by Kevin DiDonato, MS, CSCS, CES
Have you struggled for YEARS trying to get a flat, chiseled stomach?
Does your lower back HURT all the time?
If you answered yes to any one of these questions, then read on!
Everyone is looking for the flat chiseled look, or the fleeting six-pack abs.So you do crunches.
A LOT of them!
You do regular crunches, leg raises, twists over and over again, thinking you are doing your abs some good!
But you are WRONG.
In fact crunches may be a WORTHLESS exercise!
Give me a second to explain…
Your core is your powerhouse.
Most people associate the core with their lower backs and abdominals.
This is partly true since these muscles aid in flexion, extension, rotation, and compression of the trunk.
They are important to maintaining stability and movement throughout daily life.
In fact, from carrying groceries to performing overhead presses, everything you do utilizes your core to maintain stability.
But there are other commonly overlooked muscles that need to be developed during your core training program.
Have you done your abdominal exercises and left the gym with soreness in your lower back?
This pain is not due to straining of your lower back.
It is due to muscles in your lumbo-pelvic-hip complex being weak causing you to feel pain and discomfort in your lower back.
The lumbo-pelvic-hip complex contains a series of muscles that insert in the pelvic hip region.
These muscles may help support your spine and maintain your balance.
In fact, these muscles are ALWAYS used during ALL movements.
They provide a strong base of support for ALL functional movements.
These muscles, as well as the transverse abdominals, internal and external obliques, and the rectus abdominis create the true powerhouse of your body.
Training Your Core
Most people save core exercises for the last part their workout.
You normally do crunches over and over again, expecting the same results – a flat and toned midsection.
You might be surprised to find out that you are doing it all WRONG.
The best time for your core training is during the WARM UP before your other exercises.
Doing your core exercises FIRST may improve postural control during standing exercises.
But you need to do the CORRECT core exercises.
Crunches may not strengthen your core like you may think.
Crunches have their place in your workout, but not the MOST used exercise.
In fact, you may be surprised to find out you would have to do A LOT of crunches to strengthen your abs.
The best way to target your abs is performing CORE TRAINING.
Core training involves movements that are functional in nature.
They strengthen your abdominals and lower back and other related muscles.
Core exercises involve exercises where you stand up, use cables, bands, medicine balls or stability balls.
Sometimes, they incorporate exercises on an unstable surface forcing your body to maintain balance.
Having proper instruction on core training will provide proper guidance for performing your core training program.
Here are three core exercises which may develop a strong toned core and may get you the six-pack abs!
1. Plank (pictured above)
This exercise looks similar to the push up, but you are resting on your forearms.
You want your elbows in line with your shoulders.
Contract your abs and lower back, pushing your hips into the air.
Your entire body should be in a straight line.
Hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds.
To make it harder, add CONTROLLED leg lifts to the exercise. Only lift your legs to hip height.
2. Side Plank (side bridge)
Start with your body resting on your forearm and side of your foot.
Lift your body off the ground, balancing on your foot and forearm.
Contract your abs and relax your shoulders.
If you are unable to keep your hips and legs off the ground, then your core needs work.
3. Standing Chops w/medicine ball or cable
The cable or medicine ball is extended over one shoulder.
Start by pulling the cable or medicine ball downward and across your body, keeping your arms extended.
Finish with your arms extended at your opposite hip.
Strengthen Your Core
Your core is the powerhouse for ALL exercise and movements.
The core includes your abdominals and lower back, AND the muscles located in your lumbo-pelvic-hip complex, which may help stabilize your spine during dynamic movements.
Crunches are one of the least effective exercises for developing core strength and endurance.
Incorporating core strengthening exercises may help develop your core, leading to a strong and toned midsection.
Looking for the elusive six-pack abs? Incorporate core training during your warm up to increase performance and postural control.
Your abs and body will thank you later for your toned, chiseled look and boost in your metabolism!