Rolling Plank

It is very important when doing this exercise that you brace your abdomen appropriately to start the movement.  The key with this movement is to keep your ribs locked onto your pelvis the entire time; don’t allow your hips/pelvis to initiate the movement or shift (on one of the reps I actually have a slight shift going into the front plank).

Abdominal Training & Featured Exercise

Whether it is for improved performance, general fitness, or injury prevention and treatment, training of the abdominal region is an important aspect of any training program.  While there are a multitude of exercises that can be used to strengthen the abdomen, one needs to be aware of how to properly apply loads to this region based on their current abilities.  It is generally preferred for anyone involved in strength training to focus on the ability to use these muscles to stabilize the lumbar region rather than produce large forces and movements

With this in mind, the author in most instances prefers to use abdominal exercises that involve stabilization or low amplitude movements to strengthen this area.   This enables one to condition the torso to provide stiffness through the muscles and abdomen through the low back, which will allow for safe movement that will not stress the structures of the lumbar spine.

In a previous article, some exercises were described that can serve this function.  In a video posted below, there is another exercise that is slightly more advanced that can be used to strengthen the abdomen and train it for stiffness to support the low back.  This exercise is known as the “Stir the Pot” and was taken from Stuart McGill, who is known for his research on biomechanics associated with the low back.

An important point with this, as with any stability based abdominal movement, is to hold and maintain a strong abdominal brace.  This should create tension throughout the torso (low back and abdomen) allowing one to stabilize the spine.  This particular movement also teaches one to resist twisting torque through the torso, which requires further stabilization to protect the spine.

Abdominal and Low Back Training

With injury prevention being a high priority in strength training and conditioning programs, much attention should be paid to the low back.  Low back injuries are both common and quite debilitating, but what most individuals don’t realize is that their exercise routine can be contributing to their low back problems.  This is due to the fact that many individuals begin with exercises that their bodies are not prepared to handle (even though from a movement perspective, they can complete the movement through an inappropriate motor pattern).  It is not until one beings to experience pain that something is wrong.

There are many novel approaches for individuals doing abdominal or “core” work.  The issue becomes that people begin an exercise program using many novel approaches without a basic understanding of how to move and use the musculature appropriately.  An example of this is the common use of the swiss ball for exercises.  While I believe the swiss ball does have a place in training and exercise, it is many times utilized by individuals who do not know how to perform basic movement patterns to maintain a healthy spine.

While there is not one ideal execise approach for all individuals, there are some basic exercises that should be appropriate for most individuals.  The following 3 exercises are advocated for by Stuart McGill, spine biomechanics expert at the Univeristy of Waterloo.  While they are very simple movements, they are very effective in strengthening the torso.

McGill Crunch

**NOTE:  Most people do not need to do the more advanced version with the hands by the head (notice, the hands are in front and not supporting the back of the head.  Many individuals who hold the back of the head end up pulling up with their arms putting added strain on the cervial region).  And, before I get any corrections on technique, I actually lift by upper body a little higher than needed on the second version in the video (although I still keep my rotation pretty much isolated to the thoracic region).

Side Plank

Side Plank V2


Birddog OneBirddog Two







These three exercises activate all of the appropriate musculature for the core, while simultaneously sparing the lumbar spine from increased stresrses commonly seen with many other abdominal exercises.  It would benefit most individuals undertaking a fitness/conditioning program to implement these exercises as a way to strengthen the abdominal and low back regions.  While they may look simple, if performed correctly, these exercises can be challengening.

Most trainees need to understand that they do not fall into an advanced category, and that by doing abdominal and low back exercises that cause added stress to the spine can result in injury.  Even some individuals that do fall in the advanced classification can benefit from exercises like this if they have succumb to muscle imbalances due to their chosen activities.  In another post I will further get into these exercises, along with variations that can be implemented, and also how to incorporate these exercises into a training regimen.  In closing, the referenced text below is a must read.


McGill, S.  (2006).  Ultimate back fitness and performance (2nd ed.).  Waterloo, Ontario:  Backfitpro Inc.

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