Precision Abdominal Training
It's almost impossible to turn on the television or open a magazine without being barraged by advertisements for washboard abs, the best abdominal training machine ever designed or a 'magic' pill specifically designed to remove fat from problem areas. In my previous articles I alluded to the fact that most machines do not work, in fact they actually can increase the risk of injury. Many of the most common machines and devices that are designed to 'scientifically' target the abs actually place up to 1000 lbs. of compressive forces on the spine.
People have been told that they should perform sit ups and other flexion (crunch) exercises with the knees bent to disable the hip flexors (psoas). Many have hypothesized that this reduces compressive load on the lower back by disabling psoas or by changing the line of action of the psoas. There is no debate as to whether psoas is shortened with the hip flexed, but is there a reduction in load to spine with the legs bent? McGill examined 12 young men and observed no major difference in lumbar load as the result of bending the knees. He measured the compressive loads to be in excess of 3000 N. This definitely raises the issue of safety. Certainly anyone with low back injury or risk of re-injury would be wise to avoid the bent knee sit up.
Everyone has performed the crunch at some time, many have not only performed the crunch, but have performed hundreds of thousands or more of them. Through emg studies it has been proven that this exercise directly targets the rectus abdominus or the front of the abdominal wall. However, in lab studies, the most reliable way to injure disks was to expose them to repetitive end range flexion in a cyclic manner. This means that the thousands of crunches you do in any strange variety of directions, with the feet fixed or not, holding weights or body weight, places a serious and very dangerous damaging force on the disks of the spine. A review of the literature reveals that it is likely that the disk must be bent to full end range of motion to be herniated, and that the risk is higher with repeated loading.[8,9] Maybe the crunch is not as good as most would have you believe.
Another dinosaur that will not die is the leg raise, be it lying on your back, seated on a bench or suspended from the roman chair. Data indicates that the main muscle activated in this exercise is the psoas, not the muscles of the abdominal wall. The psoas muscles main role in this motion is as a hip flexor, not an abdominal or trunk flexor. Almost all of us suffer from tight hip flexors and weak lower abs, all this exercise will accomplish is further tightening the psoas and weakening the lower abdominal wall. So why would anyone select the straight leg raise to improve core stability when this exercise mostly challenges psoas ( hip flexor) which appears to play no role in the stability process of the spine / core and at the same time applies extremely high loads to the spine?. So what are the best safest exercises for the abs that also strengthen the core and build spine stability? Believe me when I tell you that to perform these safe and efficient exercises that activate the core, abdominal and spinal muscles no equipment is required, all you need is your body and the floor. The first place to start is the Plank aka. Prone bridge. Perform this exercise like a push up only on your forearms.
? Position yourself face down (prone) on your toes and forearms.
? Brace your abdominals, and retract the cervical spine.
? Maintain the plank 2 position for as long as you can squeeze your glutes.
? Keep the glute muscles engaged and legs straight throughout the exercise.
? When you can no longer fire the glutes, rest and repeat.
The second exercise is the lateral plank or Side Bridge.
? Position yourself laying on your side, propped on the foot and elbow. (frontal plane)
? Maintain a ridged body alignment with proper head position.
? Brace your abdominals, and maintain spinal alignment.
? Raise your torso up off the floor, hold and repeat. Continue on the opposite side.
? Keep the glute muscles engaged throughout the exercise.
The final exercise to strengthen the abs, core and spine is more of a continuum than anything else. The abdominal brace. Every exercise you perform, ever, should be preceded by an abdominal brace; this brace should be held throughout the exercise. The brace is a foreign concept for many since for years we were taught to draw the abs in. Research has clearly shown that drawing the abs in is not effective, bracing fires all the abdominal musculature as well as lumbar co-contraction.
Control of movement is the key to re-educating the lower abdominal wall and allowing the deep pelvic stabilizers to fire efficiently. This progression begins with mastering the abdominal contraction. The key is isolating the muscles of the abdominal wall. Place your fingers on your belly button to feel this contraction. Pay strict attention to NOT allowing the use of the legs, hip flexors or glutes. Typically the body will want to compensate (a.k.a. cheat) to achieve these movements; you must be diligent to not let this happen. To begin the progression lay on your back with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor, place your hands behind your head. Take a breath in and while slowly exhaling begin to push your belly button down toward your hips. Imagine flexing your bicep, this is the same pattern as flexing your abs. Another way to imagine the contraction is to imagine someone is about to punch you in the stomach, just before you are hit brace you abs. The contraction is very slow to develop and never forceful so the legs do not help. Continue the contraction until the lower back is in slight contact with the floor and you can breathe while not straining or feeling tension in the neck, chest, shoulders or legs. For most people this is not easy.
Practice bracing with all activities you do, sitting, walking and definitely while exercising. Over time your abdominal endurance will increase and the co-contraction between your abdomen and thoraco-lumbar spine will become much more efficient. The more efficient the contractions and communication throughout the body the more efficient your exercises will be.
7. Santaguida L, McGill Sm. The psoas major muscle: a three dimensional mechanical modeling study with respect to the spine based on MRI measurement. J Biomech 1995; 128(3):339-345.
8. McGill SM. The mechanics of torso flexion: situps and standing dynamic flexion manoeuvres. Clinical Biomechanics 1995; 10(4):184-192.
9. McGill SM: A myoelectrically based dynamic 3-D model to predict loads on lumbar spine tissues during lateral bending. J Biomech.
10. Cholewicki J, McGill SM: Mechanical stability of the in vivo lumbar spine: Implications for injury and chronic low back pain. Clin Biomech 11(1):1, 1996.
11. McGill SM: A revised anatomical model of the abdominal musculature for torso flexion efforts. J Biomech 29(7):973. 1996.
Bryan Fass, BA, ATCL, CSCS, NREMT-P
Bryan Fass holds a bachelors in sports medicine, is a Certified / Licensed Athletic Trainer, Nationally Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Nationally Registered Paramedic. Bryan is also a highly skilled soft tissue and Myofascial Release therapist, And has over 10 years of experience in clinical and fitness settings. Specialties in Spine and postural re-education.
Precision Fitness is an advanced personal fitness, corrective exercise, post-rehabilitation, and sports performance facility with locations in Cornelius and Mooresville.
Exercising - Ways of staying motivated!
The number one reason people say they do not exercise is lack of time. Not long ago, a twenty-year study was completed centering on the theory that, "There is not as much time in the day as there used to be." The study concluded that just the opposite was true. It showed that with all the technology today, we have 1.5 more hours in a day than we did twenty years ago. In other words, with all the gadgets out there to help us communicate and manage our time, we should have an hour and a half more time for ourselves. What is the solution? With a little prioritizing and some time management, we can find the time to exercise!
Current Recommendations are 30-60 Minutes of Exercise, Everyday?
This is the latest advice to the public and many are surprised at the sheer quantity and confused as to what constitutes exercise.
Home Gym Workout Routines
Home gym workout routines can take the hassle out of staying healthy. How often have you claimed your busy schedule as the reason you could not get to the gym? How many times have you skipped a workout you knew would make you feel better because the fatigue of traffic and the pace of a gym with trainers were too much for your work weary mind?
Triathalon Racing, It Starts At The Beginning
Long before you can enter into triathalon racing, you will need to prepare. You will need to prepare your mind and your body for the competition and the fight.
The Benefit of Back Exercises
Back exercises are often prescribed effectively as an alternative to surgery. Doing daily back exercises can significantly reduce back pain related to a variety of common ailments. However, not every exercise is appropriate for some conditions and certain back exercises may even make the problem worse. This is why it's important to check with your doctor about which exercises will help or hinder you.
The New Lover Approach to Starting an Exercise Program
Approach a New Exercise Program Like a New Lover
The Cool Down - Recover Faster & Avoid Injury!
Many people dismiss the cool down as a waste of time, or simply unimportant. In reality the cool down is just as important as the warm up, and if you want to stay injury free, it's vital.
Thick Today Is Fat Tomorrow
As we twentysomethings get further along in our twenties, we may start to notice ourselves gaining weight. It sucks, because at one time you could eat whatever you wanted and now it's like someone shut off your metabolism. But did you know that by not exercising to lose those extra pounds you are actually setting yourself up for heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis? I just learned that these are all lifestyle diseases and can be eliminated even prevented by exercising and maintaining a healthy diet. Who knew?
7 Reasons To Start Up With an Exercise Program
Most of us need to follow an exercise program. This is due to the fact that just a minority of Americans exercise in a significant way. Below follows 7 good reasons to start exercising now.
The Truth About Lactate and Exercise
For years exercise scientists and physiologists have preached that lactate/lactic acid build-up in the muscle is the direct cause of muscle fatigue and a decrease in performance. It is proposed that lactate builds up in the muscle cells during intense exercise and literally "poisons" them, essentially shutting down activity biochemically by reducing the pH or increasing the acidity level. Lactate has therefore been dubbed a metabolic by-product or dead end and as the enemy of human exercise and performance. This may be far from the truth as this article explains.
Banish Your Lower Back Pain Permanently Without Drugs or Surgery
It is estimated that about 80 percent of the population will suffer from low back pain at some point in their lives. The condition accounts for millions of dollars in medical expenses and lost work time and is often a perpetual misery for the sufferer. Recent evidence indicates that many cases of lower back pain can be permanently treated without medical intervention or drugs using exercise and flexibility. This article aims to provide some very basic information on LBP and offer helpful tips to individuals on dealing with the condition themselves.
A Fitness Mothers Time
So you've been a mother for a while. Good for you, mothers are important. I know I have one! But you know what? I've seen my mother get so tied up from taking care of Dad, me and the house that she had very little time to take care of her fitness. Boy, the things you see in retrospect. Anyway, my mother used to be a beanpole; fitness came from all kinds of activity. I've seen the wedding photos so I know it to be so! I can also remember my mother putting on weight over the years. I'm sure my mother will read this, so I must choose my words carefully! When I think about it though, I know why this can happen to a lot of mothers. Life gets in the way and fitness takes a side seat.
Muscle Cramps and Exercise
Quite often runners and exercisers experience painful muscle cramping either during or immediately following a strenuous exercise bout and as a result, these types of cramps have become known as Exercise Associated Muscle Cramps or EAMCs. Much confusion surrounds the causes of EAMCs including dehydration to electrolyte imbalances. This article aims to explain the latest model for describing EAMCs, how to prevent them and how to deal with them once they occur.
Tour of Diet ? Cycling for Your Health
The last seven years, or so, at the Tour de France has shown a success story that is very uncommon. Winning seven Tour de France championships is a feat that will be extremely hard to duplicate. Lance Armstrong knew it could be done, even overcoming a life threatening bout with cancer.
Get Fit From Home!
-------------------- Things Around The House --------------------
Top 10 Most Outrageous Exercises I?ve Ever Seen
In the course of my experience working and training in gyms, I've seen people doing some incredibly "interesting" exercises. Unfortunately, it's usually because these people have not been properly instructed in exercise technique.
Is It Safe To Start An Exercise Program?
I think the real question is "How safe is it for you not to exercise?" Did you know that obesity has just replaced smoking as the number one cause of health related problems? That's incredible! Sorry to say, but that means we are a bunch of fat, inactive people! Back in the day when people milked cows and planted their own food for exercise, you would never hear of something like this. Think about that the next time you can't exercise because of a hard day at the office! O.k. before I tear off too far into a rant lets look at some of the real concerns you should tend to before you start an exercise program.
Top 5 Exercise Plateau Breakers
Plateau. That dreaded word that you do not want to hear, let alone experience. Especially if you have been diligently exercising in an attempt to get fit or lose weight. We have all experienced a plateau at some time all of a sudden you stop losing weight or you just cant seem to run any faster. When you hit a plateau, dont panic. It doesnt necessarily mean you need to work harder or spend more days at the gym.
The History of Pilates ? It All Began With One Sickly Child
A look into the history of Pilates helps you understand the tremendous power that this form of exercise has to help strengthen and transform your body. Unlike yoga, which has a tradition that goes back thousands of years, one individual developed the Pilates Method at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Bodybuilding Sins That Cause Back Pain and Missed Workouts: Part 4
Welcome to article number 4 in our series "Bodybuilding Sins That Cause Back Pain and Missed Workouts". In this article we are going to talk about how bodybuilders tend to create massive muscle imbalances and what you can do to not be one of them. If you missed the first article, you can read it by clicking on the link below. Here's a breakdown of the articles to look for: 1. Article:1 - Choosing The WRONG Exercises 2. Article:2 - Training Variations for Pain Relief and Maximum Results 3. Article:3 - Targeted Stretching 4. Article:4 - Targeted Exercises 5. Article:5 - Rest, Recovery, and Injury Prevention Article:4 - Targeted Exercises What is a Targeted Exercise and Why You Need To Be Doing Them? While performing three different exercises for each area of the chest may sound "targeted" and it may work great for targeting the chest itself? this is NOT what we mean by targeted? What we are talking about is choosing exercises with more than just size increases in mind? remember, there is far more to muscle than just how it looks? You can be really big, but also weak, slow and inflexible. To drive this point home some more, remember the "Turtle Back Syndrome" we covered in article #1? So many body builders are plagued with this gruesome condition and they don't even know it! Are you? The Turtle Back condition is a direct result of too much focus on building up the pecs and lats and not enough focus on the upper back. Also, the lack of focus on flexibility in the chest and shoulders makes it even worse? Not only does this look stupid, but it sets you up for back, neck and shoulder problems like rotator cuff tears and the like? and I know you don't want any of those! So by targeted, we mean exercises that will not just develop muscle strength and size, but more importantly work towards correcting muscle imbalances which will mean less pain and missed workouts, better performance and function, and most of all better and balanced total body development! So How Do You Find Out Which Ones You NEED To be Doing? As we discussed in the previous article on "Targeted Stretching", it's very important to know before hand what stretches you actually NEED to be doing? the same applies to exercises? and the ONLY way to find out what specific areas you need to target is to perform physical evaluations so you can pin point the weak muscles that need strengthening and the tight muscles that need stretching. We have developed a series of simple assessments you can do yourself to identify the muscles imbalances you have? and while they are intended for people suffering from back pain or sciatica, as a bodybuilder you stand to benefit greatly because you train so hard, you are far more likely to experience injuries like bulging and herniated discs, rotator cuff tears, knee pain, etc? Plus, even if you don't have any pain or injuries now, it would be very wise to learn how to assess yourself so you can target your training now before you create an injury, which not only will slow down your training and progress, but it can also become a life-long struggle with pain and a serious loss of your strength, size and fitness. So be sure to check out our website to learn more about how you can quickly and easily identify and eliminate any muscle imbalances you have.
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