If you mention the word core most people start having images of situps, crunches, crazy stability ball work, and some ridiculous late night TV gadget. Just the term core is misleading. What we are really talking about are the muscles of the trunk (rectus abdominis, transverse abs, spinal extensors, internal and external obliques, etc.).
It is rare in daily activities that our trunk actually functions as a prime mover with the exception of getting out of bed in the morning or pulling our selves off the floor after that last set of intervals. The main function of the core muscles is to provide stabilization for the extremities to move. The better we can stabilize the core the better our extremities can function meaning stronger and faster which is always a good thing for endurance athletes.
Recent studies and work done by physical therapists and sport scientist have changed the way we should train the core. They have discovered that not only are crunches not functional but they also put a tremendous amount of compressive force on the lumbar spine. Work done by Dr. Stuart McGill has shown that crunches and sit-ups put about 760lbs of compressive force on the spine which does not lend itself to long term back health or being a faster athlete. It is safer and more functional to train the core to resist movements in all plains of movement. This is why planks (anti-flexion), side-planks (anti-lateral flexion), and reverse crunches or hip lifts (anti-extension) are often recommended now in training programs. The one aspect missing here is a good anti-rotational movement. **Key dramatic music** Enter the Pallof Press:
Why: It trains the core the way it actually functions in resisting movement and transmitting hoop stress which ultimately will make you a faster, better athlete.
What: Assume an athletic position with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width, knees slightly bent, shoulders back, and chest out (Note that you can increase the difficulty of this exercise by narrowing your stance). Use a cable pull machine with a single hand attachment or a rubber band setup to your side. Start with your hands close to your chest and press straight out keeping your shoulders, arms, and hips straight ahead. Hold for 3 – 5 seconds and bring your hands back to your chest. Repeat for a set of 12.