Are You Training ALL of Your Core Muscles? - Part III
The Global Movers
By David Drinks
Today, I’m back with part III, which is the final part of this series on training all of your core muscles. If you haven’t taken the time to read parts I and II in this series yet, then go ahead and check them out here:
I decided to take a little break from writing over the holidays, but now I’m back in the new year with part III of this series!
My goal in writing this three-part series on core training is to give you a better understanding of how the core functions. Hopefully, after reading the first two parts of this series, you’re starting to appreciate how complex the core is, and how we cannot simply perform sit-ups and crunches to properly train the core muscles.
Instead, we need to be aware of the different layers of the core, each composed of different types of muscles. In addition, we also must be aware of the different roles that each of these types of core muscles play.
Once you understand that most core muscles play the role of creating motor control and stability around the spine and pelvis – rather than creating motion around the spine – then you realize how important it is to adopt a different style of core training.
If the majority of your core muscles are muscles that primarily provide stability around the spine and pelvis, then that means the majority of your core training should be focused on stability exercises.
Core stability exercises are the opposite of exercises like sit-ups and crunches. Rather than using the core muscles to create bending at the spine, we should use the core muscles to resist movement around the spine, and thus create stability.
The exercises that I highlighted in part I of this series focused on training the smaller muscles that I referred to as the Local Stabilizers. These muscles have the job of maintaining fine motor control of the spine and pelvis. They ensure that the joints of the spine are stabilized, and injury does not take place during movement.
In part II, I highlighted some exercises that train the Global Stabilizers. These are core muscles that stabilize the trunk in a more global sense. They serve to maintain proper body alignment and posture.
Without proper training of these first two categories of core musculature, the foundation for healthy and efficient movement simply won’t be present. Your odds of encountering injury and pain – let alone not maximizing your body’s movement potential – will be much greater if your local and global stabilizers are not well-trained and doing their jobs.
However, once you have these first two categories in your core training program locked in, then you can begin to challenge your body both in your training as well as in everyday life without as much risk for injury.
Once you have a handle on your core stability training, only then can you safely move up to training the muscles that we’ll talk about today – your Global Movers.
The global movers are the third layer of core muscles, and I like to refer to them as the “outer layer” of the core. These are the big muscles of the core that serve to move the body. They are especially important when it comes to generating force and acceleration, but they also serve to stabilize the trunk during high load movements.
The global mover’s roles are to:
Stabilize the trunk during high load movements in the sagittal plane.
Generate force and acceleration of the joints.
Shorten and tighten at higher resistance levels and during more powerful movements.
These are the muscles that allow you to lift a couch when helping a friend move furniture. They are the muscles that allow you to create forces required to run, jump, land, or throw an object. They’re the muscles involved in stabilizing the trunk while performing a heavy back squat.
As you can see, these muscles are the muscles that allow us to transfer extreme forces through our core from our lower body to our upper body and vice versa. It’s important to remember, however, that these muscles are not primarily supposed to create movement at the spine, even though they’re called “global movers.”
Instead, these muscles simply allow efficient body movement by taking the forces generated in the hips and shoulders, transferring those forces through a stiff core, and then allowing those forces to be released while maintaining the stability around the spine.
You can learn more about this concept in the following video in which Dr. Stuart McGill talks about power and force generation, and how the great athletes do it properly by using their shoulders and hips to create movement, and their core muscles to stiffen and create stability.
So, learning to train your global movers is important, especially if you have athletic performance goals. However, even if you don’t, you will still need to call on these muscles from time to time if you need to move a heavy piece of furniture or perform any other power movement in everyday life.
Chances are that at some point you will need to call on these muscles, so you want to be sure that they are ready. Plus, once you have properly strengthened these global movers, you become much more useful to that friend who needs help moving their couch!
What are these global movers that I’m talking about? Well, the following list will give you an idea of what muscles we’re referring to:
Rectus abdominis (your “6-pack abs” muscle)
Erector spinae (the spinal erectors running up and down your back on both sides of the spine)
Quadratus lumborum (QL)
These muscles are the more superficial, bigger muscles which are able to generate a lot of force while simultaneously increasing stiffness and stability around the torso to protect the spine.
So, how can we train these muscles? Well, there are many different options, but some of the best exercises for training these muscles are the big weightlifting exercises like heavy barbell squats, deadlifts, and power cleans.
However, even exercises like pull-ups and chin-ups or lat pulldowns (which train the lat muscles) can be effective here.
This is also where some of the more advanced core exercises like fallouts or rollouts fit in.
All of these exercises are focused on generating tremendous power at the hips or shoulders, while simultaneously using the core for stiffness, stability, and force transmission.
Check out the following videos to learn how you can properly perform some of these exercises. An important note before we jump in, however – if you have not done these exercises before or you’re unsure if you’re doing them properly, it’s important to work with a qualified trainer who can assess your readiness and technique for these higher intensity exercises.
Power Clean (sorry for the poor video quality here, this is an older video):
Deadlifts (either with a barbell or, as shown here, with kettlebells):
Tall-Kneeling Lat Pulldown:
Reverse Lunge to 1-arm Landmine Press:
Each of these exercises trains global strength and power generation to lift, push, or pull something. During each of these movements, you not only need to generate a lot of force, but you also must be able to stabilize against a large outside force to prevent unwanted movement through the core.
Working on these exercises is imperative for anyone who needs to build their strength, power, and higher-threshold core stability. However, as I’ve been saying throughout this series, you can’t just jump to these exercises and ignore the importance of the exercises that we talked about in the previous parts of this series.
Instead, do your core and spine a favor by working your way up to these more challenging exercises by first performing a lot of core stability training. Then, once you’re at the level of training your global movers by performing these high-threshold strength and power exercises, you still must be conscious of maintaining the other layers of the core.
That means that you can’t ignore the exercises that we talked about in parts I and II. Instead, you must integrate them into your program along with the exercises that we talked about today.
Doing so will ensure that you have a complete core training program and that you’re training ALL of your core muscles!
Want to learn more about training your body to Move Better, Feel Better, and Live Better? Our exercise programs at the Med Gym are custom made to get you exactly what you need.
Whether you come into the gym or work with us via Med Gym Online, we can help you get on the right track with your movement and fitness.
Contact us here to talk about how we can help you develop an exercise routine that improves your core strength and function and so much more!