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More Training Info > Dirt Digger

Dirt Digger

If your 500 abdominal crunches are not exactly paying off handsomely for your summer sport, we invite you to try a functional core strengthening exercise that works your obliques (the rotational muscles in the core, so important for running, swimming, climbing, and other 3-dimensional sports that involve twisting the torso in any way) as well as legs, lower back, glutes, and shoulders. It resembles digging dirt or shoveling snow in the back yard, and with little or no weight, can also be included in a dynamic warm-up before you begin your sport or activity. As always, make sure you have warmed up and stretched for 5-10 minutes before trying any new strength training exercises.

What is needed: sizeable dumbbell, suitcase, backpack, or other comparably weighted object.

How to perform it: stand with feet a little wider than shoulder width apart, knees tracking directly over toes (the wider the stance, the farther out your toes will be turned in order to maintain proper alignment for your knees). Hold 1 dumbbell in both hands. Squat down to the ground, keeping back straight as shown and dumbbell directly under your chin, and as you lift back up to standing position, rotate to one side (keep feet flat on floor) as though you were going to throw the dirt behind you. Repeat to the other side, alternating back and forth for desired number of repetitions. Be sure to keep abs tight in order to prevent hyperextending your back.

How to include it: Perform 2-3 sets of 8-10 repetitions to each side (16-20 total) with about 1 minute of rest between sets. Since this works large muscles and requires more stabilization from the core than machine exercises, perform this exercise before doing any machine work. Alternatively, you may choose to do core work for lower back, obliques, and abdominals on a separate day from any other strength training.

How to increase intensity: Once you get comfortable with this exercise, try 1) adding resistance by using a heavier weight; 2) performing it standing on one leg at a time (with a greatly reduced weight) taking the dumbbell outside of the standing leg and lifting up to the opposing shoulder (but keep your foot near the floor until you improve your balance); 3) try standing in front of a cable weight stack with a rope attachment--the oblique pull will challenge your core from a different direction.

Before beginning a new conditioning program, consult your physician. Remember to perform strength training moves for the whole body at least twice a week, allowing 48 hours of recovery time between sessions. If you currently suffer from any chronic lower back soreness or other sport-related injury, consult your doctor, physical therapist, or strength and conditioning coach.

Courtenay Schurman, MS, CSCS, is co-founder of Body Results (www.bodyresults.com), a Seattle organization specializing in strength and conditioning training for outdoor athletes. If you have any training questions, contact Courtenay at (206) 200-2050 or court@bodyresults.com. Copyright 2002.


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