1) Mistake #1: The most common mistake is doing a Plank with poor form and/or for too long. You should have a neutral spine and if I put a dowel behind you, you'd have 3 points of contact: 1) the back of your head (behind your eyes) 2) upper back between your shoulder blades and 3) lower back right above your tailbone.
Most of the time, you'll see people's heads hanging down like a wilted rosebud, hips up in the air, low backs sagging which of course all defeat the purpose of the plank which is to resist the forces of gravity by using your "core". The same people will then brag about how long they can hold their plank! Who cares if you can hold a plank in crappy form for 3 minutes?
What to do Instead: I'd much rather see you perform 15 sec planks in perfect form for 3 sets than a 2 min plank with so so form. Better yet, do the RKC plank or Pilates "long stretch" on the reformer which is basically a plank on steroids-See video below:
2) Mistake #2: You only work your "anterior" core or the muscles in the front of your body by doing endless crunches and situps (and front planks). Ab mat sit-ups (which I HATE), Toes to bar/knees to elbows from crossfit, Pilates hundreds, teaser, etc. are all included. There's nothing wrong with doing those exercises (except the ab mat sit ups) but it should be a small part of a well-rounded "core" training routine. Your "core" is actually 360 degrees all around your torso and includes your diaphragm and pelvic floor.
You only focus on these muscles, the rectus abdominus aka "the 6 pack muscles. They look nice but don't actually do a lot to create spinal stability when you're trying to lift groceries, weights or your kid.
What to do Instead(or in addition to): Don't ignore the muscles on the sides aka your obliques and the muscles in your back. Incorporate sideplanks, bird/dog, supermans or Pilates "swimming", Turkish Get-ups and one of favorite go-to's, the reverse plank. You can check out our Youtube channel for lots of great videos of exercises:
3) Mistake #3: You hold your breath or "suck in" your belly all the time. The diaphragm is the main muscle for breathing and an integral part of your core. It works together with your pelvic floor (which is an often forgotten part of your core) like a piston. When you inhale, the umbrella-shaped diaphragm flattens and the pelvic floor stretches/relaxes. Then as you exhale, the pelvic floor lifts and the diaphragm goes back to it's dome shape under your rib cage. Holding your breath or "sucking your belly in" all day long can cause issues like leaking, stress incontinence, poor spinal stability and therefore back pain.
What to do Instead: Inhale through your nose, expanding your belly and rib cage 360 degrees, then exhale fully while pulling your ribs down and tightening your abs like someone's going to punch you in the stomach. Exhale and "brace" your belly whenever you lift laundry, groceries or kids!
4) Mistake #5: You don't train anti-rotation movements. Your "core" is meant to resist movement more than create it- that's what core stability is. Can you keep your core and trunk stable while moving your arms and legs? That's how you create power and keep your spine healthy.
What to do instead: Try doing a Pallof Press which can be done 1/2 kneeling or standing. You can also do these with the TRX suspension trainer or on the Pilates Reformer. Lots of options! <Here's a pic from our Bulletproof Runner Series of 2 runners doing a "partner" pallof press. Don't they look like they're having fun? ;)
So there you have it, 4 Common mistakes people make with core training and what to do instead! If you'd like more help or want to learn how to train your core effectively, consider signing up for our "Strength and Mobility Class for Endurance Athletes" starting Feb. 23 @6:30pm (only 1 spot left!). We also have our next "Bulletproof Runner Series Part 2" coming up this Spring as well as our "Restore your Core after Pregnancy and Childbirth" workshop. You can find out more about what we offer at: www.ironhorsept.com or on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ironhorseptpilates/.
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