Core Strength and Stability by Vern Gambetta (1999)


The bill’s in the mail, Chuck. In those days I was getting paid very well by the White Sox, so I didn’t have to charge. When I decided to go on my own four years ago, a friend gave me some advice, he said just don’t forget when you go in business for yourself and particularly the consulting business, you eat what you kill. So the freebie days are pretty much over. Anyway, thank you very much for the introduction Chuck and it’s always a pleasure to be here.


I couldn’t help it, I caught kind of the tail end of Bill Sweetenham’s lecture this morning and I’m a student of coaching. I think I still coach, even though, being kind of pigeon-holed in the strength and conditioning area, and I went back last spring and coached track and field for the first time, day in and day out, in about twelve years, and I realize how much I miss being an actual day-to-day coach. And listening to some of the things that he said, I’m just going to reinforce that. And this topic area I think is really, really current, and I hope that in the time available, Guy Edson said I could go about 15 minutes over, so I beg your indulgence if we do go over since there’s nobody after, and I won’t go any longer than that. I have plenty of material too, but that’s not the intention. But I think there’s a lot, a lot of you have heard me speak before and heard me speak on medicine ball training on the shoulder.


I realize how many times in the 90s I’ve spoken here. And what I hope to do today, to give you a little bit of a different twist, and share with you some of the things I’ve learned in the last two years in this area. Some things that I think you could use. Much more practically on the pool deck, and then I think we’ll only serve to reinforce what Richard Quick said, what Terry Lochlin has said, and just the more exposure that I’ve had with swimming.


Fortunately I’ve known Nort Thornton for a long time and we spend a fair bit of time talking on the phone. I feel bad that when I was at Cali I didn’t spend more time with him then, but I think he’s kind of the always willing to try things and give me really good feedback, and that so we’re going to share some of the things that we’ve learned there. I also want to interject just a little bit of a personal aspect, and I guess and I always felt that I’ve done in 30 years of coaching, done core training, and I’m going to define what that is in a second. But, 30 years ago when I found out that I had arthritic changes in my low back and realized that that was Happy 50th birthday that I was going to be physically active, and that was how I was going to make my living, it forced me to take a whole different look at this too. And to really, really look closely at research and to separate the wheat from the chafe and find out what was working and also what possible causes for that was. And I also look back on training, and I think there’s things that we’ve done that possibly caused things like that and I think we want to avoid those things. So, I think that was also a motivating factor for delving deeper into this area.


Just wanted to recognize my sponsor, MFF Athletic Company, performed better and, I’ll tell you right away, there is no way on God’s earth given the space and the structure of the room that I’m going to be able to do the amount of demonstrating that I hoped to do. I’m going to do my best, so if you want to come by tomorrow between 9 and 12 at the booth, I’ll take the time, as long as there’s a few you, and go through some of the stuff there. Because I feel very, very strongly that you need to see it and you need to experience it. I think you need to feel some of this stuff if you’re going to go back and try to teach it to some of your swimmers. It’s not good enough to see a video or just take notes and as Bill said in his talk this morning, it is coaching. You got to get hands on to try this yourself and it’ll all make sense as I go through some of the theory of it.


I also want to acknowledge a couple of people that I’ve worked real closely with. Some of you heard me speak about Gary Gray, who’s in Adrien, Michigan, who I think is the best physical therapist in the country, a really, really creative thinker. When you say thinking outside the box, he was doing that before there was a box and just a really, super, super guy. And then Mike Clark, who is a young PT that starts my seminars with me and has really done, delved into the research very deeply into this core area, and I’m really thankful for the information that Mike has shared with me on this area.


The first thing in terms of I’m going to follow your handout in detail, in some areas and in some areas there’s some things there, some information you can just, you know, look and derive the information from. I think the realization that I came to about 12 months ago was that all training is core training. The fact that I’m just standing up here, and I’m upright and overcoming gravity is my core is active. And I think if we re-examine what we’re doing, and also if you reexam swimming in kind of the new paradigm that’s evolved in the last ten years, you realize the importance of the core. The awareness of the core, the strength of the core and that. And so things like overhead lifting with dumbbells and that kind of stuff really becomes core training if you change your awareness and emphasis when you’re doing it.


So when I’m thinking about designing a program,  because the core is so important and your basic principles of looking at toenails to fingernails, O.K. the whole, kinetic chain with the core the key link in the chain, that all training is going to be core training. I have a good friend at University of Wisconsin and he calls it linkage.  O.K. And the key link  in that chain is going to be the core. If that area is weak then we can lift a house and you can get in the pool and you can swim mega miles. It isn’t going to make any difference because you’re not going to be able to hold the position to do the things you want to do. So all training is core training and we’re always looking at toenails to fingernails. What  is the core? Kind of big words, and I heard Terry Laughlin say he’s not a sports scientist, and nor am I. I’m just a coach and I always think about it in the least common denominator and put it in terms that I can understand. It’s a lumbo/pelvic/ hip complex and just think of it simply as hips, abdomen, the back, the low back, the upper back and including the neck.

O.K. Not just the abs I’ll never forget the first talk I gave at Aspen, Washington D.C. I think it was 7/8 years ago, and  I said how many people do core work and there was maybe 700 people there.  Everybody put up their hand, and then   I said, well how many people are doing rotational movements? And three people put up their hand. And I said well how many people are doing at least 1,000 crunches a day, and everybody was very proud because they put at least two hands up. O.K. Cause we’re doing 2,000 a day. But that’s only one aspect of the whole core. In fact, that’s only one aspect of the abdomen. It’s probably the wrong aspect of the abdomen, which you’ll see in a few minutes. So we got to look at that whole, if you want to think of it as a muscular corset. O.K. the other thing that I have in your hand-out, that I don’t have in your slide is, it’s more than six pack abs. It’s more than appearance. I’ve seen some people that are ripped. O.K. That have tremendous rectus abdominus and have terrific low back problems. Cannot hold a position in the water. Because the right muscles have not been strengthened in the right manner. So it is more than appearance. That’s the thing that we, doing correct core work, you’re going to look pretty good but you’re not going to have a wasp waste because you’re going to develop a muscular corset and that’s everything around that area not just the rectus abdominus. So I think that’s an important point to make.


Why train the core? First of all to improve dynamic postural control. Obviously in listening over the last, in the time that I’ve been coming to this convention and listening to swim coaches that I know and respect, that posture and alignment in the water is just become a key, key element in everything you’re doing. O.K. Appropriate muscular balance around the core. Not just the abdomen but the back, the rotators and all that. develop dynamic three dimensional flexibility. By working through four ranges of motion with control, we are going to develop flexibility. Flexibility is range of motion with control. Movement that we can control. Not movement that we can’t control. And in a dynamic manner, that’s the key thing, not static flexibility. Allow for expression of dynamic functional strength and improve neuromuscular efficiency.

If you are strong and stable through the core it’s going to open up a whole new vista in terms of your whole patterns of movement. And especially when you’re horizontal in the water.  O.K.


The foundational principal for all of this. And I’m very, I apologize. There’s a couple of people that came up to me right before and I didn’t get to really answer their question completely, but this is the paramount, underlying, guiding principal to everything I do. I’m talking to swim coaches now. I’m talking to football coaches. It doesn’t matter, or track coaches. Core strength has to be developed before extremity strength. I do not care how much you can bench press or how much you can pull down or how many kiloponds of force you can watch, you can express on a dynamometer or leg press or anything. It is of no consequence if you don’t have a strong and stable core because eventually, and probably very, very soon, you’re going to break down and you’re not going to be able to express that strength if you don’t have good core strength. So those of you who are working with age group athletes. The first thing and the most important thing you need to develop is core strength and it doesn’t change as you go through your life span of athletic development. We want to make sure and that’s true in a work out. Let’s go from the micro to the macro. It’s true in a workout, it’s true in a work week when you’re planning your training, it’s true in your year and it’s true in your career. That you’re always going to emphasize and develop core strength before extremity strength. And hopefully, what I’m going to in the rest of the talk now, is explain to you how and why to do this.


I’m not much of a podium guy, but I’ve got to stick near the computer. I’m in a high tech world. What’s the function of the core? All movement begins from the center. Terry said go look at the video out there. I looked at that video and I looked at some of the other videos around the exhibit area again. I’m looking at the core first, and I see the core move, the center move, and that’s true in any movement, before the hands and the legs move. Alright. All movement is controlled by the center. If you can control the core you’re going to  be that much more efficient. O.K. What is the function of the core? Somebody said to me a couple of weeks ago on the phone that we’re working from the inside out. From the inside or the center of the body out. So just to reinforce that whole principal or that idea.


Now the other area that I want to talk to you about because I keep hearing, people ask me a lot…swim coaches are always asking me what do we do? We’ve got shoulder problems. What should we do? Should we do more internal rotation, should we do more external rotation of should we do more stretching? No. Probably most of the stuff that we’re doing at the shoulder does no good. In fact, I’ll go so far to say, it’s wrong. It’s, probably, it’s a waste of time. This kind of stuff. You know super rays, this external rotation and all of that. The paradigm that I’d like to share with you, and I talked on this a couple of years ago in New Orleans, and now we have some proof—Dr. Ben Kibler has done some research on it. There’s a quarterback that plays here for the “Chargers” that Mike Clark has worked with, Eric Kramer. And he has it all documented in terms of where his shoulder problem started. Nothing to do with his shoulders. It had all to do with his hips. And I think a lot of you are going to find that if you shift you’re thinking away from the shoulder and look to the core, a lot of your shoulder problems are going to decrease. There are going to be some people who are prone to it because of possible things that I’ll talk about in a minute. Basically you want to look at your hip to shoulder relationship. Unfortunately I’m not going to be able to go into detail, this is a talk unto itself. But basically internal rotation, any problems with anterior shoulder pain is going to be related to same side hip. Same side hip what? Could be sore, has tightness, internal, external, rotator tightness or weakness or whatever, and you got to find somebody in your area that can help you ascertain that. Your typical rotator cup problems, posterior shoulder problems are going to be related to opposite side hip. O.K. And it relates to one of the next few slides. So you can think about that and look at that relationship. I think you’re going to see that bear out more and more. Just as you’re sitting there kind of play back. People who have had shoulder problems, and I can exhibit some of the posture. What is the function of the core then? It’s balance. It’s going to aid tremendously with balance, whether it’s your water skiing on your hands, whether you’re horizontal, whether you’re on your back in the water, or whether you’re standing upright. It’s going to help with stabilization.


Then, what is the role of the core in swimming? Hopefully for better positioning in the water, it’s going to help positioning the torso, positioning the limbs, the arms and legs in relation to the core, and it’s going to help above all in streamlining. Oh. That’s what we’re looking at. Now when we go to access core, and we try to access core strength, your typical, and I’m going to try to move down here, your traditional test has been to use what’s called the straight leg lowering test. You start at 90 degrees, you want to call that 90 and you look and basically you see that the person will lower their legs until they lose contact with their lumbar spine and that. And that’s not a very, very functional test but it does at least give you an idea. What we’re trying to do now and this is  a work in progress, and I hope for the next couple of years to share it with you is look at some more functional tests. To look at some med. ball throws. This is just a dynamic, posterior reach test where we’re actually looking at hip flex or soas tightness and all I’m going to do is simply measure the distance from her hand to her heal. I’m going to look at the difference from right to left and that’s one aspect of core strength. And we want to do a rotational test, you know and that. And again, this is a work in progress.


You’re going to do the traditional stuff to alert you to some things, and I’ll go into this in more detail you know, when we get into training in a few minutes and that. So just, actually I’ll go back for a second, I’m kind of proud, that’s  my daughter and Loch, you haven’t seen her since she was a little kid. The interesting thing is that she’s a soccer player and a track athlete. The interesting thing is that in the last 15 months, she has significantly changed her posture. Just like Terry said, things can be taught by doing this little ab coordination routine and I’m going to share with you, there was no way, even, (that was the most athletic thing I’ve done in about three months) even just in that position there, she wouldn’t have been laurdotic. O.K. And on this test, again, you’re going to have a certain asymmetry because of soccer and because of running that she was able to cut it down from about six inches to about two inches, so it can be done and it’s just part of a daily routine. O.K. And I’ll share with you how that was done and how you can do it. Postural dysfunction, again, I don’t know that I can do it justice in the time available but I want to make you aware of this that in your hand-out, if you look on the bottom of the first, second page, this was a paradigm laid out by a Czechoslovakian physical therapist named Vladimir Yonda. This guy’s a genius. I went back and looked at his writings from the 50’s on, and he was saying stuff in the mid 50’s that was so, so right on about this stuff. And basically what he did was he identified three kind of what are called serial distortion patterns.


A lower cross syndrome. And I’m just going to imitate them for you in a minute up here. A lower cross syndrome, an upper cross syndrome and a lot of you don’t work, I didn’t put it in but it’s called a pronation distortion syndrome, if you’re working with runners. You ask your swimmers to run though. So you probably should become familiar with pronation distortion. And basically what I did was I put it in your hand-outs, and I’m not going to go through it in general, but what he said, and this is I think if you can just listen and grasp this concept. That certain muscle groups are prone to tightness and hyper activity, and they’re readily activated in most movement patterns, they dominate in fatigue and those muscles generally cross two joints. For example the gastroc, the solius, the hamstrings, the soas, which is a big player. They’re going to be prone to tightness. And then you have another group of muscles that are prone to develop weakness and inabition. They are less activated, they fatigue easily, they primarily function in stabilization and they cross one joint. Those will be either the gluteals, the rectus ab. , there’s a whole bunch of them.  And he identified those.


Basically what I’m interested in as a coach, I understand this theory a little bit but in practice, what I’m interested in is this. What does this tell us? What does this tell you as a coach on the pool deck that wants to look at your swimmers’ mechanics in the water, that wants to design an effective dry land program. It’s going to give us direction and content. When and what strength and this is what I think has really helped me. When and what to strengthen and when and what to lengthen. We talk a lot about stretching and that. So let me just exhibit the typical posture for the upper cross syndrome. I’ll do it from straight on, and it’s going to look real familiar to you.  Especially to this audience.  Right? There, see who does that look like? Most every swimmer I’ve ever talked to. Why? What’s tight? What do you need to stretch? Pecs, right? Then why aren’t we doing more bench pressing? O.K. We need to stretch the pecs, and we need to strengthen posterior shoulder, you know lower traps, all of that. Lower cross syndrome. Right there. That’s about 90% of all of us now. Why? Because we spend most of our time doing what we’re doing right now, sitting. And you’re dealing with the lead athletes, most of them are in school and they’re sitting for 7 hours a day. And we’re not going to reverse that in one hour with one stretch for 30 seconds.


O.K. so we have to become very, very converse with what are the effects of lower cross and the upper cross syndrome. Rather than, and that’s going to be the thrust of what I’m going to show you in a few minutes. Is to try to design things with to overcome that. This comes back to something that Bill Sweetenham said this morning, too, is you have to look at each swimmer individually. That’s hard to do. I go for a swim at the pool in Sarasota, and I look at the number of kids, and I admire those coaches. I don’t know how they do it with the number of kids, but we’ve got to try to find a way to identify those syndromes and be able to cure those syndromes. So hopefully the exercises that I’m going to show you, at least to my experience have addressed this.


O.K. We’re going to look at some criteria for exercise selection. My first question does that look familiar? That’s basically the type of core work that I did throughout my athletic career and probably the first fifteen years of my coaching career. Right? I did basically a weighted sit up. With my feet somebody holding my feet. In fact the president’s fitness test when I was teaching physical education was what? 60 second sit up with somebody holding your feet. And guess what? We never figured out the relationship between the two. All the kids would come in, the fittest kids, the kids that got the greatest number of sit ups, would come in the next day with what? Sore what? Yeh. Not sore abs, dumb coaches, I mean we should have figured that out but, we still do it and people still do it. My question is why? What are we doing? If we’re going to use it, let’s understand why. And we’re really going to cause the soas to dominate we’re going to cause the rectus to fire, but we’re not really getting at the muscles that really, really need to work.


And the other thing that we need to do this is the most important thing for you, is you need to look at the demands of the stroke of the athlete your training. Is it a short axis stroke or is it a long axis stroke? You got an IM swimmer, you gonna look at the proportion. You’re going to look at their strength. But I don’t think every swimmer is going to do exactly the same crawler. O.K. I think it really, really depends what you’re trying to accomplish. Also you want to look at that postural analysis, and you want to look at the core strength and stability relative to whether they swim a short axis or  a long axis stroke, and then be able to design the program accordingly. O.K.

The other thing is look at the physical qualities of swimmers. Postural analysis. Do they exhibit the characteristics of the typical upper cross syndrome, lower cross syndrome and what do we have to do? And then we got, and what you have to do is you may have to try to find a manual therapist in your town or something who would be able to help you and work with you on that. You need to look at their injury history. O.K. Just talking to a friend of mine from Australia right now about a couple of situations, and he started asking questions. I was going to talk to someone else this morning where the origin of shoulder pain was. Performance history. Do they swim real well in heats and terrible in finals. We tend to say well that’s a mental thing. Well maybe not. Maybe relating to core fatigue, maybe other things. And their training history. Are they good trainers and poor racers or are they good racers and poor trainers? Can they handle low mileage, high mileage? All of those kind of things. And I think those are all kind of factors we want to look at. Not just in core strengthening, but in developing the whole dry land program.


O.K. What’s our progression then? And these are pretty basic but I still think they bear repeating before you see the actual exercises. Go from easy to hard. The two basic things I’m going to show you are “easy.” And if you want to talk to Nort after he’s had the swimmers, a pretty good group of swimmers, I don’t think they’re thinking that’s easy right now. That is abs is easy. And we did it with the Australian women’s softball team, and I don’t think they thought that was easy. But it is very basic. O.K. Simple to complex and stable to unstable, known to unknown. And one slide that I don’t have up there, and again, I talked this morning, and it reminded me of that, there’s a thing that I’ve learned. It took me 29 years of coaching to learn this. And I guess if they can’t do the exercise right; don’t do it. And if they don’t progress to the next exercise until they master that exercise. I have some core programs with athletes I’m working with that have three exercises. It’s O.K. If they do three right, that’s better than ten incorrect. Because they’re getting compensation patterns, substitution patterns, just engendering and building in bad posture. Guidelines for core stabilization training. Systematic progressive and functional beginning the most challenging environment the individual can control. The difference, there’s different environments, and I’m going to show you some progressions using stuff like a Dina disc, an airax, using stuff like a physio ball or a stability ball, which I think is one of the best environments a swimmer can train in, but if they can’t do the exercises on the ground without these, I’m certainly not going to go to a real, real dynamic, unstable environment that they can’t control. Cause all I’m going to do, Terry Lochlin made a great statement. That great athletes are just really good compensators, and they are. But most of you are working with developmental little people. Let’s try to train them without compensation, and then let them fall into their normal patterns based on strengthening.


O.K. The question I ask of you, and you don’t have to raise your hand, but I just thought a little note what percentage and how much are you doing of this? My daughter knows that those things are not very valuable, but every night she does them. O.K. And they’re going to do them. It’s just like when I worked in baseball, they all did wrist curls. It has nothing to do with hitting, but they all did it, and they’re going to do it, but I don’t think you need to design those into your program very much. That’s a small percentage of what you need to do. What’s the problem with those exercises? Basically what we’re not doing is we’re not getting, if we’re doing it for the abdomen what we need to do is get to exercises that are going to get to the internal obliques and the transverse abdominals not the rectus abdominus. Not the six pack ab look. And so what we’re going to do is, we got to do what we call a drawing in maneuver. Everybody can do that right now. It’s not one of the things right away, it’s not a posterior, pelvic tilt, alright? That’s the other hoax that’s been perpetrated on us by the medical community along with rotational things and things like that. Basically what it is, is me just taking and pulling my belly button to my spine right there just by and that’s going to cause preferential recruitment. I’ll show you in a few minutes on the ground. That’s going to cause preferential recruitment of the internal oblique and the transverse obdominus. So I can learn to do that on one leg, I can learn to do it walking, I can do it running, even as bad a swimmer as I am, I can learn to do that. It’s a functional position. O.K. You can learn right now, as you start to get tired, you just draw in and all of a sudden it just cures some of those problems. So I think that’s one of the problems with choosing those exercises. Design variables.


We want to look at plane of motion, traditionally where have we worked? We’ve worked flexion extension, which is just sagittal plane. But motion occurs in three planes; sagittal plane, frontal plane, which is side to side, transverse plane, which is rotation, which is really the important plane but it’s a combination of all three. It’s diagonal, rotational patterns. So we want to work multiple planes of motion as large a range of motion as we can control. So that we do have flexibility, which is controlled through the range of motion. Loading parameters. What are we going to use to load? Now we have loading parameters. We’ve got stretch cord, we’ve got medicine ball, we have physio ball, we have a body blade, which is a great core training tool if used correctly and that. So we’ve got a lot of tools available to us if we just look around. We’ve got gravity and we’ve got our body weight. Now granted in the pool, gravity is less of a factor but we’re talking about some of the things we’re doing just to create an awareness out of the water. Body position. Now one of the big arguments that I’ve had people say, a lot of the stuff you talk about is great, but it has nothing to do with swimming, and I think some of the stuff I’ve talked about before the more I’ve learned I certainly would agree with that. I think the more things that we can do in a horizontal position, either prone or supine, the better off we’re going to be. Once we learn some of the basic things. And consequently that environment, and I’m going to share with you some things we can do to try to simulate the environment of the water. That’s tough. Of all the sports that I work with, trying to be specific, swimming I think is the toughest. There’s a lot of other sports that are a lot easier that may look a lot more complex. And then the amount of control that you have. Are you doing it free or are you doing it in a controlled environment?


O.K. Core training, design variables, your speed of execution, again, your rule of thumb is speed is as fast as you can control. Now there is a concept called time under tension  in regard to strength training that the longer I can keep that muscle in a contraction, the greater recruitment I’m going to have. We want to keep that in our thoughts too. The amount of feedback in terms of how we’re doing it. The duration, how long we’re doing it, which would be sets and reps and the tempo of exercise, how fast we’re doing it. O.K. So those are all things that we’re going to build into our program. Now, I’ll give you a little clue right away. In a typical core strengthening program that has evolved, in terms of my thinking now, there’s a lot less exercises. There’s a lot fewer exercises with what? A lot more changes in those variables. And what I found is, if you can confuse the athlete, they’re not going to do anything. This is a lot simpler because basically, I teach a few basic exercises then keep building on that and change variables within those exercises rather than try to bring a new group of exercises every week and that. And whether it’s younger kids or whether it’s world class athletes, I think that works pretty well. And then as I mentioned time under tension. Exercise classification. Now when we’re laying out our program, and this is laid out in your hand-out for you on the top of page, I guess it would be page three, basically you want and try and some of this is a little bit intellectual gymnastics and arbitrary, but it still will help you so you’re not doing the same movements every day and creating a stagnation. Basically you’ve got exercises that work just stabilization and that’s going to be our two most basic exercises, which are going to be iso abs and ab coordination. We’re going to do those every day. O.K. Because we’ve  got to wake up and teach again, to preferentially recruit, I call it iso abs but it’s more than abs. Then we’re going to work flexion and extension. Alright. In those planes. Then we’re going to work rotation. And if I were to say which is the most important, after stabilization, I would say rotation. Then we’re going to work throwing and catching because we want a certain ballistic component to work the elasticity of the muscle and that. So that’s how we’re going to proceed with the exercises.


O.K. Training criteria. I’m just going to go dynamic multi planer as summary, multi-dimensional, proper septively challenging, systematic, progressive and specific. Core training tools. O.K. Now this is the question that Bill talked about, Terry talked about, are you training them or coaching them? One of the gripes that I have is to see, I was at my daughter’s high school, I have to digress, the other day. We went in there to train and they have a new basketball coach, and he gathered all the kids around and he gave them a sheet of paper. It was a very, very involved workout and he said  I want you to go over there and see how much you can lift. Then he proceeded to go sit down at the desk and have them come over and write down their maximums. And I thought, I mean I just wanted to scream. You know. That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen, but you know what? That scene is repeated all over the country. Not in weight rooms but on pool decks and everything. And I’m not saying that in an accusatory tone. I’ve done that too. And I think what we’ve got to do is get back to coaching them rather than training them. And that’s one of the big things, one of the messages I want to get across to you that every kid on your team is not going to do the same exercises. They’re going to do some of the basic stuff, but they’re not going to do the same sets and reps. The only tool you have is a hammer then everything becomes a nail. And we’ve all done that. I know we’ve done it. O.K. I know a lot of people in this room but hopefully we learn from that.


O.K. Now here’s our basic, basic movement. Alright. Ab coordination. And again, there’s no point in demonstrating it because you’re not going to be able to see it all. The first exercise in the ab coordination routine. It’s not a functional exercise. Gary Gray ‘s a good friend, he goes, Vern that’s  a he says that’s not a, I know Gary but we’re leading to a functional exercise. And what we’re doing with Kristen, my daughter’s doing here, you can see the drawing in. She’s basically pulling, trying to make herself as thin as possible and pull in and there’s no posture or pelvic tilt. She’s not trying to tighten up her gluts or any of that stuff. And what she’ll do is she’ll hold that for ten count, release it, hold for ten count then she’ll change. The next thing she’ll do is then the next thing she’ll do is she’ll put her arms out extended behind her or her hands up. O.K. Then she’ll do that. And in the middle, she, in track or soccer at breaks, and the same thing, if you have a break between sets, sometimes to reawaken those muscles, you do it right in the middle of a workout. Then the next one, without using her up here statically, the next thing you’ll do then is you’ll just do it a one leg slide. So she’ll take this left leg and just gradually slide it out and bring it back up and the other one just slide it out and bring it back up and when you get better, you do it with the leg off the ground. And there’s a progression that you go on. But the idea of this is to just teach you to preferentially recruit those muscles in regard to the abdomen. The reason those muscles are so important is that they’re the only two abdominal muscles that actually attach to the spine. So in terms of that’s why we put it in the thing about stability.


Alright. How am I doing time wise?   O.K. Iso abs. This   is something I learned from the University of Washington strength coaching staff what three years? Yea it was three years ago I was over there. Three years ago. And I think that this is something you can build up every day. And what I’ve done now is work out a pretty detailed progression so that it becomes more and more and more difficult. Now I want to show you one other thing about exercise and coaching. Now there’s a basic problem right here. And it’s still a problem with her thoracic spine. See so every exercise you do is a test every day. Now one of the reasons she couldn’t be in position is because she lifted heavy the day before and she was so sore, but see how her, see kind of the hump in her back, she’s really not a hunch back, right there. But you want that, her head up a little bit more in perfect alignment. And so that’s position one. You’re on a prone position on your knees and you want as straight a line as you can hold. What you’re trying to do, now let me review the positions for you. This is iso ab routine. Then you go to side, you’re on your elbow. And she’s very, very good there. Then you want to roll over onto your back on your elbows so you’re going to go supine. Then you go to other side and you should build up to be able to hold 60 seconds in each position, which is tough, alright. But that’s the way the core functions in regard to stabilization, is isometrically. Then the next step in the progression you would do is you would take a partner and what you would do is you would just come right, partner goes right here and just push it right in the middle of the back, almost like, you know like shaking the person. And force them to have to stabilize there.  And you do the same in each position.


Alright. Then what you do then you have them put their elbows on an airex pad. You say no big deal Vern. Well if you want to stick around I’ll take whoever thinks they’re the fittest person here. I’ll take you through it on the airex pad. And if you make it 60 seconds and you position on the airex pad, I’ll give you $10.00. Alright. That’s ten dollars off my son and daughter’s education right there O.K. So then you go to an airex pad then you put your elbow, one each on this, and when you get to that you put one elbow each on that and then you put your feet on the physio ball. When you get to that I want to talk to you. That’ll be about three years from now. O.K. But if you have somebody that is that good and that strong, you want to challenge them. You want to keep challenging them. This is a remedial exercise that can become very, very advanced. But don’t go back and take your best 14 year old swimmer and put him on a Dina disc and the physio ball because I said it was hard. Make sure that they can hold each position on their elbows for 60 seconds on the ground before you progress. O.K. That’s the progression. You want me to repeat that again, the positions? So you’re on elbows prone, elbows side, both elbows supine, elbow side.   O.K.

Then you go to partner. Yes


(Question) Yea. The tough one’s on your back to be honest with you. I can’t. There’s no point nobody can see it. I’ll show it to you after. Your elbows are right back behind there like that. And your supporting on your elbows, I’m sorry, does that make sense? Just like she’s supported there but now she’d be flipped over. She’s holding her hips up yea. Heels on the ground yea.


(Question) No you want to go from position to position. Now if you’re dealing with, the question was is there a rest between each position? I said no, but if you’re dealing with 9 year olds I think you better.


O.K. Yes. Let me finish the positions then I’ll go through the rest of it. So then you’d go all four positions. O.K. and basically, what did you start out? Did you start at 30? 30 seconds, yes that’s with collegiate swimmers. What did we start out with? Twenty? Twenty at each position. I’d say 15 to 20 seconds at each position and then you add ten seconds a day, five to ten seconds a day because they’re going to adapt pretty quickly. See the thing about the core too that all those muscles, most of them are all primarily slow twitch muscles they adapt pretty fast. And the other thing that I’ve learned and I’m sure you’ve learned is kids are very and athletes are very, very adaptable and we need to change the stimulus fairly rapidly. That’s the big mistake we’ve made particularly in this area. And then you just use your imagination in terms of how you’re going to create the instability to make it more difficult to hold that position. O.K. You can use a lot of different toys and tools to do that. O.K.  right. O.k.  Any questions?


So those are my two basic exercises. The ab coordination and the iso abs that I’m going to do basically daily. Alright. Now, then it’s a matter of how I’m going to distribute my work. Body blade. Where do you put body blade? Body blade could be done in this case. It’s easiest here, standing tall and there. Now it’s more, I would put it almost in the flexion extension right here. By the way this is not the body blade you want to use. This is the little baby. You want to use the full on pro, I think it’s called. But then what I would do is combine the body blade with the stability ball and again, we don’t have time or space to go into that, you’ll see a few on the medicine ball things but that’s one tool that you can use. What’s the down side of the tool? You need one body blade for every swimmer. They cost $200.00 each. So you know that’s, so Good Luck! But there’s different ways you can do it and I can talk to you about that in private. You can maybe make your own.


This is a new thing that I tried to invent. It’s not basically I can describe it to you. The idea is it’s a vest like and old fashioned weight vest with a bunch of different hooks all over it and basically you’re attaching a stretch cord in different places. So, for example, I may have a stretch cord attached back on my posterior right shoulder and I may be doing a flexion and rotation movement there. And I can do the same thing on the ball so I’m getting resistance one way then I have to stabilize back the other way. And theoretically, I can attach a stretch cord in front, a stretch cord in back. O.K. So unfortunately and this has been used a lot in physical therapy, not much in training in that it has a lot of potential if utilized with the other tools. It’s not it’s just not available yet.


A power ball, I don’t have one up here. That basically for those of you who are old enough to remember it, is it’s basically a modern kettle bell, which the Europeans and the Russians used a lot and it’s just a medicine ball with a handle but see what it enables me to do is a lot of rotational type stuff as well as ballistic type stuff where I can repeat it. I also am very, very in favor of using this instead of a dumbbell. And one of the things that it does because it is on a handle, is just a little bit unstable if I’m doing like a pressing movement or doing like pull overs on a physio ball with this there’s that little bit of torqueing going on that forces me to use more of the synergistic and stabilizing muscles than if I would have a dumb bell in my hand. O.K. And you can use it a lot of different ways. So that’s another tool that’s available to you and you can do whatever movements you want with that.


Dumbbells. Now typically we don’t think of dumbbells as core training tools. Right? We tend to think of dumbbells as training the extremities. But all of a sudden if I’m doing stuff on a physio ball, and I’m doing like one arm rotational pullovers, now look what’s happening, I’m coming there and I’ve got some flexion and rotation as well as working my shoulder in there. Same thing I could do, if I’m going to do any kind of seated presses, if I’m doing them on an unstable surface like the physio ball or even sit fit, or doing bench presses on this I mean on the Dina disc, now I’ve got to activate my core, that’s got to be stable so that I can apply force with my arms. So it’s kind of a neat tool, and I think you just have to open your mind and think outside the box just a little bit.


Stretch cord which is very popular in swimming but again, we tend to think of it more as training the extremities, and I think what I would like to see you do is combine it with the physio ball, combine it if you’re doing it standing on a Dina disc or something like that where you’re getting a lot of diagonal, rotational movements, and don’t think of just the stretch cord as going against resistance, but one of the big functions of the core is like in that case is to decelerate movement to help stabilize. So I think that can be a real good tool to use too.


Just a half foam roller like here, one of the things, if you  do bench press and I think in your weight training program somewhere along the course of time you should a little bit, I just put this on a bench a fairly hard bench, if you can imagine, lie on that, you following me? What happens? Now it’s unstable, so now the problem is I can’t lift the house now. So, it’s not as ego gratifying, but what I have to do in order to lift any weight up is what? Stabilize my core. I have to balance and where does balance come from? So you know to do that if you use the Boston swim trainer, don’t sue me if you fall off because I fell off in the garage the other day, O.K. But that’s why I’m a little dingy because I’m always trying this crazy stuff just figure out how to put this on the seat. I’ve talked to Rob about making the seat different. But now all of a sudden, you can get a little bit of rotation. I even tried putting one of this, but it didn’t work. That’s the other time I fell off so you know, those are different tools now ostensibly I’m doing that to work, you know, maybe imitate stroke mechanics or that. But really what I’m doing is  I’m forcing the core to activate and work. Where I would   just normally, it would be just there. My butt would be on the bench and I wouldn’t be getting anything out of it. So I want to put my money where my mouth is about all training being core training. If I don’t rip the microphone off up here. O.K. Let’s see where are we? Just and airex pad. Same thing. It’s a foam pad, you can stand on it, you can sit on it, lie on it all kinds of different things there.


Medicine ball. I’ve talked specifically on the medicine ball. I want to show you video of some of the stuff that you’ve seen before, but where we’ve taken now some of these additional tools, you know and put those in and utilized them. O.K. So you can see how we can do it. One thing I can’t show you on the ball because it would take us 5 minutes to advance the tape that we did, but it’s kind of an experiment where you’re lying prone on the ball and if you imagine I’m lying down here and I’ve got the medicine ball out here and I’m basically dribbling a medicine ball out here on that. And then with my feet in contact with the ground, I’ll try to do it here so you can see. So I’m here like this, here, imagine. And the medicine ball is out here and I’m dribbling it. O.K. Then I take my feet wide, and I get them narrow and narrow, and I have somebody just, I cross my feet, I have somebody hold my feet and people say well God, you got to have gorilla arms to do that. No. You got to have one damn strong core. Because you can have the strongest arms in the world, but if you can’t stabilize on that physio ball, you see one of the things and all the things that I read and see on the tapes with the stability ball too is they don’t talk about progressions.


On the stability ball. You know you start with your feet wide, bringing them narrow and narrow and narrow, and you get to the point where hopefully you could get to the point where if you had a good enough athlete, they could balance on that ball, particularly in a prone position. I’ve seen a few people be able to do that and now you’re coming closer to simulating the environment of what you have in the water.


O.K. let me see what the next slide is then we’ll look at this medicine ball tape. How am I doing time wise? I’m supposed to go to 5:15 alright? O.K. I’m not doing too bad. Dina disc we showed you. O.K. Let’s do this now, let’s see if I can, hold on. (pause) Now this, I’m just going to show you as I said some of you have seen this before. (Does anybody know how this works)?  Push play?  O.K.  There you go.


Now what we’re doing here, the idea is you notice how Steve is moving from one foot to the other foot? This is the opportunity that I think that some of the earlier medicine ball stuff that we did was always in a very stationary and static position and by doing this it forces him to have to stabilize and really, really utilize all of the muscles of the core right in here. O.K. As he’s shifting weight. Back and forth. Now he’s just moving through the figure eight pattern. This is a very, very, in a sense, it’s a very basic exercise. It’s also a very, very advanced exercise cause you can now begin to do this in different environments. Now this is a basic theory that I want to show you and what we’re going to do is, it’s a wall series, and every, virtually every sport and particularly swimming, Jack Simmon is back there they use a lot of this with, I can’t remember your swimmers name, before ’92, but just tons and tons of wall series where you start out with an overhead throw, soccer throw, and this is all pretty basic. He’s just moving and that’s a 3 kilo ball and working for speed. Now we’re getting more rotational stuff each side, and you’ll see a different shot of this. Now the key thing is how do you progress? See the rotation. O.K. And that was the purpose of that shot.


Now what you’re going to see and I don’t have a means, unfortunately, of speeding it up, I don’t know how to work this so, now around the back and if you don’t have a wall, which a lot of you aren’t going to have, and you have a limited number of medicine balls, you can do the same series with two swimmers and partners. So one ball takes care of two swimmers. Now. Now it’s advanced. It’s one, one leg. And you say well big deal, well this is a pretty good athlete, and he’s going to start to struggle in a minute on one leg. As the reps start to go up. O.K. And then he’s got to maintain that drawing in position, the sucking the belly button to the spine, throws, now he’s going to go two arm, one leg, just different positions. Basically the same exercises, same weight ball, we’re going to try to strive for the same reps. Now he’s going one on two legs. O.K. Which is going to change the demand on the core. So it’s two arm one leg, one arm two leg, now you probably with younger people, you’re probably going to have to go to a little lighter ball on this. O.K. and then one arm, opposite leg. Alright. So you’re trying to mimic all the different patterns of movement that could occur. And now a pushing type of movement, which isn’t going to be as, well it is. You still want to do it. See he’s struggling, already, which is kind of interesting. Now you got a super athlete doing it. Now you’re on a half foam roller doing the same thing. Now I’m fighting. I’ve got to fight, see the thing is, what we tend to do is, we tend to look here or here, but where’s the center of the action? Where’s everything happening right there. O.K. By the way the orthopedic surgeon, who’s a great friend and saw my back said I’d never be able to do this stuff again. But I sent him the tape afterward so, I was in the hospital for a week after this but, I didn’t tell him that. So and again, I just change the position, you know, there. And I think the lesson or the moral of the story that I’d like to get across to you is by using your imagination, you can take your selection of exercises, O.K., can somebody, no, I’d better do it. You can take your selection of exercises and vary it and get a lot of different training stimulus without necessarily adding tons of different exercises. So that’s the moral of that story.


Up to now are there any questions? Can we take a couple of questions before I go on to any of the next few things? O.K.


Covered a lot of stuff now.


(Question) Yea. Stabilization. The order of exercises, I’d want to work my stabilization daily. Again the theory being, and it is somewhat of a theory, but I think we’re feeling more and more comfortable with it and that I’m going to wake up in a sense and teach those two key abdominal muscles to help stabilize the spine and then move to the more vigorous, dynamic exercises after that. O.K.


(Question) Leg movements. No I didn’t. You just came up with a different version. So what are you doing? Lifting your legs? One leg at a time. There’s another version of iso abs. So just lifting one leg. Are you holding it there? That’s another great way to do it. And see this is, you’re going to come up with a million variations and again, I say think outside the box, but I start to, you get things that you’re comfortable with, you get locked in. That’s why I love the opportunity to get around people like you who are thinkers and get away from baseball coaches and things like that, so. Never resist that opportunity.


No. Determining the work load. Here’s the thing you got  to remember. Just like everything. More is not necessarily better. I’d rather see you do quality. But you can work core every day. It will recover. I think if you want, that little paradigm that I have in your handout is something that we’ve experimented with for about 8 years now, where you vary the movements, the stress on the movements and that seems to allow enough time for recovery. And I’ve experimented on myself and some athletes that I knew who were very fit, with some real, real high volume stuff going through a week of that and they recovered very, very well. Now they weren’t swimming 10,000 yards a day. So you have to factor that in, and so you’re not just trying to do more and more. I think that’s one of the key things. When do you do it? Sorry, volume and testing.  No, we’re not going to go into that.


Determining the distribution of work, I’m trying to do that for you. I think you want to have a high volume day, a low volume day, and vary that. You know so that you vary your volume and intensity daily as well as the stress on flexion extension or rotation in a diagonal pattern or whatever. The question is when do you do it? I think your stabilization exercises would be a great thing to do, warm up before you get in the water. If we can, based on a again, everything I’ve heard over the last few years here, about what you’re trying to do in the water with your swimming technique and mechanics, that would really, really get them aware and create that feeling that you want. Next part, I don’t think it’s very practical in the swimming, is during practice to be able to get them out of the water and do core work out of the water. Now if you can figure out some stuff in the water, med ball throws in the water, you know like vertical kicks, you know and with the med ball overhead, yes.


(Question) Yes you could. See you can do it. You just got  to use your imagination. I just don’t have the opportunity to do it day in and day out. Yea. Typically when we’ve done it is post practice, and I think you have to use that judiciously. You’re already fatigued, you know and that. So I would rather see you try to marry that up with your overall strength training and not make it being done in a fatigued state. Because I don’t think you’re going to get your maximum benefits or returns there. If you need to get a hold of me in the next three weeks, don’t call, I won’t be there, I’ll be in Australia, but you can Email me if the Email works.


So are there any more questions or anything? Like I said, I’ll take the questions, but tomorrow morning, I’ll be there from 9 until 12 at the MF booth if you want to come by, and we’ll go through some of the little, I’ll take you through and let you experience some of it and that. You had a question back there sir?


(Question) I think you only need to go once. Again, realize, you’re only doing that stabilization work every day, you’re doing your ab coordination too, you’re using that, you know to create an awareness, now eventually you’re getting a minute to each position so you’re looking at four minutes of work right there. In terms of your total time of work. So that is quite a bit, in terms of your whole percentage. O.K. Yes.


(Question) Well I would try to build up and this is somewhat of an arbitrary, and I’m depending on my experience and the guys who taught it to me, they felt that when a person could build 60 seconds in each position, on the ground, then you could start adding variations. O.K. But in a sense, yes, you are building that volume first. Right. Good.


Any other questions? Well thank you for your attention, have a good night and I’ll be around to talk to you.


That concludes this program.

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