If there is one thing that everyone, men and women alike, could probably agree on, it is that they would like to have great abs. Am I right? So how do most people set about achieving this look? They do endless crunches or situps. Ouch. There is growing evidence that this is brutal on your spine. In “Is Your Ab Workout Hurting Your Back, Dr. Stuart McGill, a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Canada, calls foul on situps. As he explains it, the spine is not meant to flex (bend) over and over, and if subject to such movement, it will eventually lead to disc herniation (read “pain”). Instead, when training the core, you want to think of the core as a mechanism to stabilize your body, not to move your body. Appropriate exercises should involve the core resisting movement. Here is a great video clip with Dr. McGill first explaining the principle of why crunches are not good for your spine. He then provides demonstrations of exercises that you should do: a modified “crunch” (which isn’t really a crunch at all), stir-the-pot (this is a great exercise, but I think it is on the more advanced side), bird-dog (this looks easy, but the key is to not move at the spine & to keep your hips facing the floor, ie. no rotation) and side-bridge (also harder than it looks). All of these are great replacements for the “traditional” crunch.
Another good exercise to try was “invented” by my coach, Tony Gentilcore. He calls it “slideboard miyagis.” This is not only a great core exercise, but is also good for shoulder health. I have done this exercise and think it is great ~ it seems easy at first, but gets progressively harder. If you don’t have access to a slideboard you can try using valslides under your hands; if you have access to hardwood floors, you can do it with small towels under your hands. Just be careful at first, as your hands are not particularly stable on the slideboard/valslide/towel. You can do this for reps or for time. Note how Tony’s core is completely still…this is important.
A final note about getting those “washboard” abs ~ you have to be LEAN. Just like I discussed in my post about toning your arms (see here), you can have abs of steel, but if you have a bunch of fat covering them, no one is going to see them. When you see photos on the fitness magazines of men and women with totally ripped stomachs, remember that they have a very, very low body fat percentage. So keep your goals in perspective. I am totally for working the core, not only from an appearance standpoint but also from a functional standpoint ~ you move much better with a strong core. But maybe you aren’t going to look like the fitness models, and that’s okay.
I am heading out for vacation tomorrow…to the north woods of Maine. Very quiet there…ahhhh….no internet connection. 🙂 So no posts next week, but I will be back the first week of August. As always, thanks for reading.