>Proximal Stability before Distal Mobility.
Envy is such an ugly thing, but do you know what isn’t? Being on the receiving end of that envy because of your admirable abdominals!
Clearly, as test subject after test subject can attest to, the only way to truly get those coveted popping abs (ok the popping part is partially genetics) is to follow a clean and sound nutrition plan that keeps your body fat levels in check and to train your abs in what most would consider a more unconventional way – aka, not getting on the floor and doing sit-ups and crunches until you’re blue in the face. Reality be told that for fully functional and a sexy midsection, you MUST train your entire core, abs, back and pelvis, and first, specifically, the spine stabilizers; hence, the title of this article.
The first place to start to really simplify this and get those crunch fanatics to wrap their heads around what I am going to suggest is to look at the structure and function of the abdominal region. First, let’s start with the rectus abdominus (RA) which runs along the front of your torso from breast bone to pubic bone, and is the muscle most refer to when saying they want 6-pack abs.
This muscle pulls the torso towards the hips and rotates the pelvis posteriorly, and will flex the lumbar spine about 30 degrees when contracted hard. Visualize what you see and feel when doing a cable crunch.
Next are the obliques, internal (IO) and external (EO). Your EO are located most superficially on your sides and are the obliques that are visible when you are lean enough. They originate on the back of your lower ribs and run diagonally to attach at your pelvis. They assist with trunk flexion, but are primarily involved in rotation and side-bending. Your IO are located beneath your EO and are more involved in the stabilization of the pelvis and spine, but also assist with rotation, side-bending and trunk flexion.
Your transverse abdominals (TVA) are the least focused upon, but are somewhat most important of the abdominal muscles. TVA are the deepest of the abdominal muscles and its strength and development are of utmost importance in your pursuit of a nice flat stomach and solid, stable spine. Without the due diligence in training the deeper muscles and training solely the showy muscles like the RA, one may find themselves with a nice outwardly protruding 6 pack that resembles a pregnant lady’s belly you can do your laundry on (ok, so there are other factors involved with that, but you get my point). Without overcomplicating things and giving you information overload, the important spinal stabilizers necessary for a flat admirable abdominal area are the erector spinae muscles (lower back), the pelvic floor muscles and the multifidus .
Now that you have a basic understanding of the anatomy and function of the abdominal muscles, and will better understand why this workout doesn’t have you on the floor, let’s get to work!
Keep in mind that your main focus is to keep your stomach in (think of bringing your bellybutton to your spine), keep yourself rigid and strong. Incorporate these exercises into your current workouts a few times per week for admirable abdominals…that work!
If you are new to working out or this movement, start with a bodybar (5-10 lb) or light dumbbells. These exercises will not only get your heart rate up to help you burn some butter, but they heavily engage your abs for stabilization and proper alignment and body mechanics. Sometimes it is good to actually have a chair to sit in until you learn the movement. Hold the bar slightly wider than shoulder width. Keeping your back engaged and chest out, looking forward, you will seat yourself, so your thighs are parallel to the floor (spread the floor with your feet and knees and feel the weight on your heels not your toes). Keep your arms locked and trapezius muscle fully engaged.
ANY Deadlift Variation!!!
Start out doing this exercise with your elbows on the ball and on your knees. As you get better you can do this exercise on your elbows and feet.
Planks and Side Planks
Perform 2 to 3 sets of each exercise, 30 – 60 second intervals. When you notice your form is beginning to get poor, stop! Do not push through it.
Perform 2 to 3 sets for 60 seconds. Place a small ball or something similar between your thigh and your waist, hold and squeeze, one side at a time.