Short and sweet this week. Some thoughts on abdominal work which I posted to my Contemplative Fitness Facebook page a few weeks back. If you haven’t yet “liked” that page, please check it out today.
Please check back here in two weeks for a fresh essay on the philosophy behind the fitness.
Abs: completely misunderstood…
Despite all the crunches, sit-ups, and kinetic abdominal exercises that you have done in the past, and all the ab exercises which have been crammed down your throats by the so-called “experts” in the fitness media, the primary function of your abdominal muscles has been long forgotten, or perhaps has never even been understood by you, the owner of the abdominals.
The abdominal muscles (and tendons) exist on your torso, along with muscles of the low and middle back, to stabilize your torso when your body is under strain. That is, they are meant to flex much more often than they are meant to move.
Sadly, as lists of the “top 5”ab exercises get thrown around the internet, the gym, the office, and the TV set, the most relevant and functional of all abdominal exercises never seem to make those lists. Here’s the beautiful part though; if you’re a regular strength trainer, runner, cyclist, or just an active person, you’re probably already offering your abdominals all the functional training they need.
My two favorite examples exercises which strengthen and condition the abs, aside from standing up and siting down, are deadlifts and squats – the acts of weighted standing up and sitting down. Without realizing it, we flex our abdominal muscles, as well as the muscles of our low-backs when we sit and stand – this flexion is what keeps us from scattering our vertebrae all over the room.
Flexing the abdominal muscles is a natural involuntary response during most strenuous movement, including strength training, running, cycling, and gardening. In strength training for example, regardless of whether the exercises are performed on machines, with dumbbells, while seated or standing, your abdominal muscles continually flex to keep your spine in-line.
Notwithstanding, kinetic abdominal exercises such as sit-ups, crunches, and leg raises do not determine or influence the shape of the abdominal muscle – AT ALL. Genetic predisposition does that. The only tendons in your body that fuse muscle to muscle, and not muscle to bone, are the tendons of the abdominal group. Those tendons are what create the lines between the muscular sections of your would-be six-pack. Your mom and dad dealt you those tendons, and no exercise you choose will influence genetic predisposition.
Yes, the abdominals do allow one to sit-up and to crunch, but movement is a secondary responsibility for the abs. Flexion for the sake of stability is their main mission. If you do any amount of regular deadlifting, squatting, standing or sitting, then your abdominal muscles are getting their share of functional work.
If you would like to add a kinetic movement into your workout, I suggest the cross-over crunch (commonly referred to as the bicycle maneuver) shown in the attached video. This movement recruits upper, medial, and lower abs, as well as including a torso rotation to increase flexibility in the low back and obliiques. This is a very efficient exercise, and the only ab exercise I do on a regular basis… Be well. rc
Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button the blender in head.