When we think of conditioning the core the first picture that generally comes to mind is a person performing endless crunches on the floor. Year after year, we’re taught by celebrity trainers and boot camps that excessive crunching on the floor is the only true path to attaining beautiful abs.
I’m under the belief that in addition to the desire to look great, it’s just as important for the core to function well.
The most important job the core has is to stabilize the back when lifting heavy things, twisting, bending, squatting, etc. A healthy functional core can be extremely valuable to any person who wants to lift, play with their kids, stay active or experience a high level of performance in their sport without injury.
A deeper understanding of how our body works is essential. The aesthetics will always come if the function is there first. You can start by assessing your body first to find out how you can improve function, posture and stability. Flat abs will come much easier if you improve function first.
Certain things like poor food choices can actually shut off your abdominal muscles and create inflammation in the gut. When this happens, the muscles around the intestines have to shut off to make room for the added inflammation of the organs.
The inner unit muscles are now shut off and no longer functional when you need to stabilize during a heavy lift. This is a recipe for disaster for someone who’s not aware and goes to perform a an intense workout. This person could end up with a nasty back injury because their core was not able to stabilize when they lifted weights or were playing sports.
Doing crunches on the floor can even make matters worse by creating more dysfunction. If you’re not able to access the deeper stabilizer muscles of the core (inner unit), you end up over stimulating the rectus abdominis muscle, the superficial abdominal muscle also known as your six pack. This could cause your abs to protrude out even more, if done excessively.
How much time are you spending on your back during the day? People generally do not do things on their back, but rather in a standing position. So my question is, why are people training there abs this way? It makes no sense. Training your core on your back may be essential for the beginning stages of a training regimen, but after that one needs to move on to a more function stance.
Doing crunches on a Swiss ball can be more beneficial for someone than on the floor. If done properly, the ball provides and unstable surface. This helps with stability, and you can get much more range of motion on the ball. This can be really helpful for people who do not have enough curve in the lumbar spine because it holds the lower back in a curved position. Doing crunches this way can help a person establish a natural curve position in the lumbar spine while conditioning the core.
Once one can establish true activation and coordination of the inner unit and core musculature, I recommend progressing on to working the core in other planes of movement. Like frontal (side) and transverse (twisting) planes and in a standing position.
Exercises like, cable wood chops, side lifts on the Swiss ball and alternating superman on the Swiss ball can be extremely beneficial for the core. Because your core consists mostly of fast twitch muscle fibers, less repetitions are better when it comes to conditioning your abs. Once you establish a foundation of stability in the core, it will respond best to faster exercises and less reps.
For more information on this or to schedule your free consultation please contact Allison Pelot at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-606-5581