In the second installment of The Shape of Your Life we told you about a forthcoming standing cable push test you can do to measure your progress in core strength. The test is a favorite of functional-strength guru Paul Chek (www.chekinstitute.com), who points out that "big benchers" can rarely push more than a third as much weight when they move the bench press to their feet in the form of a split stance cable push. And unless you're training to push yourself out from under an SUV, the man raises a good point: How often do you need your strength while on your back? The following test, which requires a cable or Nautilus machine, can be used every few weeks to gauge your improvement in core stability and functional strength as you work through our program:
Stand in a split stance (left foot ahead of the right) with your back to a cable machine and 70 percent of your weight on your back leg. Holding the cable in your right hand and at your chest with your palm down, inhale, pull your abs in, start the push from your back leg, then turn into it leading with your pelvis, only recruiting your arm when your shoulder is at three o'clock. Finish the movement as though executing a right hand punch. Find the amount of weight that leaves you maxed out—completely fatigued—after eight repetitions. Repeat this test every three or four weeks. If you can increase the weight, you've successfully increased your core strength.
Next: Build speed and power in part four of our Shape of Your Life fitness plan.