I was reminded of this way of saying core stability when talking with some CrossFit coaches the other day. I like it, it makes sense. I also recall it being sort of a "catch phrase" back at my CrossFit Level 1 certification a few years back, and one that you'll read and hear all the time on articles and videos posted up by CrossFit HQ. Again, I like it because it does a great job of depicting exactly what the goal of the exerciser should be: stabilize your mid-line! The core is a catch phrase used in the fitness industry that I feel gets very overused. The core is a theoretical area of your body that is made up of a large collection of muscles at the "core" of your body. Mid-line makes sense as it sort of helps to visualize where that is in your body and gives you a great image of what should be happening while lifting: your body should hold on to a "line" form through the middle; as in, a straight spine. Using the phrase "stabilize your core" is vague enough that it needs much more explaining for most people to actually understand what the heck you are talking about.
OK, now that that's over with, I want to talk about what is really on my mind about mid-line stability. What constitutes "good" mid-line stability? This is an interesting topic as it;s pretty subjective based on what your view of what's important in life. I'll try to stay as objective as I can (I know, I know, I can be pretty damn opinionated, but I'll do my best here). Here's what I believe:
1) Mid-line Strength/Stability: one should be able to lift a load that the strongest muscles in the body can handle for 1-3 repetitions while maintaining mid-line stability. This means that you should be able to deadlift, or squat or pick up an object of any kind, 1-3 times without losing stability through your midsection. The weight should be heavy enough that even your legs would come close to failing under the load for those same rep counts. This would show balance in your full body strength. If you can reach max loads in any manner (what I mean by that is both in the gym with a bar, or out of the gym in life) without "breaking form", you are probably pretty balanced in your strength. This also means you are putting yourself at the lowest risk of injury while moving heavier loads. Sweet.
2) Mid-line endurance: one should be able to hold stability throughout their body while performing high volume, very light loaded work. And when I say light load, I mean like walking, running, sitting, moving around, carrying bags or other things over distances and so forth. If you can stand for a few hours without your torso getting fatigued and needing to lean up against something, you're probably in a good spot. If you can't handle that, you may need to work on things to learn how to engage all those muscles while "doing life". I make these points in reference to what is important to train. It's a touchy topic to go into good and bad programming (a topic I jump all over ALL the freaking time) and I've found some common flaws in the way coaches choose to program for focused mid-line stability. Best ways to build mid-line strength? Heavy loads performed at low reps. If you are doing these exercises correctly, your body will react by becoming very strong and very balanced. This is about as commonly accepted a practice as I know in the fitness industry. But it's the mid-line endurance that is debatable. It is my theory that the best way to do this for the average person in the world, is to move your body under light loads for different periods of time.
But not any load, and not any movement mind you. For example: sled pushing and pulling is probably one of the best ways to build this strength/endurance, while extended deadlifitng and Olympic lifting is probably the worst. Does this mean you should never do high rep deadlifitng and/or Olympic lifting? Well, in my opinion, yeah, what the heck is the point? You can build the same level of gains by doing things that don't put your body at an incredibly high risk, so why not do all those? Deadlifting for more than 10 reps as a strength/stability/power exercise seems more like an attempt to try to hurt oneself rather than get stronger. You could row then plank then KB swing and get mostly the same effects while not putting your spine at such an extreme workload and risk. Instead of 30 clean and jerks for time, you could broad jump and push up and be training practically the same functions of the body while not demanding such extreme form breakdown and incredibly high risk. In the end, if your goal is general heath and fitness with the smallest risk of injury possible, it's not that hard to pursue. And you can do "CrossFit", or any other style of training that suits you. The main thing is simply paying attention to the work you're doing and asking a simple question: "why?". Why high rep Olympic lift? Why high rep power lift? Why kip certain movements? Why scale? Why focus purely on mobility rather than lifting heavy weights? Why lift heavy weights? Athletes should be asking this ALL THE TIME of their coaches. Coaches should be asking themselves this every single day they program something for someone.
And remember, not being able to clean and jerk 135# for 30 reps while putting yourself at an extremely high injury risk does not make you a bad athlete or person. And not being able to deadlift your body weight 45 times does not mean you are weak. If you are a competitive CrossFitter, yes, you need to do those things. If you are the average person, there really isn't a great argument for doing them in my opinion. Make one about power output, about increased work capacity, about mid-line stability over a 5 minute time domain, and I'll simply argue for a program that works the same muscles and functions without the risk. In my head it really does seem that simple.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
Less than a week into my nutrition experiment I have basically come to the realization that TIMING is what it's all about if you want to cut fat. Now, before I go into a few more details on this, I need to stress two major points: first, I am only speaking from 6 days experience. Second, this is working for ME. While I am convinced it would work for pretty much anyone to a certain extent, everyone must recognize and accept that what works for one person, may not work as well, or at all for another.
So here's exactly what I've done: I've upped my carb intake to 3/4 cubs oatmeal for my first meal and 1 cub sweet potatoes for my second (along with plenty of protein and good fats) and I decreased my overall caloric intake per day by only about 400-500 calories (I'm taking in about 2500 minimum a day now). So, all in all, not TOO much has changed in my plan except one main thing: I am eating every 3 hours. I set an alarm on my phone, and I eat within 20 minutes of it going off. The result: I have gone from 213.8 lbs to 206.4 lbs in 6 days. Word. And to top it off, the numbers on all my lifts have gone up, and my energy levels have gotten a bit better.
Simple as that folks!
I plan to keep this up for a while to see what happens, and after that, I will be adding a little more diversity and freedom to the plan while keeping daily macro-nutrients around the same level and sticking to the whole 3-hour thing. While I got this plan from a friend, who got it from a friend, it is almost identical to Tim Ferriss's plan for cutting the last 5-10lbs of unwanted body fat, and meshes well with a whole slew of info I have gathered from my main resources such as T-Nation and The CrossFit Journal. If you look around, there is an endlessly confusing amount of information out there on how to lose weight, but as most things, it really is a lot simpler than people think. If you want to give it a try, start by simply attempting to get your meals in every three hours. For most people that will be the toughest challenge, but if you are willing to come across as a little strange to your friends and coworkers, then set your alarms and challenge yourself a little. A note on the reactions of people around you: I have tried to engage these people when I can and found out that all of them were actually more intrigued and even a little envious then weirded out. So, think about that a little bit before you use other people as your excuse for not giving this a try.
Anyways, more on that in a couple weeks; for now, let's catch up on the lifts. I took a solid rest day yesterday and then eventually got to my workout today. I ended up training with a client of mine who came in to get some extra work, and training with another person, as always, helped out a ton! I was supposed to do 5x3 deadlifts but did 5x5 (didn't even realize this until just ow by the way), and last week I got 5x3 at 365#. Today O got 5x5 at 405# and felt strong. The rest of the session was damn good, and then I headed out for a nice little 3-mile run at dusk. Real nice! Tomorrow is my last heavy day before a de-loading week, and then the month after that is set aside for some SERIOUS gains! Can not wait!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
Well, my frustration hit a tipping point when I failed to put enough thought into my last post and wrote it directy into the blog page rather than Word. Yep, as you can figure, the one time I do that in the last two months the whole damn thing gets lost. Bummer.
So, now that that's lost, I'll postpone my next insightful post till tomorrow when I am a bit more chill towards writing. This post will be a bit about my workouts this week. Today I had some solid barbell work with power snatches and deadlifts. I pulled up 160# with relative ease, then just got stuck with 185#. I wanted so badly to just squat under it but I needed to struggle through the mechanics of this move and allow my legs to learn how to take control. In the end, I missed 6 attempts despite getting the weight well over my head. I finished with 5 smooth reps at 135#. I then moved on to deadlifts and was able to get 425# for 3 pretty comfortably. I am sure I would have broken my form unnecessarily if I went heavier. I then stretched a little and prepared for my group coming in.
I opted out of a metcon in the evening as my energy levels were real low and I am planning on a fun day tomorrow. Some gymnastics work in the morning for a solid 30 minutes along with some unilateral, core stabilization. Then, after a baseball game in Half Moon Bay I will be at the track!
The rest of the week has me cleaning, jerking, front squatting and conditioning on Wednesday; swim workout on Thursday; snatch balance, max verticals and a super heavy metcon Friday. Looking forward to it all!
Never Stop, GET FIT.