Smart Abs revisited 2018

Posted: May 3, 2018 in Uncategorized
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I’m revisiting this article again because there are some things i have learned. Despite getting body fat nice and low in 2016 and 2017 I had a defined midsection but a lean “bulge” in the  belly button region. Here are 3 new take homes if your midsection is not as defined as you like.

1)You are fat. Ab work does not spot reduce. Build some head to toe muscle, do sprint interval work. Control your caloric intake.

2)If you are not fat and still are cloudy and bulged in the midsection start treating the core area like any other muscle group and throw out the low intensity burny BS high rep training.

3)If you have some definition but have the bulge, the bulge could be present due to a few different reasons.

First some tight hip flexors can produce anterior pelvic tilt which can certainly create that illusion. Excess sitting and hip flexor work(leg raises, six inches, sit ups, feet hooked crunches, sprinting, kicking). Counter this with some basic hip flexor stretching. Get into the bottom position of a lunge with the back knee resting on the floor. Push your hips forward while maintaining an upright posture. Adjust the distance between your legs so that the shin on your front leg is in a vertical position. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side. If you do not feel the stretch, tip your body sideways towards the hip of the leg that is in front of you. Also look at changing your core routine to let the hip flexors reduce their tone.

Second and in my own experience I had built a wall of lower abdominal muscle that was done in the absence of maintaining TVA coordination and strength. By allowing my stomach to bulge outward slightly during my crazy core moves I developed a tendency to relax the TVA group at rest and during activity. To wake up the TVA get down on all fours and allow your stomach to bulge downward. Next focus on drawing your belly button up and in towards your spine. Hold for 2 seconds. Repeat 10 times. In looking at your core work focus on maintaining this slightly drawn in belly button position during all of your moves.

Now here is the reprint from the article:

I wrote the following article many years ago. It appeared in a fitness magazine around 2000-2001 or so. Jessie asked me about it tonight so here it is.

Keep in mind the abdominal wall is a fast twitch beast and needs to be trained that way. I would not hesitate to deviate from the 10 rep sets listed to sets of 6-8 at some point, with 6 or 8 being the last possible rep you can perform in good form.

Treat your abs like other muscle groups. Burn does not mean definition it means lactic acid.

The eight “blocks” that one should be able to see on the anterior side of a very lean individual’s physique are known collectively as the rectus abdominus. If one looks to the left and to the right of the abdominal wall, one can see the external obliques. In the next layer, the internal obliques insert on the last 3 to 4 ribs and run posteriorly downward and diagonally towards the rear pockets of your pants.

The function of the rectus abdominus is to flex the trunk when in a supine position. The obliques perform a variety of actions. Unilateral contraction (one sided) of the obliques(external and internal), yields a lateral(sideways) contraction to that side. Rotation is produced by contraction of an external oblique and an internal oblique on opposite sides. Bilateral contraction of the obliques helps to stabilize the torso.

Aside from aesthetics, the midsection has other important functions as well. Muscles need to be strengthened in weight bearing positions, not just supported ones, especially the internal and external obliques, abdominals, hip flexors, hamstrings, and lower back.

Coordination in the lower abdomen needs to be developed before getting into rigorous ab training. There are 2 exercises that need to be mastered before proceeding. The first is the pelvic tilt. On a firm surface, lying flat on your back, roll your pelvis back, flattening your spine against the floor while your legs are bent and feet flat on the floor. Hold for a two count. Repeat for 2 sets of 12 repetitions. The second exercise is the 1 leg pelvic tilt. Lie down with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Roll your pelvis back until your spine is pressing against the floor. Raise and lower 1 leg while keeping your pelvis rolled back. Repeat with alternate legs for 2 sets of 12-15 reps. 3-4 times per week is good at this stage since we are mainly coordinating, rather than strengthening.

After these exercises have been mastered, proceed to the pelvic tilt. This is the same as the second exercise but with 2 legs rather than 1. The knees are totally bent. This tests coordination between the psoas and abdominal musculature. When this exercise can be performed for 2 sets of 12 repetitions at 3 times per week, it is time to embark on complete abdomen training.

A good beginner routine has you training the lower abdomen first. If necessary, neurally prime the area with some pelvic tilts. Choose unsupported pelvic tilts as your first exercise which is the same as the coordinating exercise but with more extension at the knee. Go for 2 sets of 10 reps. Over the weeks, gradually increase the degree of extension at the knee to provide greater resistance. The goal is to do the exercise with full extension at the knee.

Next, we will move to the oblique region. Oblique crunches fit the bill here. If you have any existing back condition this rotational exercise should be avoided, however. Lie on the floor, bend knees, and point them to the ceiling using hip flexion. Your feet are up in the air. This reduces psoas contribution and stabilizes the low back. Place hands on your chest and place your tongue behind your teeth to stabilize neck flexors. Imagine a rope fixed to a pulley on the ceiling pulling your sternum upward. Twist at the waist on the way up as if you were going to touch your knee with the opposite elbow. Do not lead with the head, lead with the sternum. Repeat on the other side. 2 sets of 10 repetitions fit the bill.

Lastly, straight crunches minus the rotation as described are performed for 2 sets of 10 repetitions. To increase the difficulty on the crunch variations, proceed from hands on the chest to hands at the head to hands overhead, forming  a straight line at the torso.

This program is directed at beginners and should provide all the work necessary done 2-3 times weekly. When intensity is developed, frequency can be decreased. In addition, the use of a Swiss Ball can increase exercise intensity when progressing to the next level. After all, isn’t that what it is all about?

To perform the crunch variations on the Swiss Ball, carefully lie back on the ball with the small of your lower back draped across the ball. Spread your feet about shoulder width on the floor. Perform the crunch variations as described earlier. It will feel quite awkward at first, but the ab workout will feel tremendous.

When the crunch exercises performed with straight arms behind the head fail to provide enough difficulty to further stimulate progress, hold a medicine ball to provide some more torque for the abdominals to deal with. Be careful not to strain the shoulder joint. If you have any shoulder injury or discomfort with this at all, hold the ball under the chin instead. Maintain perfect form and remember to avoid using hip flexors. You will feel the urge to do so when working with increased resistance on the ab motions. When the unsupported pelvic tilt becomes easy, try the lower ab king which is the hanging reverse crunch. To perform this excellent exercise, hang from a chinning bar and slightly flex the legs(draw your thigh up towards your upper body)at the hip. Lock the legs with this degree of flexion at the hip! This is key! We want to work the lower abdomen, not hip flexors. Using your abs, curl the pelvis backwards until full contraction is experienced. Maintain the same degree of flexion at the hip throughout. Do not think of pulling the knees up to the chest. Curl the pelvis.

In closing, the importance of learning how to utilize the lower abdomen in abdominal training cannot be overstressed. This early foundational work will better enable you to recruit this group when performing all of your abdominal movements.

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