The Truth about Abdominal workouts: Take it or be frustrated!
- Updated: April 22, 2013
Although you are regularly bombarded with exercises claiming to tone and strengthen the abdominal muscles, many of these exercises are inadequate and ineffective. Some exercises may actually lead to lower back pain, and do little to strengthen the abdominals. The purpose of this manual is to provide accurate, useful information and exercise guidelines for abdominal training. In addition, several myths and misconceptions about abdominal training will be dispelled.
What about the standing side-to-side exercise?
Many people think that side-to-side (lateral flexion) bending is a good exercise to shape the sides of the torso. This is not true because deeper spinal muscles can perform this exercise much more efficiently than the abdominal muscles. In fact, the quadratus lumborum muscle, which attaches from the crest of ilium to the transverse processes of the lumbar vertebrae and to the lowest rib, is actually a pure lateral flexor muscle. Anatomically, the quadratus lumborum is positioned so that it is more active than the external obliques during side bending. The soreness that many people associate with a firming of the oblique muscles is actually a result of overstretching these muscles and doing the movements too fast. It should be noted that thus exercise with dumbbells or plates hanging will actually build a blocky waist, not reduce it!
Are standing rotation exercises just as ineffective?
Yes, those movements are performed without resistance and oftentimes with great speed. This may create undesirable rotational stress and wear and tear on the spinal vertebrae. However, many health clubs now have new equipment which offer resistance to trunk rotation and flexion in the upright and supine positions. Individuals choosing to use this equipment should use extreme caution as to the risk and benefit ratios, and adding a host of disproportional unnecessary resistance. (A waste of time)
Some people would like to convince you that there is an ideal sequence for working the abdominals, i.e., theirs, if you just buy their product. In actuality, research has demonstrated that your body is constantly learning how to adapt and respond to stimuli. If you were to present the same stimulus, i.e., the abdominal sequence, you would readily adapt to this routine so that it would eventually become ineffective in terms of shaping your midsection. The key word to remember for all resistance training is “variety.” You can add interest, creativity and challenge to your abdominal training program by varying the amount and type of each of the following:• exercises• repetitions and sets• sequence• number of exercises• resistance• position of exercise• tempo of exercise• type of contraction
For effective abdominal training, emphasize body position and movement proficiency. Greater results will be attained with a focus on technique. Furthermore, do the exercises slowly, with control. How many times have you taught, gone to a class, or worked out at home using some high energy music, and then tried to adapt the abdominal workout tempo to the beat of the music? Focus more on the abdominal movement, trying to accentuate each contraction. In other words, “make every repetition count.”
Can you work the upper and lower abdominals independently?
When performing some abdominal exercises, it often feels like the muscle is divided into an upper and lower section. Although the abdominal muscles have intersegmental nerve stimulation, you are not able to contract one section independent of the other.
How about those hanging leg raises…or leg raises in general?
The ‘villains’ of abdominal training are the hip flexors, which bring the legs and trunk toward each other. Muscles that flex the hip include the psoas major, illiacus, rectus femoris, pectineus and sartorius. Full sit-ups involve the hip flexors, which may cause the lower back to arch and unwanted back pain, and shut off the contraction of the abs. Leg-raising exercises in a supine position challenge the hip flexors with limited involvement of the abdominals. Frequently, there is a muscle imbalance between the weaker abdominals and the stronger hip flexors in trunk flexing movements
The goal of abdominal training is to maximize the involvement of the abdominals, while minimizing the involvement of the hip flexors. (monkey moves)
IF YOU READ THIS FAR…I SAVE THE BEST FOR LAST…ARE YOU SITTING DOWN? SMILING? SOON YOU WILL BE STANDING YELLING!!!
If you do many abdominal exercises, will you lose additional body fat in the abdominal region?
In a large clinical study by researchers at the University of Massachusetts, it was conclusively shown that sit-up exercise training does not decrease the diameter of abdominal adipose cells, abdominal subcutaneous fat (skinfold thickness) or abdominal circumference
Therefore, you cannot use ab exercises to selectively lose abdominal fat. You can change the texture (density-hardness) however cannot lose fat in that area by doing any kind of AB exercise. Instead, to reduce fat content at a given body site, your total body fat will have to be altered.
I often have mentioned that fat is systemic. When you cut yourself shaving is it “chin blood”? or “leg blood”? NO- ITS BLOOD. I wish people would understand this and not watch infomercials!!!!
Some great news for those of you who haven’t lost your voice:
The more muscle you gain in the entire body, the stronger your fat burning engines. Fat is burned as a substrate by the little metabolic “Mighty Mito- pac men” these mito-burning pac men will visit the muscle… depending on the which room they visit, aerobic or anaerobic living space…will determine the type of fuel they want to burn. So my suggestion would be to rearrange your “rooms-living space” make it more pleasing to the ‘mito-burning guests”. They like fat for starters, a little carbohydrates as a snack, and more fat for the entree.
1- Keep it aerobic if you want to see your 4-pack.
2-Keep training with weights, more cardio “everyday” and lose the gluten, wheat, soy, and processed foods if you want to see your 6-pack!
–DAVE PARISE CPT FPTA MES
“I think I will ice fish today. How do I start? Melt the ice (fat) drop the line in the water (muscle) to get to the goal (6-pack of fish)