Many people will focus on core training with a strict routine of crunches of all kinds, hanging ab raises and if they are lucky throw in a plank variation.
But what about other muscles of the torso? They are so often ignored just because they are not the “showy” muscles of the abdomen or because there is this idea that directly training the abs is the best way to reduce them. This is not the case.
Back in the day, this use to be me too.
One my major shifts in core training arrived about 10 years ago when I became a Pilates instructor and started to increase my focus on muscles such as back extensors, deeper abdominal muscle like the transverses abdominus and ALL the glute muscles. It helped increase my awareness and the importance of training muscles to stabilize the spine and pelvis.
More recently when I attended physical therapy from back issues created by mild but ever so present condition of Scoliosis I had a therapist refer to all the muscles that stabilize the scapula (shoulder blades) as the second core. Not only did I plank it out during those sessions, I worked my glutes like crazy and retracted and depressed those shoulder blades like crazy. Shoulders back and down, back and down.
Our everyday posture IS a problem!
It makes sense if you think about our posture epidemic from sitting, texting and typing and everything forward that we do. We lose strength in our core and upper back and create tightness in our hip flexor and quads and develop gluteal amnesia, a term coined by Dr. Stu McGill, pretty much saying our glutes are not activating properly. That’s a whole other issue for a completely different post.
I started to not only read more about core training and apply everything I learned and have continue to learn through books, workshops, conferences and my own experience.
It has brought so much awareness to my training now that I have considered so many additional muscles to my core than strictly training the abdominals.
And yes even my lats.
Lats are short for Latissimus Dorsi which is the muscle of your back that starts by attaching to the lower part of the spine and top or your pelvis and sweeps as the way up to the upper arm. It is worked in exercise like pull ups and pulldowns but has a important roll in stability of the torso.
In the book The New Rules of Lifting , Supercharged the lats are referred to a the “Kevin Bacon of musculoskeletal anatomy: a star in some movements (the pulling exercises), and a crucial supporting player in deadlifts and squats, in which they help safeguard your lower back.” The lats work in a pulling motion, anytime you take your arms down by your side. In the gym think rowing, pull ups, lat pulldowns etc.
Be sure to add these exercises into your routine.
When possible I like to perform my pulldowns (and other pulling movements like rows) from a standing position versus a seated position. This requires me to stabilize my core while working my back muscles rather than being confined to a seat. Here are a few exercises to get you started.
Assisted Pull-up machine.
Pull ups with bands, assistance or unassisted.
Standing Lat Pulldowns (single arm variations also).
Standing Rows (single arms variations also).
Planks with row or pulldown (shown in video below)