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Dr. Joe’s “Optimal Core Exercises”

Jul 04, 2011

Everyone wants to look good and function well for the summer, but it’s crucial to resist the old-school six-pack exercises (i.e. sit-ups, crunches, etc.) that compromise the low back with extremely high compressive forces. Here are the top core exercises in the research (Dr. Stu McGill), to have tremendous core activation, while stabilizing the spine in a neutral position.


1) Posture and the “Abdominal Brace”

  •  Obtain a “Neutral” spine posture.  A neutral spine is one in which the small inward curve of your spine is present and maintained.  Your back should not be flat or arched forward.
  •  Your head (ears) should be positioned over your shoulders and your shoulders should be positioned over your hips.  Keep your chin comfortably tucked.
  •  Once a neutral spine is obtained, activate your abdominal muscles by tightening your abdomen all the way around your torso.  With practice you will even be able to tighten your back muscles.
  •  Maintain 20% of your maximal ability to contract your abdominal muscles.  
  • Then remember to breath.  BRACE and BREATHE.


2) Front Plank

  •  Lying face-down on your elbows and toes with you elbows directly below your shoulders.
  • Contract your abdominal muscles & lift your pelvis to create a straight line with your shoulders, hips & ankles.
  • Continue breathing normally throughout.
  • Hold until fatigue and/or loss of correct position x 2 sets.
  • *Advanced* Hold position while lifting alternating, opposing arms & legs x 10 reps each side.


3) Side Bridge

  • Position yourself on the outside of your left foot and left elbow, directly below your shoulder.
  • Maintain a neutral spine position and contract abdominal muscles.
  • Raise hips in line with shoulders and ankles.
  • Hold position until fatigue and/or loss of correct position x 2 sets/each side.
  • *Advanced* Raise & lower pelvis 10 reps each side.


4) Bird-Dog (Cross-Crawl)

  • Neutral spine position on your hands and knees, with 90o angles at your hips and shoulders.
  • Contract abdominal muscles and breathe normally throughout movements.
  • Raise alternating, opposing arms and legs to horizontal and hold 2 seconds x 10 reps each side.
  • *Advanced* Raise opposing arm and leg to horizontal and hold 2 seconds x 10 repetitions, before switching to opposite arm/leg for 10 reps.


Happy (INJURY-FREE) Core Training!!



Dr. Joe Foglia  BHK (Hons), DC, CSCS, ART®
Island Optimal Health & Performance
103-1808 Bowen Road
Nanaimo, BC   V9S 5W4


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