The most important square footage of our body from a functional strength perspective is undoubtedly our core. We receive more questions about the core than we do any other part of our body.
- Functional strength = the ability to perform the full range of daily tasks without limitation (ie putting things in the trunk of our car or picking up a squirmy child)
- Core = from the tops of our knees to our sternum on all sides of our body.
Why Start With Your Core?
The objective is to improve your quality of movement, strength and overall function. For this reason, workouts begin with the center of our body (the core) and work outward to our extremities. Why? Because strong legs and arms with a weak core lead to a weak body. A strong core with weaker arms and legs lead to a strong body.
When choosing which core exercises, consider the following factors:
- 80% of people will experience back pain in their lifetime. Most are caused by mechanical reasons. Prior injury is the #1 indicator of the likelihood of future injury (— National Institute of Health)
- 80% of people do not meet the minimum weekly requirement of exercise and of the 20% that do, most are age 18-24 (—Center For Disease Control)
- Greater than 50% of adults currently have some degree of bulging or herniated disc in their back while being free of symptoms (—American College of Sports Medicine)
Most of our population is deconditioned, which means they are more susceptible to back pain and quite possibly at risk for a more serious injury. We choose exercises to minimize that risk. Beware of flashy, higher risk core exercises. They do not always meet the risk vs reward standard that we consider for clients or even our own workouts.
Our spine is meant to move in many different positions. However, when we move with our spine in a non-neutral alignment (outside our spine’s natural S curve), there is a greater likelihood of injury. Since a large percentage of our population is more sedentary than active, this leads to postural issues and vulnerabilities in our body as a whole. Especially our backs.
Most of our clients come from one or more of the following 3 categories:
- Folks living with chronic pain and deconditioning due to lifestyle factors: long commutes, sedentary job, high stress, poor sleep, unresolved injuries
- Moms who have not yet had the opportunity to rehabilitate their core after childbirth
- Beginners and inconsistent exercisers
This is why one of our absolute favorite core strengthening and motor control learning exercises is the Dead Bug. This exercise is for:
- Folks with lower back pain
- Moms with diastasis recti
- Anyone wanting a strong as heck core
We cannot think of a reason why anyone would not include the Dead Bug series in their fitness program. It’s not too hard for beginners or too easy for super-fit folks. It just works.
For many of us, finding neutral spinal alignment is not easy. Lying on the floor allows us to use the floor’s feedback to improve our alignment and reduce the risk of injury with core training.
Starting The Dead Bug Workout
Our recommendation is to give yourself 2-4 weeks at Phase 1, 2-4 weeks at Phase 2 and 2-4 weeks at Phase 3 before progressing. Choose a volume of reps that produces moderate fatigue in your core musculature, but not so much that fatigue leads to a break down in your form.
Dead Bug Development 1
On the risk vs reward spectrum, few if any core exercises rank more favorably than the Dead Bug. This is where we start all clients. Developing motor control before progressing or adding intensity is a must.
Dead Bug Development 2
In phase 2, we’re increasing the motor control demands on your core. Move your leg and the opposite arm while keeping your spine neutral. This is an incredible way to build strength and durability. It will also prepare you for greater challenges later on in your program.
Dead Bug Development 3
With both legs and both arms elevated, the demand on our core musculature to stabilize our spine is heightened. When exercise intensity increases, we need to be extra mindful of form.
The beauty of this exercise is that the floor gives us all of the feedback we’ll ever need. Once we get set in a neutral spine position (with our lower back not flat to the ground or overarching), we’ll know if our relationship to the floor changes.
If any part of our back comes off the ground, we’ll know to reset. If we begin to feel the lower back press into the floor, we’ll know to reset. This floor feedback allows us to focus on our breathing, our tempo (moving with control) and how far our legs reach away before we lose optimal form.
Looking for more?
Prana 365 offers a 12-Week Strategic Fitness program. It is a complete, science-based exercise program that will help you:
#1. Become consistent with exercise
#2. Reduce or eliminate chronic aches, pains, and injuries
#3. Improve total body strength and function
#4. Improve stamina, flexibility, balance, posture, agility, and coordination
#5. Learn simple, yet highly effective lifestyle modifications that will support you in your pursuit of better health and fitness.
The 12-Week Strategic Fitness program is available (upon purchase) on your cell phone and/or tablet via our Prana 365 app. Every exercise has a clear tutorial video to help you learn the proper form.
This isn’t just a compilation of workouts. We have crafted a strategy in which workout #1 builds to workout #2 which builds to workout #3 and so forth. What you do today, will prepare you for more challenging workouts in the weeks and months to come.
As part of signing up for this program and being one of our clients, you also receive 2-way communication with us throughout. We will hold you accountable for not missing workouts, and we’ll celebrate every personal best with you.