Two Simple Core Fixes

First off, I want to thank Jocelyn for suggesting this topic. It started with a simple question she asked during her training session today (don’t worry, we’re doing all of our training outside right now).

I’m paraphrasing here but it went something like this:

Why is my core always my weak point?


This is a question a lot of people have. What you need to know about Jocelyn is that she’s pretty darn strong and she’s very active. Most people naturally assume they need to strengthen their core when they feel like this, but in Jocelyn’s case she’s been doing that pretty diligently for a while.

So what’s the deal?

Well, there are two aspects to this. We all know about the strength part, and that is incredibly important, but it’s not the only thing.

The human body is an amazing thing. One of the ways that shows is how it compensates. That means when one thing is weak or doesn’t move well, something else just picks up the slack. This almost always happens without our even realizing it and core function is a great example of how it works.

This is why shoulder/neck pain or tightness, and back pain, frequently (usually) have more do with core positioning than your shoulders, neck or back.

In order for this to make sense you have to realize two things.

First: WHAT our core is. 

Many people think core = abs. Yes, our abs are a part of our core, but they’re not the whole thing. The core actually covers the front of our midsection all the way around our body like a cylinder.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Core!!

Yes. Sometimes, you may even consider the glutes and hips as part of your core.

Second: The true function of our core. 

That is stability.

To put it simply, our core stabilizes our body so that our arms and legs can do what they have to do.

Think of it like this. If you’re standing on solid ground and try to walk, it’s a fairly easy process. (In this scenario the ground is your core.) If you’re standing on Jello, that complicates things a bit.

Let’s bring this all home.

What happens if your core isn’t doing its job, is that either your shoulders/neck or your spine have do the stabilizing.

This brings us back to our original question:

Why is my core always my weak point?

If strength isn’t the issue, then the answer is positioning. In other words where you are holding your core in relation to your body and what you are acutually using for stabilization.

This is a topic that can (and has) taken entire volumes to fully cover so I’ll keep it very simple.

This book is a great start. Click the picture to order from a great local bookstore.

All I want to do today is give you two very simple things you can do to put your core in a good position.

I just want to tell you this before we start, though. You need to realize that even though these things are simple to understand and even do initially, if you aren’t diligent in how you approach these things, if you just do them once and forget about them, they will not work and you will naturally revert back to old positions. If this is an issue for you, your body has likely spent years forming habits that will not just vanish without vigilance.

Take things seriously.

Take time to FEEL the new positions, not just look at them.

You won’t have a mirror everywhere you go, but you will have your body and your nerve endings.

OK. Let’s get started.

Standing Position.

  1. Stand up and make sure your feet are pointed straight ahead. Both of them.
  2. Now look straight ahead making sure your feet don’t turn in or out.
  3. Take 2 deep breaths into your belly.
  4. Look back down at your feet.
  5. This is the important part: Notice what happens to your hips and weight distribution when you look back down at your feet. Your hips will likely shift back and your weight will move to your heels. 
  6. This is the second important part: Carefully move your head up so you’re again looking straight ahead, but keep your hips right where they were while you were looking down at your feet. 
  7. Now take a deep belly breath as you adjust your weight distribution evenly from heel to toe.

At this point your hips should be pretty evenly placed, thus putting your core into a good position. (This may not work for every single person, but it generally works pretty well.)

Now the second part.


This is where people start getting lazy.

“I know how to breathe!”

That may be true but, particularly if they have pain, people don’t know how to breathe well, and usually not in a way that enhances core function.

As a quick aside, let me say this just once:

If you have chronic pain and you don’t fix your breathing patterns,

your pain will never go away.

Anyway, here’s what I want you to do now.

Right after you complete all seven steps above:

  1. Put a hand on your belly without moving your hips or moving your eyes.
  2. Breathe into your belly so your hand moves.
  3. Here’s the important part: Notice what happens to your shoulders and how your low back feels every time you take a breath.

Feels kind of relaxing, huh?

Relaxed Kitty

OK. That was the easy part. The hard part is applying it to your life. The best advice I can give is to pay attention to how all this feels.

  • How do your shoulders feel when you breathe like this?
  • How do your shoulders move when you breathe like this?
  • How do your hips feel?
  • How does your back feel?
  • How do your abs feel?

When you are exercising, do these things before your sets.

Will it feel a little silly at first?


Should you care?

If you start to feel that familiar shoulder or back pain do these things.

Before you pick something up off the ground do these things.

You starting to get it?

The good news is that after a little while this stuff becomes habit, just like the habits that we’re trying to replace, and when that happens your core will work better!

You see what happens when I start taling about this stuff?

Anyway, let me know if you have any questions at all about positioning or anything else. There is a lot to talk about here that I just don’t have the time or space to cover.

Take care and stay safe!

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, Egoscue PAS, Pn2
Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way
The Cleanest Gym In The Bay Area! 



Friday Workout 10

For this week’s Friday Workout I’m taking a bit of cue from the collective unconscious as I mentioned in my video from the other day.

I’ve been hearing a lot about tight and achy backs so I thought I’d give you a workout to help.

For a little more clarifcation about the specific exercises, you should go to my “A Quarantine Back Pain Primer”.

You can find that video here:

A Quarantine Back Pain Primer

Take a look and enjoy!


Static Back – 5 min

Gravity Drop – 3 min

Figure 4 Stretch – 60s each side

Crocodile – 60s each side

Hooklying Reverse Presses – 1 or 2 sets of 20 reps

Wall Sit – up to 2 min

A Quarantine Back Pain Primer

Let’s talk about the collective unconscious.

I’m not sure if you believe in it but I definitely do.

Here’s an example:

The last few weeks I’ve been hearing from all sorts of people with no connection to each other that their backs are feeling tight and achy.

What do you think of that?

In response to this I thought I’d put together a video on the common causes of back pain in these quarantined times and give you a few simple exercises to help.

Let me know if you have any questions!


Friday Workout 2

This workout may be a little different for you today. If you’re anything like the people I’ve been hearing from there has been a lot of stress, sitting and just plain feeling bad right now. That usually leads to some different kinds of aches and pains or maybe just more of the ones you already have. I definitely experienced this myself. (You can read about it here: I Was Pretty Down)

These are the exercises I use as a general warm up with a little variation depending on what I’m doing that day. They are great at getting the body moving better and getting the muscles that should be working, working and the ones that should be releasing, releasing.

They come from Egoscue which is a form of exercise/physical therapy that focuses on full body posture and movement as a way to improve pain and performance. (I happen to be a certified Egoscue Postural Alignment Specialist.)

In any case this workout should take you about 20-30 minutes. If this is the first you’re doing some of these things you may not be able to do all the reps or hold for the entire time yet. (I’m thinking mainly of the Gravity Drop and the Supine Foot Circles/Point Flexes). That’s fine. Just do what you can and build up.

Here’s the video:

Static Back – 5 min

Gravity Drop – 3 min

Downward Dog – 1 min

Runners Stretch – 1 min each leg

Standing Quad Stretch – 1 min each leg

Upper Body Spinal Twist – 1 min each side

Supine Foot Circles/Point Flexes – 40 reps


Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, Egoscue PAS
Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way

Things I’ve Learned During My 10 Years As A Trainer: Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my “Things I’ve Learned During My 10 Years As A Trainer” posts. If you missed Part 1, here is the link:

Things I’ve Learned During My 10 Years As A Trainer: Part 1

Let’s jump into Part 2.

4) Strength is King

I will put this very simply.

Strength is the most important thing you can work on in the gym. 

There isn’t a goal worth pursuing in the gym that shouldn’t involve getting stronger. Proper strength training helps:

  • improve bone density
  • helps you move better
  • improve cardiovascular health
  • improve flexibility
  • get you stronger
  • become more resistant to injury

Strength is what allows you to get up after you’ve fallen.

Strength is what keeps you from getting hurt when you do fall.

Strength is what helps prevent you from falling in the first place (even though we all will at some point. Gravity always works.)

Strength is what will give you the ability to play with your (grand)kids, pick up your groceries and move things around your house.

Strength is what allows you to continue to be independent as you age.

(Notice that I emphasized that last one.)

There isn’t a physical quality that can’t be helped through improved strength.

5) I Hate Gimmicks

I think I’ve always had a problem with gimmicks, but as I’ve trained more and more people and seen more and more things I’ve become more and more bothered by them. In truth they run the gamut from just silly to potentially damaging.

Lose 16 pounds in 21 days!

Try the Wolverine workout!

This supplement will change your life!

Cool Sculpting will freeze off the fat!

I actually saw this at CVS this morning AFTER I had written this line about Cool Sculpting.

It’s all a bunch of garbage.

Have you ever tried to help a kid with their homework? You know how they work so hard at trying to cut corners that they take longer to get things wrong then if they just did it right in the first place? Well, that’s what happens to people that fall for this stuff.

I know I may sound old-fashioned here but the things that matter with diet and exercise are the basics. It doesn’t have to be fancy and it probably shouldn’t be.

This is what matters:

  • Consistency
  • Hard work
  • Sustainability

That’s it. Don’t believe anyone or anything that tells you that there’s a shortcut or a secret.

Remember what the great Dragon Warrior, Po the Panda said.

If you want to read more of the life-changing wisdom of “Kung Fu Panda” (I’M NOT KIDDING) go here:

The Film That Changed My Life

6) No One Really Has A Bad Back

This one will might get some people upset. Let me explain by giving you a few facts.

  • In a study of people with no back pain, it was shown through imaging tests (X-Rays, MRIs) that over 90% of the people in the test had bulging discs.
  • There is much anecdotal evidence showing that in people who have back pain there is very little consistency between what imaging tests show and the pain that the people are experiencing.

So to sum up, everyone has bulging discs whether they have back pain or not, and there is almost no way to predict what kind of back pain someone will experience by looking at their discs anyway. Doesn’t this mean that it’s probably not the bulging discs that are causing the pain in the first place? After all, if someone sees a broken arm in an X-Ray they can fairly accurately predict where the pain is going to be, right?

Tell us where the pain is, Bobby.

OK. So if it’s the case that much of what people thought caused back pain doesn’t actually cause back pain…..

then what does?

Two things:

  • Posture
  • Movement patterns

I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me they can’t do an exercise because it hurts their back, only to have it feel fine after I give them a cue directing them to use their hips or engage their core differently.

The true function of our core/low back is stability. To put it simply, our core/low back has to stabilize in order to effectively allow our extremities (arms and legs) to do what they have to do. Our core fires up every single time we move our arms and legs even if we don’t feel it. You really understand that when you do pull something in your back and it stabs you every time you reach for a pen or a glass of water.

The true function of our hips is mobility. In other words, movement.

Put the two together and you get that the hips move and the core/low back stabilizes. Almost to a person, what I’ve seen in people that have low back issues is that their hips don’t move well which means that the low back has to take up the slack for that lack of movement.

That causes pain.

When you think of all the little movements you do every day, this really adds up and it’s all those movements put together that come into play when people blow their back up picking up a piece of paper. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

Now, please keep in mind that I understand there are people who have different sorts of chronic conditions that are more complicated than this. I also understand that, for the most part, THESE CONDITIONS DO NOT APPLY TO THE VAST MAJORITY OF BACK PAIN SUFFERERS. I also understand that even for the people with those conditions, working on posture and movement patterns can and should be a very important part of the recovery process.

Obviously, having been a trainer for 10 years I have learned many things but these these six things stood out to me as pretty important. Again if you haven’t read my first post on this you can find it here:

Things I’ve Learned During My 10 Years As A Trainer: Part 1

If you have any questions or comments I’d love to hear them.

Have a great day and a great 2020!

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, Egoscue PAS
Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way

An Exercise For Your Hips, Knees and Back

This is one of those exercises that can look pretty easy but that doesn’t mean that it is.

This one move can help strengthen your hips, glutes, hamstrings and core and that can help your knees, back and hips feel a heck of a lot better!

Take a look and let me know what you think.

Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way

What Pain Can Do For You – Video

I’m going to challenge you a little today. I know many people suffer from chronic pain. Back, knee, shoulder, hip. Most people’s reaction when they feel pain is to back away to avoid it.

That’s understandable. Pain hurts! It’s not comfortable. The thing is, though, that pain is telling us something and if we don’t listen it will be back!

I want to give you a different way to look at pain that may help you get rid of it. Not just right now but for good! After all, isn’t that the goal?

Let me know if you need help figuring out your pain.

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, FMS, Egoscue PAS

Castro Valley Fitness

2861 Grove Way


A Simple Move to Help Your Back, Hips and Golf Swing

What if I told you the key to your entire body’s quality of movement centered around one thing?

Well, it does! The hips!

They are literally and figuratively the center of your body. How important is your hip movement? Well, let me put it this way:

If your hips move well, your

entire body moves well.

It’s that simple.

In this video I’m going to give you a simple trick you can do to help you move your hips better, take away back pain and maybe even add some distance to your golf swing! (One of our members did just that with this move!)

Take a look and let me know what you think.

Mitch Rothbardt
Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way

A Fitness Challenge To Help Your Back, Hips and Knees

You can’t go on social media without seeing all sorts of ridiculous fitness challenges. Plank challenges. Burpee Challenges. Abs challenges. Personally I’d rather eat glass than do a 5 minute plank. The kicker is that you know that most of the people doing these challenges are planking with somewhat less than good form.

I saw an Instagram posted fitness challenge the other day that wanted you to work out twice a day for 45 minutes each time and have no cheat meals for 75 days, along with about 4 other demands. Sure. Let me put my entire life on hold for the next 75 days to show the buff guy in the picture how awesome I am.


Listen, if you want to try some of these things then please be my guest. You get to push yourself a little and maybe if you do it with a group it can turn into a fun thing. I’m the last person to tell someone to stop doing any kind of exercise they actually enjoy.

That being said, I thought I’d propose a fitness challenge that can actually help you and that you can even do while watching TV!

OK. Here it is. For the next seven days I want you to spend 30 minutes doing this:

Egoscue Supine Groin Stretch – Do 15 minutes each leg

It doesn’t look like much, but this simple stretch is the best thing I’ve found to loosen up your hips, back and shoulders and help improve your posture from the hips outward and you know my that your entire posture is set from the hips outward.

What does the Egoscue Supine Groin Stretch do?

This stretch focuses mainly on a muscle called the Psoas (pronounced SO-az). This is a long muscle that runs from from your lumbar spine on either side, down to just below your hips. See in this picture.

The Psoas is one of the muscles that are responsible for allowing you to move your thigh toward your torso as in this picture.

As a group, these muscle are called the Hip Flexors and the Psoas is the biggest and strongest of them.

The problem with the Psoas is that due to modern society’s tendency towards sitting, it can get pretty tight, and due to it’s attachment position at the lumbar spine, that tightness can cause postural problems which result in back, hip, knee and possibly even shoulder pain.

What the Egoscue Supine Groin Stretch does is help regain length and function in the Psoas. This helps put your body in better posture and helps reduce back pain, hip pain, knee pain and also possibly shoulder pain.

How do I do it?

Let’s refer to this picture one more time.

Egoscue Supine Groin Stretch

It really is pretty simple, but there a couple of important things to be aware of. Let’s go over it.

  1. Lie flat on your back with one leg straight and the other hip and knee bent to about 90 degrees and resting on a box or chair.
  2. The foot on the straight leg needs to be propped against something so your toes point straight up.

Keeping your toes pointing straight up on the straight leg is what allows the psoas to release and stretch. It’s also very important to have an object holding the foot straight up, not just you holding it. If you are keeping tension on the leg to hold it up under your own power,  the psoas will not relax.

If you experience back pain in this position it is likely because your psoas is a little extra tight. In this case, you need to elevate the straight leg like in this picture.

When you start the stretch, contract your thigh for a few seconds. You will likely feel the contraction close to your knee. Repeat this every 5 minutes or so. As you hold this position over time you will feel the contraction higher up your leg. When you feel that change, drop your leg a little lower.

I like to do this while watching TV at night. I’ve been through several seasons of Homeland and The Walking Dead this way. Half the show on one side and half on the other. I’ve been doing it long enough that I get a nice release from 10-15 minutes on each side although I still like to do 15-20. If you haven’t done this before it might take a bit longer. I remember the first time I did it, it felt like nothing was happening for a while and then all of a sudden my leg just started vibrating and relaxing like crazy. It was quite an experience.

What’s the challenge?

My challenge to you is simply this:

Do this stretch for 30 minutes per day (15 minutes on each leg) for the next seven days. That’s it. I’m pretty confident that you will feel some pretty powerful results. What’s most important is that you will start to realize the importance of your overall posture in how you feel and move every day.

I have found this stretch to have a massive impact on back pain, hip pain and knee pain. It very well may be the best thing I’ve found to help with these things and no, I’m not exaggerating. If you need more convincing just do a quick Google search for “Egoscue Supine Groin Stretch” and look at what comes up.

Also, if you want to have a little more fun with this challenge please post a picture on Facebook or Instagram or both. Tag me in it (Facebook or @mitchrfitness on Instagram) and use the hashtag #CVFitnessSupineGroinChallenge. Write how you feel in your post. I’ll be doing it, too.

Good luck and have fun!

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, Egoscue PAS
Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way


Why Do I Have Back/Shoulder Pain?

So many people have back and shoulder pain. The problem is that many of those people don’t really understand what is causing it.

Hint: It’s probably not your discs and rotator cuff irregularities.

In this video I talk about some easy steps you can take to discover what may be really causing your pain and how to get started in fixing it.

This video is not meant to diagnose your specific issue but I do cover the most common things I see on a daily basis and the causes.

Take a look and let me know what you think.