You know the one, right at the base of your spine when you're going for your new personal best plank record. You have to stop because of the pain stemming from this area, rather than your muscles giving up.
You've been told you need to strengthen your core, or you just want those sexy abs.
I feel you.
Thing is, you can't plank your way through this, a plank isn't going to fix the problem.
But how do I strengthen my core!
Yes, we know there are other sweet core exercises like the pallof press, hanging leg raises and sit ups. You're missing the bigger picture though.
You see, your core is much more than those rippling abs, it is the diaphragm, the less often discussed pelvic floor muscles, our hip flexors which attach to our lumbar spine, right where you feel the pinch. Is it because they're tight? It is one potential reason.
Rather than looking at the hip flexors as tight, which they may well be, lets consider perhaps, that the big bad glutes aren't doing their job. This is actually a surprisingly prevalent reason.
Think about it, we sit down all day, in cars, at our desks, on the sofa watching whatever happens to be on TV. Those glutes are constantly stretched out and effectively massaged. They relax and become super lazy.
More often than not, this is the main reason we feel that pinch in our lower backs. Our hips are falling forward, which extends the lower spine, placing pressure between the vertebrae. Illustrated here, you'll see an example of a correct plank and an incorrect one. Of course, with the particular mistake we're discussing now.
That's what's hurting you. That's what is inhibiting you from achieving those sexy abs. Well, one of many things.
But without those big bad glutes firing up, tugging the hips backwards, we can't maintain a straight back, we suffer the pinch in the plank.
The solution should already be mincing around in the periphery of your mind by now.
"So, I need to strengthen my butt?"
Oh, for sure. Besides, who doesn't want sexy rippling abs with an awesome butt to complement?
How do I exercises my butt? Deadlifts?
That's one way, but to be honest it was discovered through EMG measurements (electromyography machine) undertaken by Bret Contreras AKA The Glute Guy, that deadlifts don't fire up the glutes as much as we like to think.
During a barbell deadlift, three parts of the glutes were measured for electrical activity. Or in other words, how much of our butt we used.
Upper glute max - 81.5
Mid glute max - 37.0
Lower glute max - 85.6
Looking at the barbell hip thrust, this was found.
Upper glute max - 134.0
Mid glute max - 62.6
Lower glute max - 72.9
It is fair to say, for training that butt to either just look absolutely awesome, or to find balance in your muscular strength from front to back, hip thrusts are an essential tool for achieving this. Here is the Barbell Glute Bridge in action, inclusive of some 'pulsing' to ensure full hip extension.
Barbell hip thrusts with single leg hip thrust superset
For fixing the pinch in the plank, this is one of the most common reasons behind why we may suffer this simple problem. It is important that you do not self diagnose however. As an individual, there may be other vital considerations that need to be taken into account when dealing with such a common "core function" issue. If you simply need a bit of further guidance on this, do drop me a email.
I love coaching the hip thrust and all the variations available. There are so many little tweaks and technical teaching points that must be understood in order to get the most out of this exercise.
The glutes are an essential contributor to overall core function and lower body strength. Get those bad boys pencilled sensibly into your current programme and reap the rewards.