Rethinking Core Training

I warm up doing ab work pretty much before all workouts. I do ten sets 30s work 30s off. I have not had any problems doing sprints or heavy complex lifts after abs. If I tried to do abs after everything else I would propably just skip them.

On this particular point, the late Mel Siff in his works constantly emphasized the Eastern Europeans’ aversion to specific core training for these very reasons. He recounts stories of seminars given by (I believe) Angel Spassov in the US in the late '80’s where American coaches would ask him the best way to load abdominal exercises, and he would just laugh and state that the abdominal muscles contract far more forcefully during squats, cleans, etc. than during any kind of weighted situp.

If you’re going to rethink core training, it might be to drop it altogether. Of course Charlie has been an advocate of large volumes of core work, BUT you also have to understand how he uses it in the overall structure of the training and the loading parameters used, which differs greatly from many of the core training gurus pushing their gadgets and DVDs.

Is there a good way to test core strength? I have personally always done bench, squat, cleans… but almost never did sit ups or any “ab work”.

As a result, I have always been terrible at doing sit ups or any ab exercises. I would consider myself as having a weak core.

So, back to my question, Is there a good way to test core strength? If I do a bunch of sit ups, I will get better at doing sit ups, but does that mean i have a stronger core? Or is it just the training curve.

I have heard of the plank test. I was always very bad at that, until recently I have done a lot of various ab work and my entire core feels stronger.

I don’t think squatting helped my core become more functionally strong. By that I mean bending at the waist and hips and crunching/flexing the abdominals. Perhaps the squats help the spinal erectors and the postural abdominal muscles?

I can’t remember if I linked this before but this shows the degree of involvement of the midsection/waist in various exercises.

Not sure if there is an answer to your question (re: test), but I don’t know it. In any case, Stuart McGill believes the spine isn’t designed and shouldn’t be forced to do the movements you describe above.

The squats and cleans are the test of your core strength. If your core musculature was not strong, you would not be able to do these exercises with any substantial weight. That was the substance of Angel Spassov’s comment that I referred to above and the point Siff emphasized in his books.

This is confusing endurance with strength, which I think is at the heart of a lot of the confusion and controversy over core training. I’m sure you have plenty of strength to execute a sit up. The question is how many can you do? That’s an endurance question.

If you want an exercise that more specifically tests core strength try doing a gymnastics L-sit.

Again, this is a strength versus endurance question.

Within the context of a sprint training program, the high volumes of low intensity core work are not intended to increase core strength except for raw beginners. The specific purpose within regard to the core musculature itself is to increase endurance and work capacity in these muscles in their role as postural muscles. From a general perspective (which is probably more important), the core work is used to develop and maintain general fitness and facilitate recovery along with the tempo running, while distributing the workload over more of the body.

i think what you said makes a lot of sense. Thanks a bunch Flash.

i wonder if in this context, ‘core’ is also ‘torso’ so includes chest, shoulders, and upper, middle back??
So in that regard
Train 1st your
:- bench, deadlift, chins, rows and militery presses.
Train 2nd your
:- biceps, tri’s, hammies, calfs (isolated movements)

I say this as some of his exercise selections are far from just sit ups.
I think his use of the words ‘core’ and functional etc are off the mark.
For people who dont train elite or even semi elite athletes, his advice in exercises seem logical. As Most ‘normal’ people have very poor posture and structure strength. Ie, upper back rounds like a banana during many basic lifts.
Many normal people cant do the basic lifts such as benches, squats or rows, without really poor form.
They need exercies like shown above for sometime before attempting ‘normal’ exercises. Fix the posture 1st. Something a massive amount of people suffer from.
Im not sure, be i dont think he is talking about the elite?? Hard to be elite with poor posture!
This is something perhaps he didnt state in the article? Along with a bunch of other reasons. But getting everything needed to know in one article can be a large ask. Esp hard in a forum.

For the past year or so I’ve been incorporating more gymnastics exercises in my strength training program, and it has changed my view of muscle groups and functions. Pretty much all of the exercises are close chain and require the entire body to form a rigid lever in order to attain the correct position. As a result, the whole concept of pushing versus pulling muscles really goes out the window, because pretty much every muscle has to contract, including obviously the core musculature. As a result even nominally upper body exercises effectively become full body exercises. Again, this is a strength issue, not an endurance issue, although number of reps and lengths of holds can be used to develop endurance for a given exercise once adequate strength is in place. Just food for thought.

Strange thing is that Al Vermeil supports Vern Gambetta and Al does training with regards to core much different than Charlie.

Was Christopher Sommer’s book helpful to you in this regard? Either way what equipment is required for the exercises you have used/describe?

Yes, I’ve been using Chris Sommer’s book. I do have a pair of rings, but I haven’t used them yet, too advanced for my current levels. But they’re there when I’m ready for them. Thus far the only equipment I have used is a pull-up bar, dips bars, and the floor (push-up handles help take the stress off the wrists). That’s one of the reasons I like the exercises, you can build and maintain serious strength with virtually no equipment. It’s about as low tech as you can get.

there is a lot of great exercises on youtube.
you can even isolate Biceps and triceps using nothing more than a pull up bar.
You can replace Military presses with fixed bars and your body weight…
In fact, with some imagination, there is not much you Cannot do just using your bodyweight and some low and high bars.
and doing so, makes your core crazy strong.

Here’s another link on the subject.

A control test could be as simple as

  1. Lay on your back
  2. Raise legs to a vertical position
  3. Place hands (palms down) under your lower back
  4. contract abs (draw abs in and feel the pressure on your hands)
  5. Lower legs (when you feel the pressure release off your hands a limit has been reached)
  • Test could be completed to find range and strength levels or set at a certain distance and timed for endurance qualities

If you’re interested in learning/practicing gymnastics exercises, here is a pretty great website for learning some of the basics (and not-so-basics!). Ignore all the Crossfit crap and click on “Tutorials.”

Another great source I use.

Another source. Great forum.

Gymnastics are really cool but if you have long legs/short torso or a lot of muscle on your legs you can forget about doing a lot of the manouvers