Strength: noun. the ability to overcome.

Beating A Dead Horse? Core Stability, Part 1 – Core Instability: A Personal History

by GEOFFN on April 1

There has been TONS of information written on the concept of “core stability” over the last 15-20 years. Between that and creatine, I’d argue that these are the most “covered” topics.

So why am I writing about it?

Because after 12 years, I’ve finally got it again.

How the freak has it taken me 12 years to get this information and apply it?

Well, honestly, because I’m stubborn.

If you can relate (stubborn) stick with me.


I first hurt my back in 1998 Back Squatting late at night. During that period of time, I was studying Paul Chek’s works. And at that time, Paul, and everyone else it seemed, advocated actively sucking your navel to your spine to “activate” the fabled Transverse abdominus – one of the key muscles in the “Inner Unit.” I had been playing with it on certain exercises and foolishly decided to apply it mid-squat session. BSQ’s were last in the workout that night and I was supposed to hit 160kg for 10 doubles with 60s rest between sets. I think I was on set 5 when I heard a loud pop accompanying a sharp pain in my left SI joint.

Tough guy that I am, I completed another set and a half before I decided to quit.

I couldn’t squat for another 6 months. Fun.

The second time I hurt my back was on a rep max set of Deadlifts with 405lbs in 2002. I was doing this after Snatches and Cleans with around 70%. I heard another loud pop on the left side again on the 8th rep. But I determined to go to 10 so once more, foolishly, so I continued.

I couldn’t get out of bed the next day and couldn’t bend over for a week. My abs and diaphragm were locked in spasm.

About this time, conveniently, I was neck deep in studying model on a company that still has a big name in the fitness world. Little did I realize that the developer of this model completely ripped off the FMS and misapplied some key concepts, not least of which was “Reactive Neuromuscular Training.” (Makes sense why I won’t name “the model” now, huh?)

I was still using kettlebells in my own training and with my clients at this time, but was relying heavily on “the model” and honestly, making very little progress, at least by my definition. I did, by combining “the model” and what I had learned in the original Russian Kettlebell Challenge book (a classic to this day), finally get rid of the chronic and nagging throbbing in the bottom of my left heel.

But both my knees were routinely sore, despite passing “the model’s” guidelines, loading up the reverse hypertension machine to 500lbs, excessive foam rollering and quad/hip flexor stretching, and so I trained around them.

But shortly thereafter, in January 2005, while training for a weightlifting meet three months away, and having some stellar training progress, I injured my right hip. Badly. Walking became difficult. Squatting and pulling almost non-existent. Single arm kettlebell lifting was working well though. I took a cortisone shot and the thing cooled off.

Then in June, I went to the RKC because I still couldn’t swing that darn cannonball with a handle through my legs using 2 hands without back pain.

It was awesome. I learned how to Swing properly. How to pull myself into my squat with my hip flexors (At least you’re supposed to do that – I couldn’t really do it…). How to really press with your lats to protect your shoulders. And a ton of other stuff on movement and strength.

I met the Evil Russian and made some fast friends, some of whom, like Brett Jones, I am honored to call my friends.

In September of ’05 I injured my left hip while warming up with 50kg in the Overhead Squat. I knew immediately what I’d done as it felt virtually the same as the right one. The MRI concluded that indeed it was the same injury as my right one.

By November, I couldn’t sit on the john without lowering myself using my arms.

Enter Z-Health in January 2006. We hosted the first East Coast R-Phase and my business, Triangle Personal Training, became a launching pad for Z’s East Coast Ops. We went full in as a business. I went full in as a trainer. I extensively studied R-Phase and when my colleagues got their certs in March, I waited until December to finish mine. The payoff was that I-Phase in July of 2007 was a piece of cake from a movement perspective.

After making “fast” progress on the pain and movement re-acquisition front, I competed in a weightlifting meet in November 2007, for the first time in almost 8 years. I Snatched 10kg below my competition best.

But I hurt my left hip once again in April of 2008 during a pre-comp Snatch workout. (It was the best Snatch workout I had in 8 years!)

From there, I never recovered.

The rest of 2008 and the first half of 2009 was spent trying to fix the hip and gain some traction, some momentum, something.

I ran a high-volume Squat cycle in July of ’09 but could never find my groove. And after traveling to Hungary and San Diego, it seemed I lost it completely. Upon returning, I climbed back under the Squat bar and had no strength and no groove. And my left hip was hurting. Again.

Once again I found myself unable to squat and was rapidly losing my strength, no matter how much Z I was doing.

So, in November, I flew to Pittsburgh to see Brett Jones to see if he could help me out and find out what was wrong with my left hip.

Brett put me through the Functional Movement Screen. I got a 11 or 13 out of 21. I had no core stability and several asymmetries. Weird.

Now here’s a question I’ll leave you with:

How could I have done 4 years of Z-Health –

  • cleared their visual tests
  • cleared their vestibular tests
  • cleared their myofascial winding tests
  • have above average joint mobility and
  • have above average movement control

And still have asymmetries and a lack of core stability?

I’ll answer that in my next post on this topic…

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