The Science behind Abdominal Training
What works and what doesn’t
Summertime is here and a large portion of the population strives to look their best in that new bikini or swim trunks. They work diligently all year to build muscle and confidence to display their fit midriffs. Thousands of crunches, leg raises and V-ups are done daily across the nation, but unfortunately, often to no avail. In fact, many may be doing more harm than good.
Let’s first look at the abdominal anatomy. The rectus abdominis is the muscle that runs directly down the center from your rib cage to the lower part of your pelvis. The obliques (internal and external) are the side abdominal muscles, while the transversus abdominis fibers run transversely to provide the spine with support like a corset. To have a well-functioning – and fit looking – abdominal cavity, you have to develop and balance all of the abdominal muscles.
There are many ways to develop the abdominal muscles, but you must be careful which ones you choose and how often you work them. Many workout routines are based on the following myths that may hinder more than help progress and development:
I can do sit ups every day! This is wrong. All muscles need time to recover from workouts, or injury may occur. Throughout the day whether you know it or not you are using your abdominal muscles when you bend, reach, lift, pull, breathe or walk.
Crunches will give me a six pack. Actually, a good diet will give you that appearance. Those good looking lumps you see are actually tendons arranged in a horizontal pattern. Eating healthily for your body type will decrease body fat and give you the definition you are looking for.
Crunches will make me strong! Crunches work the upper two-thirds of your midsection but do nothing for the lower portion. Doing too many crunches can cause back problems due to the increase in disc pressure and can make you look like the hunchback of Notre-Dame. In addition, crunches create muscle imbalance as it is the lower abdominals that give you lower back support.
Doing leg raises will build my abdominals. Unless you can keep your pelvis in a neutral position throughout the movement, you will most likely engage and overuse your hip flexors. Most people are too weak to perform leg raises properly and soon will experience low back pain doing leg raises.
So what will work? Exercises that integrate your abdominals, not isolate them.
Most of the back complaints we hear are due to a malfunctioning core, so when we exercise, we must learn how to activate the abdominals and use them when we squat, deadlift, twist, reach or pull.
It is important to note that a well-balanced diet is also key to eliminating fat around your midsection and is the perfect complement to weight training for strength and an attractive midsection.
Michael K. Butler is co-owner of Kinetix Health and Performance Center. He is a licensed physical therapist assistant, a certified strength and conditioning coach with the highest distinction honors, a full body active release therapist, and a writer and publisher of over 100 articles, books and magazine contributions. His new book, Par Fore The Course Golf Fitness is available now. (760) 200.1719. firstname.lastname@example.org. www.kinetixcenter.com
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