Everything you Need to Know

The Stir the Pot exercise takes the standard floor based plank to the next level.

As with all plank based exercises the main goal is to prevent the hips from dropping towards the floor. There are a series of core muscles that prevent this hip extension from happening. All these core muscles need to work together in order to keep the body in line and prevent gravity from forcing the hips to the floor.

The Plank Progression

Beginners

Everyone should start with the standard floor based plank and concentrate on feeling the plank in the core muscles of the front and sides. If you feel the plank in your back muscles then your back extensors are doing more work than they should be and you are compensating for either weak core muscles or bad position.

If you do feel the plank in your lower back then first try adjusting your hip level by raising your buttocks slightly, if this doesn’t help then stop the exercise and rest.

One common mistake is to have the elbows too far underneath the body. Check your elbow position and make sure that they are directly underneath your armpits. To make the exercise even more difficult push the elbows even further forwards.

Beginners can start with short rounds of only 10 – 15 seconds but repeat 3-4 times with 15 seconds rests.

Intermediate

To take the plank to the next level and increase the demands on the core muscles you can add some instability. Adding a slightly moving surface under either your feet or your hands will activate the stabilising muscles more aggressively and cause further muscle recruitment as the body struggles to gain equilibrium.

Once you add an unstable base you will immediately notice the difference and you should ensure you follow the same rules as with the regular plank. Make sure the hips are in the right place and that the elbows are underneath the armpits.

Again if you feel the plank in the lower back either adjust position or stop immediately.

You can try a plank with elbows on a stability ball, on a BOSU ball or a regular plank but with one foot raised in the air. I don’t believe in holding planks for long periods of time so try for 30 – 45 seconds for 3 rounds.

Advanced

The final plank progression involves increasing the instability on the base even further either by moving the hands or the feet. You can see a good example of this in the “Stir the Pot” exercise video above. With this exercise I not only have the instability of the ball underneath the arms but also the circular movement that increases the demands even further.

Progression is Vital

As with all core based training programs, progression is the key. You must first learn to activate your core muscles correctly before increasing the demands. Failure to follow this procedure will result in severe compensations and lower back injury.

If you want to know how to progress your core and abs training from the beginning then you can follow my 4 Week Essential Core & Abs program.

Good luck and enjoy your core training.

Stirring The Pot With Exercise Ball

General And Specifics

  • this stability ball exercise seems unimpressive, but it is very effective
  • because of the instability of the gym ball, your abs have to do hard work to make sure you can do the exercise for a longer period of time

Starting Position

  • knee on the ground in front of the gym ball
  • bring your forearms on the middle of the ball
  • the elbows are positioned right below the shoulders
  • your back is straight
  • brace your body and stretch out the legs to the backer
  • the feet are hip width apart
  • your body is in a line from head to toes now

Correct Execution

  • make smaller (easier) or bigger (harder) rotating movements with your elbows respectively forearms
  • do this slowly and controlled
  • your body remains stable, while the ball rolls around below you
  • as possible, do not let the core move
  • do several circles in one direction
  • afterwards, invert the direction and do the same number of reps
  • do not let your hip sink down

tips for the workout

  • do the exercise with the hands on the ball, if it is too easy to you (the shoulders are required more)
  • do it on your knees to make it easier

Ab Exercise You Should Be Doing: Stir The Pot

Training abs is the last thing I want to do in the gym. Not because I’m some delusional jackass gym bro who thinks that squats and deadlifts are all I need for abs. Fuck those people.

I just hate training abs because it’s boring. It’s not fun, and for the most part ab exercises all suck. Plank for minutes at a time? No thank you.

But lately I have been doing a few ab exercises that I’ve enjoyed, one of which I want to share with you good bros today.

Stir the pot.

Stir the pot is an ab exercise that I’ve known about for awhile, but I didn’t really start incorporating it into my programming until recently. Why? Because I’m a dumb ass and I should’ve started doing these a long time ago.

You need to be stirring the pot.

For as much as I like to hate on them, planks aren’t a terrible exercise to build core stability. Stirring the pot takes that benefit and makes it even better, by getting you into a similar position to the plank.

But because you’re dealing with the instability of the ball your abs have to work harder to keep you from rotating, flexing, or extending too much. Exactly what they were meant to do.

Along those same lines, thanks to the circular motion you’re making and that anti rotational stimulus this exercise becomes an awesome one to hammer your obliques at the same time as your anterior core. Something that doesn’t happen often with ab exercises.

One thing that obviously needs to be mentioned about this is the fact that better core stability and a stronger core that can handle serious anti rotation, flexion, and extension is going to be able to lift more weight. Squats and deadlifts are great exercises, and they work your abs a bit. But direct ab work like this will ultimately help you out in the long run.

How to do it.

Stirring the pot is relatively simple. It just requires an exercise ball, so you can do it about anywhere.

All you do is set up in a plank position with your forearms on the stability ball, and then start drawing circles with your forearms. Simple as that.

The big key is to make sure you’re keeping your abs as tight as possible to keep your core and hips from twisting side to side. Squeezing your ass and engaging your glutes can also help with this, so I typically like to coach clients to keep their ass tight during these as well.

Another beautiful thing about them is they’re extremely simple to work into a program. They can be done between sets of heavier compound lifts, or all by themselves at the end of a session.

I typically like to program them in for 3-4 sets and 8 circles per side. It doesn’t sound like a ton, but I can assure you it sucks.

Work them into your next lifting session, because we all know you also hate training abs. And I’m not saying you’ll love these, but they’re a challenge, and they will help you get better abs. And get better at the big lifts.

Stir The Pot Exercise…No need for crunches anymore!

The stir the pot exercise is a super move that targets every muscle of your core (yes, your abs) and just about every muscle in your whole body.

Similar to the plank exercise, one of the reasons it is such a great move is because your whole body weight is supported only on your toes and forearms.

But what sets it apart from the plank is that it is done on a stability ball…and instead of just balancing on the ball, you make it even harder by moving your hands in a stirring motion, causing the ball to move in small circles…small, but painfully effective circles!

As with any exercise – especially ones for the core – it is very important to use correct form.

Before you attempt this advanced exercise, you should make sure that you can do a basic plank on the floor.

Proper form for stir the pot and the plank are the same: your spine should be straight (this is called “neutral spine”), just as if you were standing erect with good posture – no arching and no hunching!

Note: You should not feel any pain in your lower back with either of these exercises (or any exercise). If you do, your back may not be strong enough yet – see below for easier variations. Or you may need to see your doctor.

Bracing

Before you get into position, you need to “brace” your core to lock your spine in this position. This does not mean sucking in your belly button.

Bracing is done by tightening all of your core muscles. Think of how your abs would tighten up if someone was about to punch you in the stomach.

It is also the same muscle tension that occurs if you quickly exhale – when you do that, you should feel all the muscles of your midsection “cinching down” – that is bracing. Keep that tension and continue to breathe normally throughout the exercise. It may take some practice, but you can do it!

Progression from plank on the floor to stir the pot:

  1. Plank on the floor (at least 30 seconds)
  2. Plank on a stability ball, knees on floor
  3. Plank on stability ball, feet spread apart
  4. Plank on ball, feet closer together
  5. Plank on ball, rocking the ball slightly back and forth
  6. Plank on ball, feet apart, move hands in a stirring motion, making small circles
  7. Plank on ball, feet together, making circles (demonstrated in video)

Note: Aim to do circles equally in both directions (clockwise and counter-clockwise).
You will be surprised how such a small motion can ripple through your midsection!

Make it more challenging:

  1. Make bigger circles!
  2. Try it on one foot (it will be harder the further out you hold your foot)
  3. Elevate your feet

Are you confused by exercise terms you see in magazines? and it will all make sense…

The stir the pot exercise is a great addition to any workout plan. I would recommend dynamic, full body muscle engagement movements like this one in place of crunches for 3 reasons:

  1. It works more muscles
  2. Burns more calories
  3. And most of all, it is more fun!

Return from “Stir the pot exercise” to “Exercise Guide To Lose Weight” Home

New! Comments

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Good Exercise Done Wrong – Stir the Pot

There are a few staples most people look to include in their workouts regardless of the goal. It doesn’t matter if the goal is weight loss, sports performance or rehab everyone recognizes the value of doing some type of core work.

In the last few years one core exercise in particular has become more and you’re seeing more and more people doing the ‘stir the pot’ exercise.

Why the sudden increase in popularity of this core drill? Well much of the credit has to do with the stamp of approval this exercise got from Dr Stu McGill, the world-reknowed spinal biomechanist from Canada. When Dr McGill speaks on things related to core training people listen. And the sir the pot was one that he was recommending as a way to stabilize the spine and train the core.

But besides the endorsement of a top researcher this exercise is also a great choice for a few other reasons:

1. It allows for the development of muscular endurance through the core. When performed correctly an individual can gradually build with this drill by adding time or reps to their sets.

2. It helps develop anti-extension strength. While much of the fitness community talks to the need of getting out of the sitting position and performing anti-flexion drills there is also benefit to performing anti-extension drills. This is especially true for people who live in anterior tilt and have low back pain.

3. It allows for the progression of the basic plank. Most of us start with planks to develop the core. And this is great. But it seems things go from the basic plank to trying to do fast movements with load. It kind of seems like sometimes we miss a step and the stir the pot fills this gap. It allows us to go from a stable position to an unstable one. It changes the angulation of the body putting more demands on the anti-extension muscles. It also adds a dimension of being able to quantify reps which is difficult to do with a basic plank.

Here’s a quick video showing the stir the pot exercise.

Now while this is a great exercise there are a number of common mistakes being made in an attempt to develop a stronger more stable spine. Make sure that you don’t do the following:

* Move your head up or down. You should be able to place a dowel on the length of the spine and have it rest on the glutes, shoulders and head. If you lift your head up to look around you may see an increase arch (extension) in the low back which is exactly what we are trying to avoid with this drill.

* Going into extension. As mentioned with looking up you also want to avoid allowing the hips to sag causing lumbar extension as well. Make sure to maintain a strong contraction through the glutes.

* Watch that the scapula don’t roll up and forward. They should be down and back for optimal stabilization.

* Don’t allow the knees to bend. Contracting the quads extends the knees and takes pressure off the low back.

* Don’t lose a 90 degree angle at the elbows. Firstly this takes the stress off the core but more importantly it makes it more difficult to maintain proper scapular position.

* The last two points have less to do with common mistake and more to do with ways to make the drill easier or harder. The only problem is that people don’t realize they are progressing or regressing the drill. You will know if you consider the width of your feet and the circumference of the circle you draw with your arms. Play around with both of these to find the right set up.

Going forward keep the following common mistakes in mind as you do the stir the pot exercise. At any point when you notice your form break so that you are making of these technique faults make sure to stop at the point and do slightly less, either reps or time, on your sets going forward.

Chris

You Should Do This: Stir The Pot

How do I Preface This?

It’s tough, because, Stir The Pot is most definitely in the running and may, in fact be, the greatest core exercise known to mankind.

The problem(s) are two-fold:

  1. It’s too advanced for most people (lots of digging elbows, overarched backs, drooping hips).
  2. The focus is too often on speed of movement (just get through the reps).

The focus should be on:

  1. Creating TENSION, holding the plank position, the whole time.
  2. Being SMOOTH and controlled, never rushing or relaxing.

What Makes Stir The Pot So Special?

It works ALL aspects and functions of the core, anti- extension, flexion, rotation, with one movement.

“True spine stability is achieved with “balanced” stiffening from the entire musculature, including the rectus abdominis and the abdominal wall; quadratus lumborum; latissimus dorsi; and the back extensors of longissimus, iliocostalis, and multifidus.”-Dr. Stu McGill

The stir the pot is essentially a MOVING PLANK, where the shoulders move but the BASE OF SUPPORT remains constant.

Being able to maintain this “Super Stiffness” through the entire core is paramount in building a bulletproof back.

A lumbar spine that creates movement is primarily used/ loaded for activity is an injury prone spine,

“those who have more motion in their backs have a greater risk of having future back troubles….people with troubled backs use their backs more. Generally, they walk, sit, stand and lift using mechanics that increase back loads. Many of them have stronger backs but are less endurable than matched asymptomatic controls (McGill et al, 2003). They tend to have more motion in their backs and less motion and load in their hips. – Designing Back Exercise: from Rehabilitation to Enhancing Performance

Stir the Pot Enhances Spinal Super Stiffness While Sparing The Spine:

“the sit-up recruits torso and hip muscles that impose compressive load on the spine for the average male of about 3400N. Performing sit-ups uses some training capacity – compression plus repeated bending – to achieve training of the torso and hip flexors. But remember that this combination of load and motion is a potent cause of annulus collagen delamination.

If I could give you a better tool to train the flexion muscles that preserves training capacity by sparing the most vulnerable tissues, you could then increase your tolerable training volume. This would be a great advance, of course. Consider the stir the pot exercise.

So even though sit-ups train the abdominals, psoas, and rectus femoris, the stir the pot exercise places the spine in a more resilient posture so you can really train these muscles hard.” – Stu McGill Via Chad Waterbury via T-Nation

But, only if done correctly.

Stir The Pot

Checklist:

  • TIGHT (AF) Plank position <—–AF = As Fu#k. So tight, it’s uncomfortable.
  • Forearms on the ball
  • Have some “base” at the feet
  • Toes in the ground, NOT balls of the feet on the ground <—-again, cheating, fake stability and you shouldn’t do these.
  • Smooth, metronome like reps
  • NEVER RELAX
  • Elbows never come “under” the body, essentially a 90/ 90 at the shoulder and elbows is the start and finish position.

THERE SHOULD NEVER BE ANY MOTION THROUGH THE

Bro Tips:

  • This is an advanced exercise, don’t do it unless you’ve earned the right. If you have to ask, “have I earned the right? Is Stir the Pot right for me, nope, probably not”.
    • If you cannot maintain a neutral lumbar spine, maintain the desired pelvic position (either dead neutral, slightly anterior or posterior) and glutes on NO MATTER WHAT, in every single “Core” exercise you’ve done before this, you shouldn’t do this.
  • DIGGING your elbows into the ball instead of the whole forearm is CHEATING. Wrists should more or less be touching the ball <–if you have giant forearms your wrists will be off the ball.
  • Most people have their hips too high. Drop them some to maintain the plank and not “break” at the hips.
  • Narrowing your stance can increase the difficulty exponentially. Keep in mind, if you narrow your stance and things start moving, it’s not better, its’ worse. Harder isn’t better, better is better. Widen the stance back out and get it right.

Stir the pot exercises

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