Core Stability: Progressing the Posterior Chain

My last video introduced the concept of stability in the posterior chain. We used the bridge exercise as a means of training static stability in the posterior chain. As a refresher, static stability refers to stability around the joints of the body without movement around any other joint. When training core stability, we typically start with static stability and progress to dynamic. We used the push-up and pull-up as a means of training dynamic stability of the anterior chain.

This week we’ll progress the bridge exercise by making it into a dynamic stability exercise.

To help illustrate, allow me to share a few examples of when this muscle group comes into play. The most obvious example is a climber on overhanging terrain using his heel to prevent a barn door. Your posterior chain is doing much of the work anytime you heel hook.

Now picture a climber desperately reaching for a crimp. They first get their middle finger on the crimp, then somehow their index finger, and finally the ring finger. They can now bear down on the crimp, and steady themselves to bring their right foot up to a large foothold. The crux is over. What got them there? Their posterior chain. As the climber reached for the hold, their low back and glutes kept the bulk of their body close to the wall, their hamstring helped drive the pelvis into the wall while also helping the foot maintain tension on the hold. Finally, their calf pushed the heel up, and their mid-back extended their spine so that they could reach the hold.

Now consider the climber reaching for a far off foot hold. The moment the foot lands on the hold she needs the posterior chain to drive the foot into the hold so it doesn’t peel back off the wall. Her calf and hamstring are doing most of that work. If she wants to make her life easier, she’ll drive her pelvis and low back closer to the hold to get more of her weight over the foot. The muscles in her low back are doing much of this work. These are all muscles found in the posterior chain.

In other words, you use your posterior chain just as much as you would any other muscle group. If you want to avoid injury (think low back, knee, hamstring) and generally climb harder, training the posterior chain is key.


Core Stability Series Part 3: The Push-Up

In my two prior posts, we talked about how to integrate your core stabilizers into exercises used to train for climbing. The first looked at how to integrate your shoulders and anterior trunk muscles into your deadhang - see here. This can be a great tool to help you train static stability.

We then progressed by incorporating stability into our pull-up. The pull-up is a great way of training dynamic core stability (i.e. stability through movement) - see here.

In both of these exercises the feet are doing absolutely nothing. This is contrary to how we usually climb: we want to maintain foot contact as much as possible. We need a way of progressing anterior trunk and shoulder stability with both hand and foot contact. The push-up can help you do this.

Check out the video below to learn how to integrate anterior trunk and shoulder stability in the push-up.  

All of the exercises we’ve discussed have emphasized anterior trunk engagement. These exercises are great at getting your feet high on the wall, or preventing them from pulling you off the wall when they cut. What about maintaining tension when your feet are on the wall, or pulling your hips into the wall? This requires a whole new set of muscles. Check out next week’s article and video to find out more.

This article was first published in Squamish Climbing Magazine on Sept 28th, 2016

Core Stability Series Part 2: Pull-Ups

Last week we discussed how you can start to integrate your core stabilizers with a basic exercise like the deadhang. Check out this article for a quick recap. In integrating your shoulder and anterior trunk muscles within your deadhang you’re training static core stability.

Consider static stability to be any exercise that engages your stabilizers without additional movement generated by your prime movers (the larger muscles in your body responsible for moving your limbs). Another example of a static stability exercise would be the classic plank exercise. You move your body into a neutral posture and hold that position. The stabilizers stay on for as long as you hold that position.

In climbing, you need both static and dynamic stability. Dynamic stability is your ability to control the joints in your body while the prime movers are carrying you up the wall. In other words, stability through movement. Holding a plank or simply training your stabilizers on a hangboard isn’t enough.

Consider last week’s climber who has just thrown for a dyno and their hands have landed on the finishing holds. As their body falls back towards the ground, the prime movers are working to slow the momentum of their body while the stabilizers are working to keep the joints safe. This is an example of dynamic stability. You train dynamic stability by keeping your stabilizers engaged through movement-based exercises.

The pull-up is a great place to start and a good means of progressing the hangboard exercise. Check out the video below to better understand how you can start to train dynamic core stability through pull-ups.

This article was first published in Squamish Climbing Magazine on Sept. 12, 2016.