As a fitness coach one of the most common questions I get asked is how to improve the appearance and strength of the abs. Many people have been misled into believing that if they do hundreds of crunches and sit-upâ€™s that theyâ€™ll end up with six-pack abs and a tight, flat stomach.
The truth is itâ€™s just not that simple. While crunches and sit-upâ€™s can still be part of well balanced fitness regiment, you donâ€™t have to do a ton of them.
For me theyâ€™re a small piece of the total puzzle in building a strong core.
Here is a summary of my position on ab training:
1. Most people are far too obsessed with the appearance of their abs and fail to understand the true role your abs play in human movement. The primary role of your abdominal muscles is to stabilize the trunk so you can do useful stuff like climb over walls or use your legs and arms to lift heavy objects.
2. Understand that trunk flexion (as displayed with crunches) is a secondary movement pattern for the abs. Therefore you donâ€™t need to spend a lot of time, or any for that matter, doing this movement.
3. Understand that the abdominal muscles work in conjunction with the muscles of the posterior chain (lumbar, pelvic, and gluteal muscles).
They ALWAYS work with integration with these other muscles during human movement patterns. Your abdominal muscles are never isolated with anything youâ€™d do in everyday life.
Therefore minimize your time with isolation, you just donâ€™t need it. Plus you could be making common muscle imbalances worse by doing lots of isolated abdominal work.
4. A lot of physiotherapists and fitness professionals have gone overboard with trying to target out the transverse abdominus and other deep core muscles with exercises.
Work your entire core with integration and you wonâ€™t have to worry about stimulating any particular ab muscle. It will all take care of itself.
5. Endless crunches and sit-upâ€™s are NOT fat burning. Stop wasting time thinking youâ€™ll remove that layer of fat over your stomach doing these exercises.
If you want to remove body fat from around your stomach your best recipe is a clean diet, resistance exercise on the larger muscle groups, and short bursts of cardio.
6. Develop trunk stabilization by doing exercises such as back squats, deadlifts, L sits, front squats, kettlebell windmills, and hollow rocks for example.
7. Develop truck flexion strength by doing exercises such as Janda sit-upâ€™s, medicine ball throws, and Roman Chair sit-upâ€™s for example.
8. Develop posterior chain strength with exercises such as kettlebell swings, back squats, deadlifts, and back extensions for example.
Getting great abs doesnâ€™t require you to ever do a single sit-up or crunch. Sure you can throw some in from time to time but theyâ€™re not the end-all solution for core training.
By doing functional movements with your strength training youâ€™ll be working the core without even knowing it. Think of the human body as one big kinetic chain with all the muscles working together.
Replicate human movement patterns by reaching, rowing, pushing, pulling, squatting, and picking heavy objects from the floor. Do this and youâ€™ll be well on your way to a strong and stable core.
Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. With a staff of over 10 certified fitness professionals, Shaping Concepts provides fitness consulting in Charleston with a specialty on weight loss and body transformation. You can receive a FREE, no-obligations (2) session personal training trial and consultation to experience the difference for yourself.