By Darren Bain
We all know that a well chiseled 6 pack improves our appearance but what you may not know is that our trunk muscles/ab’s help prevent injury and improve performance.
The first two areas that need to be addressed before we even begin to look at specific abdominal training is your diet and exercise program. If your diet is poor and your exercise program is rubbish your body fat is going to be high – you could do 1000 abdominal reps a day but you’re never going to see an ab little lone a 6 pack unless you get the body fat down. But of course this doesn’t apply to you guys and girls because you have this under control by STRICTLY following the 6 week beach body plan.
When it comes to abdominal training the biggest mistake people tend to make is the exercise selection and repetition range
It’s important no matter what part of the body you are trying to improve there is no ‘one exercise’ that is best, everything must be trained proportionally. Believe it or not if you’re completing your big compound lifts; dead-lifts, squats, split squats over head press etc your abdominals are getting a more effective workout than lying on the ground and doing 100 sit-ups.
Whenever people tend to think of ab training they automatically associate lying on the ground and completing as many reps as possible thinking this is the best way to get them their finely sculpted six pack. Unfortunately this leads to dysfunction and ultimately injury. Most of us are in front of a computer for long periods of time day in day out so why in the world would you want to go to the gym and complete exercises that cause more flexion?. Training on a flat surface can potentially increase the curvature of the lumbar spine, which will place many of the weaker structures of the lower back at an increased risk of injury. This excessive curvature of the lumbar spine can then cause your head and shoulders to move into a forward position causing headaches, neck and back pain. A poorly designed program over the long term creates poor posture, causing neck and back pain and accelerates degeneration of your disks.
Not only that but you are not getting full range of movement which means you are not getting full muscle recruitment of your abdominals. To get full muscle recruitment and tension of your rectus abdominus you need to get extension of your trunk not just flexion. Completing sit ups correctly over the fit ball is a great exercise choice as you are getting extension and flexion of the trunk. However in my view and many other strength coaches view it’s very important that you train your trunk in a functional manner for optimal results in performance and appearance. Every movement in the extremities is generated from the core so it’s important the abdominals are trained in different directions through rotation, extension and flexion movements.
Whether you’re looking to build muscle or lose fat, the number of repetitions you perform is a primary factor in determining the ultimate result. For some reason when it comes to abdominals people think they have to perform sets of 50 plus reps. You wouldn’t do 50 reps on the bench press to get a big chest so why do it for ab’s?. Different muscles in the body are slow or fast twitch, slow twitch muscle groups are suited to more reps and relatively low loads. The abdominals are mainly comprised of fast twitch fibres which respond better to short bouts of hard work – meaning less reps. This means the selection of your abdominal exercises needs to be focused around exercises that you shouldn’t be able to get more than 15 reps and if you’re advanced you can select exercises with a weight that allows you no more than 6 reps.
Try the below program at the end of your next session to get you on your way to wash board abdominals
Band Sit-Up over fit ball x 10
Ab Sling knees to elbows x 8
Cable Oblique Twist x 6 E.S
Fit ball roll out x 8
x 3 – 4 rounds
Tempo: 4 2 1.
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