Building Abs of Steel and a Bulletproof Back


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CORE EXERCISES 2.0: The “Anti-Exercises”

In order to truly understand how to effectively train the abdominal region, it helps to understand what the underlying function of the abdominal muscles is in the first place. Your core muscles act as force transmitters that connect the upper body to the lower body, and vice versa.

Picture a burly offensive lineman in football. As he pushes against the opposing defensive lineman, his feet are planted and pushing firmly into the ground. This force that his feet create against the ground is then transmitted through a braced midsection and into the arms, where he pushes with ferocity against his competition. Now imagine that the offensive lineman had very weak core muscles that could not brace hard enough to transfer his ground reaction forces to his arms and into his opponent. He would surely be defeated.

This is where “anti-exercises” enter the picture. Instead of focusing on exercises that generate movement through the midsection, anti-exercises focus on resisting movement. McGill’s research also helped to show that these types of exercises had much higher muscle activation than conventional abdominal exercises, while at the same time having much lower spinal loads that could potentially inflict damage.

The most common example of an anti-exercise would be the plank exercise, in which one assumes a push-up position with their forearms on the ground, and uses their abdominal muscles to resist the pull of gravity. This would be an example of an anti-extension exercise, for if gravity prevails and the core musculature fails, the individual’s back will drop into extension as it caves down towards the ground below.

Much as we can do abdominal exercises that generate movement in multiple planes of motion (like rotation, side bending, as well as flexion and extension), we can also perform anti-exercises to resist those same planes of motion.

In essence, that gives us anti-flexion, anti-extension, anti-rotation, and anti-lateral-flexion (anti-side-bending) exercises.

Examples of Anti-Exercises


exercise position on back, #fitinonline

As previously referenced, the plank can serve as an anti-extension exercise. When form gives, the lumbar spine (low back) drops into extension.

Another fantastic example of an anti-extension exercise is the dead bug. In this exercise you lay on your back with your arms and knees pointed up at the ceiling. You then let one leg and the opposite arm extend out until they are just off of the ground, all the while maintaining a flattened back position on the ground. If done incorrectly, your back will arch off the ground into an extended posture. No good.

Anti-flexionCable exercise between legs, #fitinonline

The deadlift is a fantastic example of an anti-flexion exercise. When executed properly, movement is exclusively out of the hips while the torso maintains a neutral position. If done incorrectly, the spine quickly folds into flexion.

Another great anti-flexion option is the cable pull-through. Standing with your back to a low pulley cable attachment (the rope works as the best attachment for this), walk forward with the rope between your legs until several feet in front of the cable stack. Unlock your hips and stick them back, all the while keeping your back in a neutral position. Once you hamstrings become taut, bring your hips forward again until you are completely upright, squeezing your gluteal muscles at the top of the movement.


cable pull exercise, #fitinonline

As the name suggests, anti-rotation exercises are those in which an external load attempts to create rotation through the spine while the abdominal muscles resist.

Perhaps the best anti-rotation exercise is the Pallof Press (named after the physical therapist who created the exercise). Standing sideways to a cable pulley set at chest height, bring a D-handle attachment into your chest and assume as athletic position (feet hip width, knees bent, and hips slightly back behind you). Without contorting your body, press the handle directly out ahead of your breastbone until your elbows are fully locked. Hold for a second then return the handle to your chest.

Try this and you will be amazed at how intense of an abdominal contraction you elicit with each repetition!

Anti-lateral-flexion         planking, exercise, ab workout, #fitinonline

The last movement that our core needs to learn to resist is lateral flexion, or side-bending. The best starting point for this would be the side bridge (knees down on the ground) or the side plank (knees elevated).

kettlebell swing, kettlebell girl, #fitinonline

A great progression from this is the briefcase carry. Walk around with a heavy load in one arm while attempting to remain as upright as possible. Feel your abdominal wall burn!

Great abs and a strong back are now yours to be had. Train hard and watch the results happen!

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About Dr. Taylor Levick

Taylor Levick is a chiropractic physician and performance coach based out of the Daytona Beach area. Dr. Levick brings over a decade of experience in personal training to his clinical practice, where he is able to combine the methodology he was exposed to through his chiropractic education at Palmer College of Chiropractic Florida, extensive post-graduate studies and seminars, undergraduate studies in exercise physiology at the University of Florida, and devoted self-learning into a truly unique approach that benefits not just athletes, but people of all walks. In an effort to “walk the walk,” Dr. Levick is heavily invested in his own health and fitness, and regularly seeks to push the limits of his own performance. In addition to owning his own private practice, Dr. Levick personal trains clientele and is the general manager of Impact Fitness and Health, and is a part-time faculty clinician for Palmer College of Chiropractic Florida Clinic. When not working, Dr. Levick enjoys staying active and taking advantage of Central Florida’s year round nice weather.

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