Train Like the X-Men: Alex McKechnie’s Core X
THERE’S A PERCEPTION that pro athletes are born with perfect bodies — and some of them probably are. But make them play hard for years, repeating uncomfortable movements, and the result isn’t pretty.
“Think about a hockey player with a right-handed shot. He’ll do that 1,000 times a day and get stuck into dysfunctional postures,” says physical therapist Alex McKechnie.
As performance coordinator for the L.A. Lakers, McKechnie’s job is to keep his team looking superhuman despite grueling hours and nagging injuries. When he can’t find equipment that meets his needs, he invents his own. McKechnie’s latest project: Core X System (Corexsystem.com).
It sounds like a top-secret experiment and looks a bit like a bondage device. But by attaching resistance bands to your wrists and thighs that are linked by a ball, you can target more muscles by doing the simplest of exercises. Every move starts in core neutral position, a slight squat with arms bent but reaching forward, because in this stance, the muscles in your core, legs and arms are activated.
The idea is that you’ll keep this engaged feeling throughout the workout, although it’s more intense once you start bending, reaching and pivoting because of the connections between the limbs. Take a lunge, for instance. Not only are you working your quads, hamstrings and glutes, but your arms are tiring out, too, as they need to pull against the pressure of the bands. And the movement couldn’t have even started without the help of your core.
To McKechnie, the most critical part of the system is that every exercise originates in the core. “You need stability before mobility,” he says. “If you shoot a cannon from a canoe, it’ll tip over.”
His celeb clients — such as Grant Hill and Michelle Kwan — do some intense stuff with the system, such as nonstop jumping in a twist, which might be too challenging for the average exerciser. But McKechnie insists Core X is for anyone. After all, he conceived it as a rehab tool, and now he’s packaged it as a home exercise device.
“They shouldn’t be afraid of it because superstar athletes do it,” he says. “The movements are fundamental.”