CORE TRAINING PART II – Anti- Extension
In our last core training blog, we discussed staying away from positions that create increased loading in extension, like the poor position in the photo shown to the right, because they create excessive compressive forces on the spine, which can lead to back pain and/or injury. Rather, we want our backs to be in a neutral position, which helps to eliminate the compressive load on our spines and thus prevent injury.
The plank is a great exercise to promote core strength, while maintaining a neutral spine and building strength in anti-extension. Here are a few simple cues to help you achieve a proper neutral spine position while performing a plank:
- Align your elbows directly underneath your shoulders, with your forearms on the ground pointed directly ahead of you.
- Brace your abdomen and maintain a tight core at all times.
- Position your trunk, upper body and hips parallel with the ground.
- Another helpful tactic might also include balancing a small book or yoga block on your back in order to remind yourself to keep your back flat by not letting the object fall off!
Why is it important to keep the body in a neutral spine position?
By putting the body (and thus your spine!) in a neutral position, we are able to train the anterior muscles required to prevent/resist extension. A helpful cue while in the front plank position is to “drive the elbows into your feet.” Cueing the elbows into your feet will activate the anterior/front muscles of the trunk, which prevents the back from moving into the extended position, away from neutral.
Once you are able to maintain a front plank with proper positioning and cueing of the right muscles, you can then challenge your ability to hold that position regardless of the challenge/stimulus that is given to you. Ensure you are able to hold the front plank position easily (and pain free) for 30 seconds or more before you progress the exercise.
Plank – Exercise Regression
The half-plank exercise as shown below, is an easier version the plank introduced above. This variation performed from the knees instead of the feet, is great for beginners, those recovering from injury, or anyone who might be experiencing discomfort or an inability to maintain a neutral spine position with a plank performed from their feet.
Plank – Exercise Progressions
The plank exercises as shown below, become progressively harder as pictured from left to right. Challenge yourself by being able to maintain each progression for 30-60 seconds for a total of 3x each workout. Move on to the next progression after two weeks of being confident with your positioning and cueing in each exercise.
If you are up for more of a challenge, feel free to contact our therapists and strength coaches at Lawrence Park Health! Any of our Toronto Chiropractor, Physiotherapists, Athletic Therapists and Personal Trainers would be happy to work with you one-on-one to challenge your core’s ability to resist extension regardless of your level of fitness and strength. We look forward to meeting you and to helping you work towards your best health!
…Continue to follow our blog at Lawrence Park Health Clinic for our next core training series on anti-lateral flexion exercises!
Author: Khanh Vy, BPHE, CAT(c), CSCS (NSCA)
Toronto Certified Athletic Therapist CAT(c) | Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
*Reference: McGill SM. Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance (4th ed). Waterloo, Canada: Backfitpro Inc, 2009. pp. 167–293.