The Keys for Exercising Pt 3

How to Functionally Train the Core

HBR Vlog Ep 8 (video here)


The “core” is soooo important. We always being are told “engage your core,” “tighten your core,” “focus on your core,” and so “core exercises” have become one of the biggest keywords used in and around rehabilitation, fitness, and sports.

BUT here’s the thing… Not all core exercises are created equal…

Take for instance: One of our clients Marissa had been dealing with degenerative disk disease (DDD) in her lumbar (lower back) for years, and because of that her physio told her: “You need to strengthen your core, maybe try some pilates.”

Now, she is a triathlete and had never done a “low-key” workout like pilates before… and she LOVED it! She felt like it firmed her up, and strengthened her core unlike what she was getting out of her running, biking, and swimming.

BUT here’s the thing, despite her feeling like her core was getting stronger… Marissa’s back pain was progressively getting worse…

So we started to work with her, analyzed her body, and found that her hip flexors were so overactive they were pulling her hips forward into what’s called an “anterior pelvic tilt” (waistline slants down to the ground).

This is INCREDIBLY common, due to years of sitting at a desk in school, at work, driving, eating, etc… Then add on dozens of hours a month for Marissa in driving the knees forward when running, and sitting on a bike…

We’ll get some REALLY overactive hip flexors!

Well, why do we care? Because the main hip flexor muscle is called the Psoas, and it runs from the top of your femur (thigh), up your torso and underneath your abdominal wall, and attaches to ALL of your lumbar vertebrae.

Meaning, when these get tight, they pull on the lower back through the torso, causing us to arch our lumbar excessively, and we can see it with our beltline sloping down to the ground.

This angle at the hips does two things:

  1. It turns off the glutes… which happen to be the biggest muscle in your body supporting literally everything you do… and are essential for your core to function properly.
  2. It makes it incredibly difficult for your stabilizing core muscles to engage consistently.

Between these two things, is by-in-large why 80% of adults in the US experience chronic lower back pain.

Now how does this apply to Marissa, and her pilates core exercises? Pilates in general, is VERY hip flexor dominant. They often have a lot of variations of leg lifts, V holds, and pikes which are all hip flexor dominant; NOT abs! (there are certainly some very knowledgeable instructors that have an awareness for biomechanics and would be an exception)


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So when I asked Merissa to stand in place and engage her core, she did it, and felt STRONG! She said, “See? Pilates has been great for me, my core is stronger than ever.”

But when I asked her to keep her core engaged at about 20% effort for 5min straight… She failed within 45sec… All because of the way her hip flexors were continuously pulling her out of alignment, making it too difficult for her core to consistently engage.

So in this week’s Vlog we are going to take a look at:

  1. The perfect exercises to not only tighten our core, but make it functionally support us.
  2. The specific technique/form for all of the exercises we should prioritize.
  3. What exercises we should do sparingly or avoid altogether.

Also, to follow along get our free e-book on the Ultimate Workout Guide Click Here-

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P.S. If you would like some free 1-on-1 help my team and I would love to connect with you over a free Mobility Consultation Call where we take a deep dive into your functional health goals and work with you to craft a program to achieve them. Feel free to schedule with us directly at: