“What Are The Big 4 of Core Strength?”

navy seal training squats deadlift core strength special forces fitnessI had a really great conversation with an SGPT athlete the other day, and I wanted to expand on what we talked about as her questions were really good.

“Coach, why is important to work your core first?”

Your core is your foundation—it’s like the trunk of a tree. If you picture a tall tree with lots of branches, the tree will have a strong trunk to support them. Your legs and your arms are your “branches”. And, like the tree, if you add any weight to them by lifting or muscle gain, you won’t be able to support them in a strong way.

If that tree built out its branches before the trunk, the tree would be like the tree in Charlie Brown’s Christmas when he hung the ball on it—it would bend over because its core, the trunk, couldn’t support the weight.

The same goes for your core.

“But, what exactly is my core?”

navy seal training squats deadlift core strength special forces fitness

Your core is your midsection, which includes all your muscles in your chest, your abdomen, your back, sides, obliques and your lower lats. All of these muscles act as stabilizers for the rest of your body. That’s why we build strength from your core first and then extend outward to your limbs.

The stronger your core, the easier it is for you to support heavier lifts, whether it’s a power clean or weighted pull-ups.

“How can I know if my core is weak?

navy seal training squats deadlift core strength special forces fitness

It’s easy to spot someone who has neglected to train their core. Put them in the “resting position” or extended arm plank (where you hold yourself in the top position of a push-up) and watch their mid-section. If it begins to sag quickly, or it’s hard to hold, their core is not strong.

This is a good test for you to try. Either do it in front of a mirror or have a buddy take a photo or video of you so you can see how you perform.

“Can’t I just do sit-ups? I do lots of them each time I work out. Don’t they make my core strong?”

Sit-ups only target the abdominals.

So while sit-ups help create the 6-pack abs, they don’t strengthen your lumbar region—the small of your back. Having abs that are really strong while having weak lumbar muscles leads to lower back pain and fatigue.

“So I tried the test you suggested at the gym using the mirrors. I thought I was holding my body straight, but my upper and lower back got tired and I began to sag. How do I fix this?”

At SGPT we focus on the what we call the “Big 4 of Strength”: Squats, bench press, deadlift and overhead press, the 4 main functional strength movements. They’re called that because they mimic all the moves we do through out the day—like picking up a heavy box and lifting it over your head to put the box on a shelf. We also include plank holds (extended arm), because they force you to engage all of your muscles simultaneously.

This is why the Globo Gym focus on isolation training (“arm day”, “leg day”, “tricep day”) which doesn’t really prepare an athlete for creating functional fitness. Isolation training is great for bodybuilders, but that type of strength creation has a completely different focus and goal.

“That’s why I’m not really moving along like I want with my goals at the gym! What can I do to get a more rounded training program? Just start doing squats and deadlifts?”

Yes, you can do that, but if you have a weak core and you start trying to squats, bench presses, dead lifts and overhead presses, you can train yourself into injury. You have to start slow and small—this is the equivalent of someone tying a stake to a tree so it can better develop its trunk while it grows more branches.

“Okay. So do you have a training program for me that I can start with?”

navy seal training squats deadlift core strength special forces fitness

Yes. We have two popular ones: Our 180-Day Training Program and our 365-Day Training Program. Athletes really like these because the workouts are balanced and help them develop their strength from the core outwards.

What we really recommend, though, is starting with our 6-Week On Ramp program, even if you’ve been working out for awhile. The reason we suggest starting with this one is that it does a great job of introducing you to how we train at SGPT, since it’s probably very different from what you’ve been doing so far.

The On Ramp program also helps you see where you’re the weakest, so you know where your training imbalances have been.

Then we recommend moving on to the 180-Day or 365-Day programs. A lot of our athletes—males and females—do the 180-Day one first, then move on to the 365-Day.

“I bought all three. I tried a couple of the workouts and I’m not sure I can do them. I’m not as strong as I thought. I’m not even sure what weight I should use.”

That’s why we recommend finding your 3-rep and 1-rep maxes so you can calculate where you need to start. A lot of athletes find they need to start lower. Others find they can start higher.

You can also use the email address given in the books to contact SGPT for help.

“Can these programs be scaled?”

navy seal training squats deadlift core strength special forces fitness

Yes, they can be scaled—you can scale up or down as needed. It’s tempting to jump into the 180-Day or 365-Day programs, but I really recommend you start with the 6-Week On Ramp course first. You can’t rush strength gains. The slower you start, actually, the faster you can make them because you’re constantly making your core stronger.

By starting you off with the On Ramp program, you’re starting a training cycle that utilizes each of the Big 4 of Strength. The load or weight is scaled off of your personal 3 Rep Max or 1 Rep Max. We progressively increase the weight each week and test at the end.

You will be impressed with the results!

5 rounds for time
Run 200 meters
10 Toe to bar
15 Pushups
Cash out: 5 minute plank hold



brad mcleod sealgrinderpt navy seal training squats deadlift core strength special forces fitnessBrad McLeod knows first hand about mental toughness. After passing Hell Week and Dive Pool Comp at BUD/S, he failed a math test and was kicked out of training. A year later, he returned, graduated, and served as an operator on the Navy SEAL Teams.

Check out SEALgrinderPT Coaching to help you step up and take hold of your dreams and realize your goals.

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