professional athletes (MLB, NHL, NFL, CFL).
He has covered the World Track and Field Championships in Edmonton 2001, and Paris 2003, Goodwill Games 2001, World Cup of Track and Field 2002, US National Championships outdoor and indoor 2002, 2003, NCAA Track and Field Championships 2003, and the World Basketball Championships. He's a certified Chiropractic Sports Physician and a consulting Chiropractor for the Toronto Blue Jays and an instructor at McMaster University Contemporary Acupuncture Program.
Here's what he had to say when I sourced him as an expert for an upcoming column for iVillage Canada titled "Crunch Free Core Training Workout". Stay posted on when that will be up on the site within the next month or so.
Everyone wants immediate results these days, something tangible, visible, measurable. I understand. So do I. Problem with your true core muscles is that you cannot see them. The original term for core muscles was the spinal stabilizers. Then it became this fad and now everyone thinks of core muscles as the muscles around the mid section of the body. i.e recutus abdominus. Spinal stabilizers are the transverus abdominus, oblique interior and exterior, the multifidi, rotators and then the diaphragm and pelvic floor.
As you noted earlier, the listed muscles aren't the ones you can see. Thus, training these muscles can feel very unrewarding other than improved quality of life or sports performance. For example, core stability exercises were the only exercises to be shown to have a translation into sport performance in one study, better than any strengthening exercises.
The truth about crunches is that they are actually bad for the spine. Dr. Stuart McGill, a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, performed a study that showed crunches increase compression of the spine, therefore increasing the chance of disc injury/pathology. Crunches only focus on building strength in the rectus abdominus. An over dominant rectus abdominus will cause spinal compression and cause multifidi inhibition which is the exact opposite of what you are trying to achieve when your goal is to decrease back pain and improve core stability.
Another major issues with training the core is that in today's society, everyone is a paradoxical breather. Accessory muscles like the scalenes and pectoral minor are over used. To properly train the core you should first step back and learn how to breath helping on multiple levels. First, you will increase the oxygen content of your body which will have a positive effect on your entire being. Second, you need the diaphragm to work properly to develop the relationship with the pelvic floor. This alone will fill what has been called the internal ball, like a steel belted tire, and fill your tummy with air causing a compression from the inside to stabilize your spine. Then your transversus abdominus and obliques kick in and your multifidi, and you have a stable spine.
Another mistake many people make is that they don't think of the glutes when they think of core training. Glutes take alot of pressure off your spine. The reality is that most people have flabby ass syndrome (inhibited glut max). I personally like glut bridges. They're easy and safe, although there are a ton of exercises you can do to target glute strength.
Another key core training exercise is the modified side plank on the knees to start and progressing to a full side plank. Front plank, in my opinion, is an advanced maneuver that most people are not ready for. People can cycle front plank in when their back is strong and take it out when the back is feeling "weak". What I have found even with people that have a VERY STRONG core is that sometimes they can do things that aggravate their backs. This happens a lot in athletes like when a hockey player gets hit. They then can have some local inflammation that inhibits the "core" (back stabilizers) and then the individual will have a "weak core " when assessed or tested. This just means go back to the basic exercises for a few weeks and build up.
The core when trained properly in a semi-in-shape person will actually progress fairly quickly. Within a few weeks people can build a stable core and then just stay on top of it.
Thank you Dr. Prebeg! I wish that every personal trainer or exercise specialist would get on board with the above and stop creating imbalances and start fixing backs for life! Lest people think this core training approach is non-essential, talk to me when your back hurts so much you can't work out. That's a great way to get out of shape fast! We all need to do our housekeeping in our workouts.
I get this question all the time. "What's the best overall exercise people should do?" It's like people just want to do a couple exercises a day for the rest of their lives and hope to be fit.
Well there's a number of issues with doing just a couple exercises a day which include:
1) Why do people want to do just a couple exercises over and over again? Boring for your mind and your body.
2) Why are people CONSTANTLY looking for short cuts to being healthy and fit? Anything really worth having takes work.
3) Our body is complex and requires movements in all different planes of movement to optimize strength, functionality, prevent injury and build muscle tissue in every major muscle group.
No exercise specialist who takes what they do seriously likes getting asked this question. With that being said, the New York Times asked several experts, "What is the single best exercise?", and got a variety of answers.
Ask a dozen physiologists which exercise is best, and you’ll get a dozen wildly divergent replies. “Trying to choose” a single best exercise is “like trying to condense the entire field” of exercise science, said Martin Gibala, the chairman of the department of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.
But when pressed, he suggested one of the foundations of old-fashioned calisthenics: the burpee, in which you drop to the ground, kick your feet out behind you, pull your feet back in and leap up as high as you can. “It builds muscles. It builds endurance.” He paused. “But it’s hard to imagine most people enjoying” an all-burpees program, “or sticking with it for long.”
“I personally think that brisk walking is far and away the single best exercise,” said Michael Joyner, M.D., a professor of anesthesiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and a leading researcher in the field of endurance exercise.
As proof, he points to the work of Hiroshi Nose, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of sports medical sciences at Shinshu University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan, who has enrolled thousands of older Japanese citizens in an innovative, five-month-long program of brisk, interval-style walking (three minutes of fast walking, followed by three minutes of slower walking, repeated 10 times). The results have been striking. “Physical fitness — maximal aerobic power and thigh muscle strength — increased by about 20 percent,” Dr. Nose wrote in an e-mail, “which is sure to make you feel about 10 years younger than before training.” The walkers’ “symptoms of lifestyle-related diseases (hypertension, hyperglycemia and obesity) decreased by about 20 percent,” he added, while their depression scores dropped by half.
But let’s face it, walking holds little appeal — or physiological benefit — for anyone who already exercises. “I nominate the squat,” said Stuart Phillips, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University and an expert on the effects of resistance training on the human body. The squat “activates the body’s biggest muscles, those in the buttocks, back and legs.”
“I think, actually, that you can make a strong case for H.I.T.,” Gibala said. High-intensity interval training, or H.I.T. as it’s familiarly known among physiologists, is essentially all-interval exercise. As studied in Gibala’s lab, it involves grunting through a series of short, strenuous intervals on specialized stationary bicycles, known as Wingate ergometers. In his first experiments, riders completed 30 seconds of cycling at the highest intensity the riders could stand. After resting for four minutes, the volunteers repeated the interval several times, for a total of two to three minutes of extremely intense exercise. After two weeks, the H.I.T. riders, with less than 20 minutes of hard effort behind them, had increased their aerobic capacity as much as riders who had pedaled leisurely for more than 10 hours. Other researchers also have found that H.I.T. reduces blood-sugar levels and diabetes risk, and Gibala anticipates that it will aid in weight control, although he hasn’t studied that topic fully yet.
WHAT I THINK
Of the exercises listed above, I like H.I.T. for the overall benefit however it is the least functional in terms of learning proper movement patterns if done on a stationary bike. The burpee is an issue for people who don't have good core stability. The jump back in the burpee can be too much strain on the lower back for people with weak core muscles. And walking is great but shouldn't really be counted as exercise (there's my very opinionated outlook coming out). It should just be a regular part of our lives, not counted as something 'extra' and it won't help people hang onto lean body mass especially in the upper body. Of course anything is better than nothing!
None of the exercises above talked about how important it is for people to fix postural issues and work on upper body musculature. We are evolving into hunched forward humans given the amount of time we clock at computers and in cars. It is essential that people build up back muscles to hold their bodies up. The issues from rounded shoulders and overly curves thoracic spines are numerous and can truly interfere with quality of life. The pain I've seen people suffer from in their neck and shoulders stop people from sleeping at night, prevent them from being able to pick up their kids and severely limit them from doing the simplest things in life.
So I would like to nominate the...drum roll please...
SQUAT WITH CABLE ROW
With this exercise, you will get all the benefits of a squat but also work most of the upper body musculature as well. Plus it takes total concentration and coordination to do it properly and it will get your heart rate up like in H.I.T. because your whole body is engaged. And it will help fix posture by working the posterior chain (i.e. back) and your core has to be engaged or you will fall forward.
The squat cable row involves:
Starting in a squat position with arms extended (the weight shouldn't rested on the weight stack) and then using your core to stay grounded and not allowing the weight of the cable to pull you forward, you exhale and pull the cable while straightening your legs. Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement, keeping the shoulders down and squeeze your glutes and add a little kegel at the top.
If you don't quite get it, just come to a class at Urbanfitt and I'll show it to you!!!
There is much debate about what amount of exercise is optimal for women. Many people think more is always better. I'm not of that mindset. Anyone who knows my philosophy knows that I'm not pro long duration exercise like marathon training or triathalons especially for women who are already burnt out, under slept or just plain chronically stressed.
What we do very well at Urbanfitt is maximize the time spent exercising to make it efficient. We only have a certain number of energy points to spend on fitness without starting to tip the scales out of balance. Optimal health is really about balance after all.
Eating well but not being obsessive compulsive about food. Finding a way to mindfully eat without becoming anxious.
Getting fit without depleting our energy or making it impossible to sleep at night.
Working out with focus without pushing past what is safe and always ensuring to give our bodies lots of love after a challenging workout.
SO MORE IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER!
And a study just released out of U of T confirms this.
Apparently, women who spend too much time exercising might be putting their future mental function at risk. Let's be honest. Most people don't exercise enough so this isn't a major concern for 95% of the population.
But women trying to clock more and more time exercising or training at high intensities ought to listen up.
"Many studies have found that exercise protects the brain, but until now no study has compared different intensities of exercise. Mary Tierney, a professor of family and community medicine at U of T, became especially interested in that link after reading about a study where intense physical activity reduced women’s risk of breast cancer – by depleting their estrogen levels. Estrogen, Tierney knew, protects the brain against cognitive decline. Could highly active women be depressing their estrogen levels enough to have a detectable impact on their cognitive well-being?
Tierney, who is also a senior scientist at Sunnybrook Research Institute, recruited 90 healthy post-menopausal women and asked about the amount and intensity of their physical activity throughout their adult life, in 10-year periods up to menopause. Strenuous activities included swimming laps, aerobic exercise, playing racquetball and running. Moderate activities included brisk walking, golfing, cycling on street level and playing softball. Tierney and her colleagues calculated the number of hours a week that each woman engaged in both strenuous and moderate activity, in exactly the way the breast cancer study had done.
Then the researchers tested the women on six neuropsychological tests. One, the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test, requires a subject to listen to a list of 15 simple words five times. Then, after reading a list of 15 other words just once, the subject is asked to recall the words from the first list. The test is highly predictive of Alzheimer’s disease up to 10 years in advance. “Women with the highest levels of strenuous exercise did the most poorly,” says Tierney. Many active women refuse to believe the results. They feel at their peak when running marathons and tearing up the squash court. “But these results raise the concern that a lot of strenuous exercise may not be good for women,” says Tierney.
All I can say is this is yet another reason to exercise efficiently. More isn't always better. Clearly, any activities that involve us over doing it aren't good for us. So pick your activity based on what will give you the biggest bang for your time and energy butt. And for those obsessive exercisers who don't know how to take a day off, maybe being healthy for you means learning how to chill.
I feel a little concerned posting this. I can see lazy ladies using this as an excuse not to sweat. But again, the results of this study probably don't apply to you. It's a depressing fact, but the majority of the population isn't active at all. Zilch. So by spreading this study, I hope I'm not giving anyone another excuse not to exercise.
Seems I did worse than most other people except my friend Max who really did deserve to complain today so he should be forgiven completely.
I knew I needed a little complaint detox!!! I am generally a grateful person and I've consciously decided to work on being more grateful. I voice how I feel. I think it's important not to keep things pent up, repressed and waiting to jump out at inopportune times. But I knew I needed to learn to keep some things to myself!
So here's how today went:
I started the day with a serene breakfast, no rushing around to get out the door. I saw one of my oldest clients (not in age but in length of time training together...10 years in fact!). She normally gripes a lot while working out but she too had joined the challenge. Within 15 minutes of starting our session guess who complained? That was at 10:25
It was about not being booked up with clients today. Instead of focusing on her I griped about what I didn't have. Bad move Jane.
Then within the same session at 11:10 I said something about how parents can be boastful and how that was annoying. Now you might be thinking was she actually working out during her session or just listening to me blah blah blah. You can ask her tomorrow how sore she is. Yes we always work hard.
Next complaint came while I was driving to get my daughter from school at 3:18. I was trying to get too much done making changes to the Urbanfitt website and left just a few minutes late. Someone driving a Lexus in front of me was letting everyone and their grandma pass in front of him/her. I said, "Could you just give me break already!"
My last complaint of the day was tonight over dinner with my friend Ilana around 7:15. I can't remember what it was but it was something trivial.
So I owe $20 to the Food Bank. I must confess. I actually thought I was going to owe closer to $100 so despite not fairing as well against others in this challenge, I did do better than I thought I would.
I like the way it made me feel. Catching myself before letting something out of my mouth that goes against my philosophy about life was empowering. Made me feel like I was being more conscious about my reactions to things around me.
I still firmly believe in communicating both positive and negative emotions. Stuffing them down is like holding back a sneeze. We might implode. However, choosing to let go of trivial and petty complaints sure does clear up psychic room for more good stuff.