A comment that comes up almost on a daily basis is about working "abs". Or, how do I flatten my stomach? Or, "I need to do more ab work". First off, the only thing that is going to get you a "ripped" midsection is 100% focus on your nutrition. Yes, we can strengthen the "abs". But, just what are your abs and what is the core? Most people think when they need to strengthen their abs or flatten their stomach they need to do sit ups and crunches. That couldn't be farther from the truth. Quite often overdoing crunches will overwork the rectus abdominis and lead to muscles imbalances and predispose you to injury.
So, #1 – stop with all the crunches.
First off we need to define the core. And, the core is not just the "ab" muscles. The core is basically the body minus the arms and legs. The core muscles run the entire length of the torso. The function of the core is to stabilize the spine, pelvis and shoulder to provide a solid foundation for movement. Some of the more commonly known core muscles are:
1) rectus abdominis (often referred to an the "six pack") but in function has very limited focus
2) erector spinae – these back muscles run from your neck to your lower back
3) multifidus – also back muscles located deeper than the erector spinae, these are also very important stabilizers and help to extend and rotate the spine
4) internal and external obliques – located on the side and front of the abdomen
5) transverse abdominis (TVA) – it is the deepest of the abdominal muscles. Often referred to as nature's weight belt as it wraps around your torso to provide protection and stability
Other muscles that one would not normally associate with the Core are:
1) hip flexors – located in front of the pelvis. There are 5 muscles that make up the hip flexor group
2) gluteus medius and minimus – located at the side of the hips
3) gluteus maximus, hamstrings, and pirformis – located in the back of the hip
4) hip adductors – located on the inner thigh
As you can see, the Core makes up a vast network of muscles all with one function – to keep the spine and pelvis stable. The movements and power delivered by your arms and legs is only as strong and powerful as the core is stable. It is like the saying - shooting a cannon from a canoe. If you are not working to strengthen all aspects of your core, not just your "abs" then you will never be able to deliver a powerful blow to the enemy –
whether it be a blow to the golf ball, tennis ball or those nasty weeds that continue to grow in the garden. The fastest way to a leaner more defined midsection is to work your Core – all of it. Avoid the crunches – embrace planks, side planks, lunges, squats and pushups. Not only will you get a stronger core, you will burn many more calories than focusing on isolation exercises such as crunches.
Till next time,
"Monitoring, Mentoring, Motivation"