4 Levels To A Bullet Proof Core

Bullet Proof CoreWhat if I told you that with just 4-8 minutes per day for the next 6-12 weeks you could;

> completely eliminate the most common cause of back pain

> have better looking abs and a more solid posture so you can walk around with more confidence, and,

> increase your squat and deadlift without doing any additional work

You might call “bullshit”.

But you’d be premature.

A few months ago I wrote a short but vitally important post on how on core stability, planking, minimum standards, and how to get better FAST.

So today we’re going to revisit the core issue most people miss when it comes to being an efficient, pain free, movement rich human.

…”core” – geddit???

We’re going to get … straight … to the point.


If you can’t hold a technically perfect plank for at least 1 minute, you’ve problems man.

The basic function of your “core” is to maintain spinal stability. If it’s not doing it’s job – something else will. Something will tighten up to preserve the magic column of support that is your back.

See your back is like a big block of jenga. 

When it’s stacked vertically and aligned correctly, it’s incredibly strong and stable.

But start to shift the weight forwards, backwards OR side to side and things start to get out of hand fast.

In the below example you’ll see what I mean… You’ve the light grey vertebrae bodies (bone) with a dark grey gel like disc in between each (intervertebral discs). These dark grey gel discs act as shock absorbers to prevent bone on bone contact (almost like a mini knee joint) so that each step you take doesn’t rattle your head clean off your body.Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 08.27.30

They also allow for SOME movement side to side and front to back, but if you move too far in any one way the disc can “slip” or even worse – rupture.

Obviously, it’s best if we avoid that. Which means your back shouldn’t really “move”. The stable stacked support structure should be maintained. Like in the below picture;


Any “movement” your require should come from other places – like your hips and your shoulders. Which brings up an interesting consideration.

If you can’t move adequately from your hips or shoulders, you’ll find somewhere else to move from (your back).

BUT if your back isn’t adequately supported and stabilised by your core, you’ll never be able to move effectively from your shoulders and hips.

That means a weak core leads to limited movement from your shoulders and hips, and INCREASED movement and injury risk around your back.

So, a lack of stability where you need it (your core) will lead to stiffness where you don’t want it (hips, hamstrings, middle back and any other number of areas).

The solution if you’re experiencing any sort of movement restrictions is simple >> get on your elbows and get planking

As humans we’re designed to have bad ass tree swinging ranges of motion, but chances are you don’t have that. One of the main reasons why is because your muscles aren’t working in a reflexive manner to stabilize the joints around them.

That means instead of being able to sit into a squat, or do the splits, the muscles and joints at play physically lock up because your body is terrified of what will happen if it goes to these extreme ranges of motion.

So if you want to be better at push ups, improve your squats, suffer from less back pain, enjoy better posture and suck – you need to improve your plank as a starting point.

And you MUST do it while holding good positions.

What is a good position? That’s simple.

A good position when planking is exactly what you’d look like when standing, except you know – horizontal.

That means hips, head and shoulders in a straight line.

So…. that’s the “why”. Now how about the “how”.

First, here’s a super quick video on how to set up and correct into a perfect plank;


Then the “training” is very straight forwards. You’ve 4 levels to work thru. Once you’ve progressed thru all 4, you’ll have basic sufficient function.

10s of plank, 20s off – repeat 8x

20s of plank, 10s off – repeat 8x

30s of plank, 30s off – repeat 8x

45s of plank, 15s off – repeat 8x

On all levels, you want to work for as much of the time target as possible. That means that if on round 6 of the 20s/10s planks you die after 4 seconds, you’ve still got 16s of time to TRY and get more planks in.

That might mean you do 4 seconds, rest for 12, and complete another 4 seconds. That’s ok (4+12+4=20sec).

Once you’ve got all 8 rounds done without missing the time target on a round, you can move on to the next stage.

Once you’re thru all stages, give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve a new challenge to go and tackle… That’ll be things like ab wheel roll outs, and dynamic ab work. But first thing’s first – let’s get the plank right shall we?

If you want to find out a bit more about what we do at RevFit in our Drumcondra and Glasnevin gyms, just head on over to the contact page and shoot us an email and we’ll get back to you with some info within 48 hours.

James Hanley

Strength Coach. Performance Specialist. Dog Lover. Powerlifter. And the guy behind the scenes in RevFit that keeps the plates spinning.