Over the past several days, I’ve had the pleasure of watching the Arizona Cardinal’s summer training camp. I can say for certain that they’ve got it set up right. The guys all live together, they eat together, and, of course, they train together. What an excellent environment for improvement? Where I feel they are missing the boat comes in the strength training realm, particularly in training the abdominal muscles.
Over the past few days, I’ve seen the team do high volumes of trunk flexion emphasis abdominal work in the form of weighted sit-ups, bicycles, and various other flexion exercises. The problem with this is that they are not training the function of the rectus abdominus, which is an anti-rotator, not a flexor. As Doctor McGill has said, “If it (the function of rectus abdominus) was about trunk flexion, it wouldn’t have the lateral tendinous inscriptions; we’d have hamstrings there instead!”
I would bet that many of the athletes also experience low back pain and poor shoulder function as many football players do. By training flexion (especially with an external load), it will just exacerbate issues in the already trigger point riddled rectus abdominus and psoas leading to an even greater anterior pelvic tilt and kyphosis, resulting in further low back and shoulder dysfunction.
Instead of using flexion emphasis movements, it would be wise to add in more lumbar stability exercises along with hip mobility and glute activation work. I would typically use a progression that begins with various ground-based bridging activities (prone, lateral, rollouts, arms extended, arms bent, etc) to prepare for higher intensity exercises utilizing bands, Keiser equipment, and unbalanced load movements.
Food for thought!