The Wright Stuff: Vertical Core Training

Giovanni Roselli | 06 Jun 2018

I am always looking to learn from the leaders in the field. So when having the opportunity to cross paths with strength coach Todd Wright, I jumped at the chance to pick his brain. Since 2015, Todd has served as the assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Additionally, he is the founder of “Train 4 The Game” – a highly successful and recognized fitness, performance, and restoration facility in Austin, Texas.

From his work with Gary Gray and Dave Tibero, Wright used what he learned through the Applied Functional Science program and developed “Vertical Core”.

Vertical Core

What the core actually is can be a very disputable topic in training. For the purpose of this article, we will define it all the way through the shoulder girdle because of the attachment to the lat and humerus and all the way through the trunk to the legs due to the attachment of the illiopsoas on the lesser trochanter of the femur.

The vertical core could be defined as a practical and logical training model based on the principle of human function and applied functional science that helps athletes and people convert 3-dimensional movement through their core.

How Can The Core Be Vertical?

  1. The body works and functions as an Integrated Unit in the upright position. (Vertical)
  2. In the upright position, the body uses the physical science that our environment gives us to harness and store energy throughout our kinetic chain.
    • Gravity
    • Ground Reaction
    • Mass and Momentum of our bodies moving in 3-dimensional space
  3. The body moves in 3 planes of motion.
    • Sagittal Plane – Front to back
    • Frontal Plane - Side to Side
    • Transverse plane – Rotational

Insertions and Attachments

Insertions of the core musculature include:

  • Internal and external oblique
  • Rectus abdominis
  • Quadratus lumborum
  • Illiopsoas
  • Transverse abdominis
  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Back erectors

Commonalities of all the muscle insertions and attachments of the core include:

  1. All the core musculature attach somewhere on the rib cage.
    1. Every rib has a direct attachment to the thoracic spine
      1. The thoracic spine has some of the largest degrees of flexion and extension, lateral flexion, and rotation in the spine
    2. And the monster muscle of the latissimus dorsi has a direct attachment on the humerus.
    3. So as the mass and momentum of your arms drives the ribcage to load in 3D space you put energy into your core from the top down.
  2. All the core musculature attach to the pelvis, and the pelvis is a 3-dimensional vehicle in space.
    1. So as our legs move in 3D space on vectors using ground reaction, we load and covert energy through our core from the ground up.
  3. Therefore, our core is the crossroads between the pelvis and lower body and the connection to the rib cage and upper body allowing us to convert energy from the ground up and top down.

Vertical Core Example

One of the most functionally dense exercises of the Vertical Core is the Posterior Lunge Matrix.

Why? When looking at some of the most common Kinetic Chain dysfunctions, there are some big ones that jump out.

  1. Lack of hip extension
  2. Lack of ankle dorsiflexion and big toe dorsiflexion
  3. Lack of thoracic spine extension

By lunging backwards, we spare the shear forces of the lumbar spine and magnify the stretch load on the back hip and illiopsoas. Load is from the ground up into the core in the sagittal plane.

As the foot hits the ground moving backwards, one has to dorsiflex through the big toe and ankle joint to stay stable and coordinate the movement.

The Matrix is the combining of all three planes from the top down by reaching with your arms.

  1. Reach up high and slightly back in the sagittal plane
  2. Reaching up high and side bending in the frontal plane
  3. Reaching and turning over opposite shoulder in the transverse plane

If any of these joints lack the proper length-tension or mobility, it will be very hard to transform the movement from load to explode. Therefore, the exercise becomes the test, as is often said in 3DMaps. Does your client or athlete have the needed motion of these above joints to coordinate the movement efficiently?

Never Stop Learning

When asked for some final advice, Wright humbly states: “If you want to know and learn more, ask what you want. No question is elementary. For your brain and knowledge is where it is. I always use the phrase: ‘I know what I know and I know what I don't know, and I really want to know what I don't know’. This can be scary, but I always was willing to ask what may have been remedial questions to the group I was with, but not for me. This helped me tremendously push through the overwhelming learning of function.”

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Giovanni Roselli

About the author: Giovanni Roselli

Giovanni Roselli, a former WWE professional wrestler, is currently a Master Instructor for Institute of Motion and ViPR PRO.  He creates content and consults for many top fitness organizations including Nike, 24 Hour Fitness, Purlife Fitness Centers, and is the creator of the Equinox national signature group fitness class, 'Fully Loaded.'  Most recently, he was awarded PFP Trainer Of The Month and nominated as a Trainer Of The Year finalist.  You can often find him working with the Exercise Science students at Florida Atlantic University and instructing additional workshops for Kettlebell Athletics and CoreTex.  His television appearances include NBC's 'Today Show' and National Geographic's 'Brain Games'.

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