WITH SUMMER APPROACHING, ABS EXERCISES WILL BECOME MORE POPULAR. BUT IS THIS THE BEST WAY TO ACHIEVE A GOOD SIX PACK AND STRONG CORE?
While abdominal exercises do hit a portion of your core (your abdominals) most people mistake the abs and the core being the same thing. Your core provides stability for your body and if this is weak then there is a much higher chance of injury from lifting and imbalances through your body. While your abdominal muscles play a role in core stability, there are a lot more muscles involved.
The core is made up of more than just those six pack muscles though, it also includes the glutes, hips, pelvic floor and scapula. Basically all the areas we have generally become lazy with due to our lifestyles. Your core is where your power is generated in order to carry out any movement, so if this is weak then you will not be performing to your best ability.
SO HOW DO I STRENGTHEN THE CORE??
Start by Dropping the Sit ups and Crunches, these exercises are more hazardous than they are useful to strengthening your core. The movement for a crunch is a secondary function and one that’s not meant to be done at high volume due to the stress it puts on the discs of your spine. So next time your back hurts don’t blame those bodyweight squats, think about how you have performed your six pack exercises.
To strengthen the core we need to make sure we are working the core as a whole and not just trying to work our stomach. This will help create a solid foundation to lift from, the core is the key to full body strength and will enable safer, more effective and productive exercise in the future. Let’s put together some exercises to help you bullet proof your core:
Strange name but this exercise hits multiple functions in one go working both anti-extension and anti-rotation.
It can help improve coordination and also puts the glutes, shoulders and strengthens your lower back. This exercise helps benefit spinal alignment, postural control, shoulder stability, hip alignment, shoulder mobility, spinal stabilization and can help reduce low-back pain.
These are excellent for helping with the stabilisation of your trunk, hips and improve your core conditioning. Co-ordination for cross crawling movement is also improved doing Deadbugs. To prevent your back from arching during the movement, you must tighten your abs which makes the move an anti-extension exercise. This trains your abdominals to resist extension of your back and protect it.
PLANKThe most popular abdominal exercise in any gym and often done completely wrong or without thought to what you are training. This is due to the misconception we talked about of the core being just the abs. As we now know that the core involves a lot more, we need to make sure these muscles are used during our core exercises. I always promote the plank from the push up position, partly because it has more transfer to other exercises and helps with push ups, but also because it keeps you safer. Planking on the elbows is great, but for most people they won’t engage their glutes or shoulder blades during the exercise and will attempt to hold it far beyond capability. That lower back pain you get after 60 seconds is because you are not engaging your abdominals or any of the other core muscles for that matter. By planking from the push up position you can more effectively concentrate to keeping correct form and engage your glutes, shoulders, quads and hamstrings to ensure that you are working your core and not stressing that lower back.
This will add another direction can challenge all your abdominal muscles, as well as your arms and back but without putting pressure on the spine.
With these exercises added in to your lifting routine, you should have a stronger core, stronger and more effective lifts and less chance of injury. Each of these have progressions and regressions which we can work on together.