Inner core unit exercises?? Suggestions

Zach Ganska

More than 300 posts
Certified Instructor
Sean,

I hope those who are wiser provide their feedback, here's how I best understand reflexive stability.  (Hopefully without butchering the concept):

The type of activation of one's ...... (insert whatever you want to call the many dozens of small stabilizers throughout the trunk) that allows for fluid, authentic movement (hence the ability to breathe whilst performing the movement). I'm thinking of the difference between someone who struggles to get a 1 or 2 on the FMS rotary stability test, while those few who can perform a 3 make it look ridiculously easy.  OR those who effortlessly perform a squat (weighted or unweighted) and can hold any bottom position they choose, chest up, without T-spine or lumbar flexion.  Again, looking natural and effortless, as opposed to those who feel "tight" in their adductors, glutes, whatever and are in some way fighting themselves going down to reach the desired depth.

So yes, for those who have (I'd add "not lost") the ability to reflexive stabilize, ALL movement includes reflexive stabilization as the activation frees up larger muscles to exert their full force to the task at hand.

If my understanding is correct this is the reason the RS test precedes the TSPU in the FMS as one shouldn't be applying feed-forward tension (TSPU) using the outer ...... (insert whatever you want to call the many dozens of small stabilizers throughout the trunk) before the inner ...... (insert whatever you want to call the many dozens of small stabilizers throughout the trunk) is functioning properly.

 
 

Zach Ganska

More than 300 posts
Certified Instructor
David,

Have you gone through an FMS screen?  Your body will answer that question for you in 15 minutes or less (dependent on practitioner that is).
 

Brett Jones

StrongFirst Director of Education
Master Certified Instructor
Beast Tamer
Sean -

you are talking muscles and I am talking timing and patterning

REFLEXIVE is just that reflexive - all of your examples are (as pointed out by Zack) Feed forward exercises

Breathing is critical - your diaphragm is a key player in breathing, posture, and stability - if it cannot "multitask" and fire in sequence then it will give up it's stability and/or postural functions to maintain breathing so to "ignore" or feel that breathing isn't part of good stability just shows a lack of understanding on the subject

Rolling (easy rolls) are an example of a reflexive drill again TIMING not muscles

David T - yes - if you are in a "High Threshold Strategy" you will try to use your prime movers as stabilizers and cause all sorts of problems - happens all the time.
 

Sean Schniederjan

Triple-Digit Post Count
Sounds like you are saying that any loading is feed forward tension and not RS?

I don’t see it that way at all – anytime you pick something up (external object or part of your body like a leg) and a muscle contracts without you intending it that is RS – i.e. snow shoveling example and l-sits and lunges – whatever.  Like Zach says the people who have this RS quality make movement look easy.

 

If you contract a muscle intentionally before loading that is feed forward tension – the basis of the skill of strength.  Yes I definitely see patterning in terms of muscle doing its function – the muscle working together optimally (or not) determines the pattern.  I’ve also experienced feed forward helping out with RS.  I think they are different but mutually complimentary qualities – the only problem is when you neglect one over the other (or worse yet both).

 

Good stuff on breathing.
 

Zach Ganska

More than 300 posts
Certified Instructor
Sean-

They are indeed complimentary qualities, however RS has to occur prior to any high-threshold strategy to fully exert our strength in the endeavor we are attempting (push, hinge, squat, etc...).  SO loading someone that lacks RS in a given posture will result in the high-threshold strategy that Brett described, relying on feed-forward tension rather than authentic RS, leading to compensated movements (immobile) as one or more prime movers are called upon to provide stability to make up for the RS not occurring in that position.

Can you provide an example you've seen of using feed-forward tension to develop authentic RS?  I'm unsure I've witnessed someone (myself included) who has lacked mobility/stability in a movement pattern that has gone on to gain RS in that movement using a load.

Myself as an example: I got better than most, less than others, at using feed-forward tension to create "strength," then found myself fail SFG II due to having lousy hip mobility (from relying on prime movers to stabilize me in specific positions) and not being able to complete the windmill (of all the lifts...!!).  I've gotten stronger, in addition to far more mobile, only after gaining mobility and learning to stabilize in positions I previously could not get into, let alone hold, without weight.
 

Matt

More than 300 posts
Don't mean to be argumentative, and I respect your knowledge Zach, but after thinking and experimenting, I still feel my 20kg plate clean is a decent RS movement.  Of course it, (and the walkout example I gave) are going to involve both.

I do the clean at the end of any workout so I am intentionally more fatigued - forcing the reflexive nature of the catch to kick in.  While 20kg is tricky enough (edge of ability stuff), sometimes the clean is effortless (a little wrist strength still needed to balance), other times you can get it up there (and hold a tight posture) yet just can't balance (RS not up to it for whatever reason) - this is where you need to be super careful of others around you (or your shoulders if weak).  I have an imbalance between RH and LH core (whether inner or outer, probably both) so I notice a difference with RH cleans and LH cleans.

It is like a lift (of chop-and-lift fame), the important part being the transfer of power in an effortless movement and catching it (balancing it therefore a lot of reflexive stabilisation, with the weight vertically above the hand).  It is a vertical movement of the plate, with the hips doing most of the work, the torso remaining basically flat the whole time.

I like it anyway.
 

Brett Jones

StrongFirst Director of Education
Master Certified Instructor
Beast Tamer
Matt,

Are you basically doing a "bottom up" clean with the plate?

Sean,

"anytime you pick something up (external object or part of your body like a leg) and a muscle contracts without you intending it that is RS"
What??

 "I’ve also experienced feed forward helping out with RS."
An example please
and how are you judging RS vs. Feed forward

You cannot "feel" RS - sitting there relaxed try to fire your rotator cuff

Go ahead - I'll wait............
 

Zach Ganska

More than 300 posts
Certified Instructor
Matt-

Nor am I trying to say what you're doing is "wrong," the question resides in how the body is responding to what it is being asked to perform. Yes both of your examples involve RS, as Brett said RS precedes any movement/lift.  Training for RS however if it is lacking in a position is a different story.  Have you gone through an FMS screen?  If you don't mind my asking what is your MP weight?

Reason for my question is an example from my training.  I can MP half my body weight when I train for it (44 kg).  If I'm working on RS though less than half that weight (16-20kg) bottoms up is more than enough to challenge my stability in a variety of positions, half-kneeling, single-leg, etc.

So yes one can use an external load (provided the foundation for stability is in place, rolling), but training stability is much different than strength.

"....other times you can get it up there (and hold a tight posture) yet just can’t balance (RS not up to it for whatever reason)"

That would lead me to believe that this strategy is not the best to specifically increase your ability to stabilize in a standing posture.  I recall your walkout post and the "crumple effect" you were feeling internally sometimes.  If the load (and or position attempting to be used) is so much that you cannot complete the task then you won't increase RS, training stabilizers to failure isn't going to work long term, just as training your strength lifts to failure is an ineffective long-term strategy.  What will happen (which unfortunately I know from experience) is increased compensation while trying to perform tasks that are unmanageable as of now.
 

Zach Ganska

More than 300 posts
Certified Instructor
Rafael-

A well-performed TGU is fantastic, provided one can get into every position of the TGU and truly stabilize in that position.  Brett Jones and Gray Cook's "KB's from the ground up" discusses how amazing the TGU is for a quality movement practice.
 

Jeff

More than 500 posts
This whole discussion is very interesting.  Us this where the Original Strength resets are useful?
 

Sean Schniederjan

Triple-Digit Post Count
Brett,

Defining our terms - good idea.

I generally define stability as a joint's ability to keep its integrity (not shake and move around all over the place) against outside compression, which is different that movement which is moving joints/limbs through space.  Receiving vs. giving, passive vs. active,  Blocking a punch vs. throwing a punch, the planted leg vs. the swinging leg when walking.  I define reflexive stability as instinctive or non-voluntary reaction stability vs. feed forward, which is deliberate or pre-meditated that requires intentional effort and focus.  Blocking a punch could be reflexive or feed forward, depending on the intent of the blocker, etc.

Not sure I follow your example.  The RC wouldn't provide stability in that position would it?

Another example would be feeling the glute maximus firing in a hip hinge, perhaps?  You hinge the hips and feel the glutes firing without you intentionally firing the glutes is what I'm trying to say.  Or dropping into a 1 arm pushup position and your shoulder stabilizers fire without you having to intentionally tense up, or feed forward. With RS, the stability (activity of the stabilizing muscles doing their thing) "just happens."  Again, I see this quality as a vital protective mechanism of the body and one that can be gained or regained in more than one way.

Are we on the same page here or would you define it differently?  We have very different backgrounds, yours coming from the school and teaching and mine coming primarily from rebuilding my left hip (it completely "died," i.e. had zero strength/stability) and sharing my findings and getting feedback from others.

Zach,

One example I've experienced is the "pushing your back into the floor" ab exercise, whatever that's called - the one that makes are abs tired after 5 seconds.  I found that doing that one routinely causes the abs to kick in in reflexive situations.  But I would not make a solid rule about this, I generally agree with your point that RS should come before FF.
 

Matt

More than 300 posts
Hi Brett - yep, starting like a power clean with a single plate, then in a fluid motion just (somehow) getting it up and it ends resting as if it was a bottom up KB clean like you said.
 

jgruginski

More than 300 posts
Sean, not to speak for Brett but I don't think that discussing a prime mover during its intended motion is a good example (glute firing during a hip hinge) either concentrically or eccentrically. I think a better example is a simple front raise done with a very light dumbbell. When you're standing straight up and you lift that dumbbell with a straight arm, your body has to turn on many different muscles just to stay upright to fight the disturbance that the leverage of the dumbbell applies to your body. This is in multiple planes as the body is off balance in many planes with a single weight. I mention a light dumbbell because a heavy dumbbell(relative) would require a conscious effort to stay upright. And I can tell you from professional experience that this movement is a really good one to get someone to recognize the importance of "core" stability for back health. To me, all the unconscious firing that is happening to stay upright falls under the umbrella of "reflexive".
 

Matt

More than 300 posts
Hi Zach,

Thanks for your reply - I have gone through a FMS screen, working on some TSPine mobility at the moment as a starting point.

I haven't MP'd for ages as I kayak a lot these days and feel my shoulders would be fatigued - still strong yet only good for maybe two reps.  But when I was on a 5x5 about 1year ago I would clean and press about 85% BW no dramas, and DB clean and press 30kg dumbbell for 3 easy-ish reps.  So I agree it could be easy to not use RS stabilisation.  The 20kg plate is just borderline - with my RH I can cheat a bit, LH wrist strength not as strong so can't cheat and press it up.
 

Zach Ganska

More than 300 posts
Certified Instructor
Matt-

Was your rotary stability test a 2/2?

Given the T-spine issues I wouldn't try to stabilize weight overhead until T-spine stuff is cleared up, and when you do start practicing overhead holds keep it a much lower % or your MP.  So if a DB max was 30kg I wouldn't go above ~8 kg (talk to your FMS person about this obviously).  Are you cleared to do the first step or 2 of the TGU?  Any rolling progressions in your current program?  Finding movements and postures that challenge stability with little to no weight will insure you're developing RS (timing, etc.) without possible creating a strategy which has a long-term negative impact.

Jeffrey- Yes, RS is regained by working through the neurodevelopmental sequence, supine to prone to rolling, quadruped, crawling, transitional postures, etc.  It is position dependent so there is no guarantee that mastering it in one position will carry over into every other position.

Sean-

I'm picturing a posterior pelvic tilt while laying supine?  I agree with that drill having carryover into other strength training practices, however I wouldn't label it as a FF drill.  I've done many variations of that movement (including the blood- pressure cuff crunch which usually quickly splits people into yay/nay camps), which is developing RS in a supine position.

Now if someone were to need to power-breathe, hyper-irradiate using glutes, etc. to do said back pushing drill then I would label it as FF tension which may or may not be developing RS equally, but a posterior pelvic tilt in of itself doesn't require FF tension as lots of stuff turns on automatically as you mentioned while doing that movement.
 

Matt

More than 300 posts
Hi Zach - yep a 2/2 on the rotary stability.  I should retest that sometime soon.  I actually do some TGUps with a 20kg KB.  The LH roll easy (yet the rest my shoulder fatigues more quickly if I'm a bit tired), the RH the roll (the initial roll to elbow then post) is the hardest part (left foot/leg raises slightly) the rest easy, shoulder strength much stronger here.  Yet the past week this rolling has been easier - did some rolling - bodyweight? ie. just lying flat on the ground - and that was actually really useful to "relearn" the coordination required.  Babies are pretty smart hey.  I do some heavy (have to compensate so use a pulley with a rope, #5 on the weight stack) chops 3x5 and the stability is again borderline at that weight.  Technique can make a difference, so I am focussing on that (light front foot, upright as possible).  Did them for 6months high reps, and spent years in my younger days rollerblading, so am fortunate to have "accidently" trained this quite a lot.
 

Matt

More than 300 posts
I should clarify if it hasn't been clear - the final position is arm straight, vertical with the 20kg plate resting bottom up on top.
 

Sean Schniederjan

Triple-Digit Post Count
Joe,

The arm raise exercise makes a lot of sense and is jiving with what I've been arguing here - that loaded movements are good for RS.  I think "unconscious" could have a few meanings that might affect things, but generally agree.  I wouldn't say the lifter couldn't feel the stability, but would say they aren't intending it.  There are obviously many different ways to acheive RS and think we all have our favorites.

Re: glutes.  Its my understanding the glutes extend the hip, so don't see how flexing the hip (hinging) would activate the glutes as prime mover [the opposite in fact], but as stabilizers that hold the position [I'm thinking of an unloaded static hip hinge here].  The movers in falling back into a hip hinge would actually be the hip flexors.  I think this is critical for understanding moving and stabilizing clearly so feel free to add/clarify here.

Zach - yeah should have clarified what you added about FF tension.

To the commenter about OS resets - yes those are very good for generally coordination of stability and mobility IMO, i.e. you are stabilizing hips, abs (low back) and shoulders all at once whereas in standing straight its pretty much just the hips.  I was researching a few weeks ago and chanced to read that the quadraped position is the strongest position you can be in loading-wise.
 
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