There are a few staples most people look to include in their workouts regardless of the goal. It doesn’t matter if the goal is weight loss, sports performance or rehab everyone recognizes the value of doing some type of core work.
In the last few years one core exercise in particular has become more and you’re seeing more and more people doing the ‘stir the pot’ exercise.
Why the sudden increase in popularity of this core drill? Well much of the credit has to do with the stamp of approval this exercise got from Dr Stu McGill, the world-reknowed spinal biomechanist from Canada. When Dr McGill speaks on things related to core training people listen. And the sir the pot was one that he was recommending as a way to stabilize the spine and train the core.
But besides the endorsement of a top researcher this exercise is also a great choice for a few other reasons:
1. It allows for the development of muscular endurance through the core. When performed correctly an individual can gradually build with this drill by adding time or reps to their sets.
2. It helps develop anti-extension strength. While much of the fitness community talks to the need of getting out of the sitting position and performing anti-flexion drills there is also benefit to performing anti-extension drills. This is especially true for people who live in anterior tilt and have low back pain.
3. It allows for the progression of the basic plank. Most of us start with planks to develop the core. And this is great. But it seems things go from the basic plank to trying to do fast movements with load. It kind of seems like sometimes we miss a step and the stir the pot fills this gap. It allows us to go from a stable position to an unstable one. It changes the angulation of the body putting more demands on the anti-extension muscles. It also adds a dimension of being able to quantify reps which is difficult to do with a basic plank.
Here’s a quick video showing the stir the pot exercise.
Now while this is a great exercise there are a number of common mistakes being made in an attempt to develop a stronger more stable spine. Make sure that you don’t do the following:
* Move your head up or down. You should be able to place a dowel on the length of the spine and have it rest on the glutes, shoulders and head. If you lift your head up to look around you may see an increase arch (extension) in the low back which is exactly what we are trying to avoid with this drill.
* Going into extension. As mentioned with looking up you also want to avoid allowing the hips to sag causing lumbar extension as well. Make sure to maintain a strong contraction through the glutes.
* Watch that the scapula don’t roll up and forward. They should be down and back for optimal stabilization.
* Don’t allow the knees to bend. Contracting the quads extends the knees and takes pressure off the low back.
* Don’t lose a 90 degree angle at the elbows. Firstly this takes the stress off the core but more importantly it makes it more difficult to maintain proper scapular position.
* The last two points have less to do with common mistake and more to do with ways to make the drill easier or harder. The only problem is that people don’t realize they are progressing or regressing the drill. You will know if you consider the width of your feet and the circumference of the circle you draw with your arms. Play around with both of these to find the right set up.
Going forward keep the following common mistakes in mind as you do the stir the pot exercise. At any point when you notice your form break so that you are making of these technique faults make sure to stop at the point and do slightly less, either reps or time, on your sets going forward.