Thursday, April 10, 2014

Smart Core Exercise - Alligator Walk Suicides (Advanced Plank Progression)

Contrary to popular belief, the core was not designed to move the spine- it was designed to protect the spine from movement.  When the spine flexes, extends or rotates (twists), it places severe stress on the discs.  The goal of core exercise is to train the core to resist movement throughout all planes of motion and various loading patterns so that the entire body can operate as one single unit.

A Spine Biomechanics Professor, Dr. Stuart McGill was first to discover that the sit-up exercise places harmful stress on the spine.  A great article posted on Mens Health interviewed and covered several of Dr. Stuart McGill's ground breaking research on core training and its impact on the spine.  Check out the article below or do a Google search of his name to find hundreds of his studies on this topic.  After reading the article below, you'll learn that the sit-up is merely one of the many exercises that are dangerous to spine health.

An interesting study published by the National Strength and Conditioning Association studied the relationship between cycling mechanics and core stability.  The study demonstrated that a fatigued core negatively impacts the quality of each pedal stroke.  While power output was not significantly affected, the quality of each pedal stroke was compromised.  The study left me with one question: How does a fatigued core affect cycling economy and efficiency?  If a fatigued core leads to altered cycling mechanics, then it's likely that cycling economy and efficiency will be compromised, especially out of the saddle.

Now that you have a great understanding on how to train the core properly, here's an exercise that follows the recommended protocols to train the core safely- Alligator Walk Suicides.  This is one of my favorite cycling core exercises.

Due to the advanced nature of this exercise, consult a Doctor before attempting to do the Alligator Walk exercise.  Even after getting a go-ahead with a doctor, ensure that you meet the following criteria to reduce your risk of injury:
  • You can hold a stationary plank for three minutes without losing form.
    • Example: Dropping the hips, dropping the head, holding your breath (valsalva), protracting/ retracting the scapula often (shoulder instability) or failing to maintain a neutral back
  • You have no history of wrist or hand pain
Tips for Performing the Alligator Walk Suicide:
  • Walking backwards will feel almost two times harder than walking forward.  Anticipate this by taking your time backwards to focus on your form.
  • Do not slam or stop the hands into the ground.
  • Keep the shoulders and pelvis level to prevent rotation at the spine
  • BREATHE!  Do NOT hold your breath!

Why this exercise is effective:
  • Every time you lift a hand, an asymmetrical load is transferred from the single hand to the feet.  Preventing the hips from shifting or the shoulders and pelvis from tilting will require the core to stabilize.
  • The plank position will still require the transverse abdominis to fire and stabilize the lumbar spine/ low back.
  • To keep the hips and pelvis from dropping, the quadriceps and the rectus abdominis (six pack muscle) will have to work extra hard.
  • Cyclists will see big gains out of the saddle as a result of performing this exercise because it also trains the serratus anterior to endure the fatiguing effects caused by anaerobic metabolism.  Anytime you're out of the saddle or supported by your hands, the serratus will have to fire to stabilize the scapula/ shoulder.
If you want more videos showing core exercises for cyclists or simply want to leave feedback, please send me an e-mail (  I appreciate your feedback!  Good luck and enjoy!

Vincent is an ACE Certified Sports Conditioning Specialist, ACE Certified Personal Trainer and holds a Baccalaureates Degree in Kinesiology from Indiana University Bloomington.  He races criteriums competitively and resides in Carmel, IN.  For Personal Training inquiries, contact him at  Follow or subscribe at Strava, the ESTSmart Strava Club, YouTube or Twitter (@ESTrainSmart).

1 comment:

  1. I enjoy reading this article.When it comes to work out and wellness.Being physically active helps you to maintain health and reduce risk of health problems.Great advice thank you so much.