Core Program

Bullet proof your core with our Steel Curtain program.

This program is designed by Clint Russell, Doctor of Physical Therapy, to easily add on to your regular exercise program to strengthen your mid section to help create stability in your low back.  Awesome abs are a secondary result.

The word core strengthening is thrown around a lot and used as a buzz word to sell stuff.  We first need to know what it is, then, we’ll discuss what it does.  

I define the core as all of the muscles that cross the hip joint as well as those that attach to the spine.  Folks, that’s an incredibly complex system. This includes you transverse abdominus – this acts like a corset along your midsection, your multifidi – these stabilize each spinal segment, spinal erectors,  internal obliques, quadratus lumborum, rectus abdomnius (six pack muscles, glutes – the rotate the pelvis post and produce hip ext, and your hip flexors.  

In real life, this whole system works together to provide stability to the spine.  The core, for the purpose of keeping our back and hips safe during lifting, job is to resist motion.  It is an antimover. Think of it as the transmission of a car. If you can produce 500lbs of force with your legs, but your back can hold 200, you’re only gonna be able to lift 200.  

Most of us have been told not to lift and twist.  The problem is that that is exactly how real life functional movements occur, on diagonals.  Any one that has watched a small child knows exactly what I mean here. Its for this reason, we need our core to be strong so that if we can’t get into a perfect setup, we are still safe.  Isolating some of these can have a place to improve muscle activation, but, nowhere in real life do these muscle function in isolation. We need to train the whole system. Work through this stuff and it will drastically help your low back.


Before each session, I want you to do the active couch stretch.  This will help eliminate anterior pelvic tilt, and get into a more neutral position. 2 min each side. Or 5/5 x 10 each side.  See the video below:

Phase 1: Weeks 1-2, 3 times/week

The first movement is the deadbug.  This is a great movement to learn the neutral spine.  Move slowly here. We want time under tension. Ideally we want you to be able to do this for 1 min x 3

Side plank  This will strengthen the obliques which are crucial to providing lateral and rotational stability 1 min each side x 3

McGill Curl up  This activates the transverse abdominus (our corset) 30 sec each side x 3

Go through the above for 2 weeks, at least 3 x week.

Couch Stretch 2 minutes each side
Deadbug x 3 minutes
Side Plank 1 min each side x 3
McGill Curl Up 30 seconds each side x 3

Phase 2: Weeks 3-4, 3 times/week

Couch stretch each side 2 min

Hollow rock 1 minx3 This trains us to stay stable through the middle with a little bit of motion

Bird dog – go very slow with this – Now we have to keep a neutral pelvis whilst moving our extremities.  2×8/8

Russian twist 15/15 each side with approx 10lbs x 3 sets

McGill curl up now 1 min each sidex2

Do the above 3x week for 2 weeks

Couch Stretch 2 minutes each side
Hollow Rock 1 minute
Bird Dog 15 reps each side x 1 set
Russian Twist 15 L/15 R x 3 sets
McGill Curl Up 2 minutes each side

Phase 3: Weeks 5-6, 3 times/week

Couch stretch-This is uber important-don’t skip it

Hollow rock with small object in hands 5lbs ish-goal is 3 x 1 min with perfect toe point and position

Floor wiper 25 L/25 R reps anyhow – Now we really challenge the obliques with a larger ROM and we create space in the facet joints of the spine with rotation

McGill curl up 1:30 each side 2 sets

Couch Stretch 2 minutes each side
Hollow Rock 1 minute x 3 sets (its 5 pounds)
Floor Wipers 25 L/25 R
Mc Gill Curl Up 1:30 each side x 2 sets


Phase 4

Weeks 7,8 and beyond

These exercises are a lot more advanced and most will require some amount of scaling.  Thats ok!  Keep working on them until you get them.  It might take a little while before you are able to go full dragon flag, but its worth the effort!

Stick with the couch stretch for 2 min each side.  Thats helps with so many different things.  Stay diligent with it.  The gains are in the small details.  Its ok if you can’t go unbroken.  All of these require a lot of control, and inherently a lot of time under tension, which is what makes us stronger.  Being able to hold our core engaged at a high level for longer will translate to more stability during running, lifting, etc.

Phase 4 exercises

Floor wipers 2.o. 20/20

Lateral hollow rocks 25/25

1 leg bridges 25/25

3×6 Dragon flags