A couple months ago I had a group workout with some of my clients. There was a newcomer-she was about 28 years old and she had some sports background. We did a warm up, then some skill work and at the end we hit a quick WOD. I do not remember the exact workout, but I remember we did some planks, and the WOD had some swings and some squats. After the workout the lady came to me and said: “ Great workout, but I will give you an advice to make it even better.” There was I standing, with my ears pricked up to hear what she had to say. And out of nowhere she stated that “You should include some exercises for the abs”.SCANDALIZING, I know! You can’t imagine how many times I’ve heard the question, “When are we gonna do some crunches or some other sit ups.” If I had a dollar for every time I hear it, I’d be in Forbes’ top 10 millionaries. So this article will be dedicated to all the astray souls, who think that crunches are the magic behind awesome abs.
I guess that as always I will start with a little explanation. First of all I won’t argue that tight abs are the key to good posture and good lower back health. The abdominal muscles are the core of the body. Actually a lot of back problems are linked to a weak torso. Abs are the muscles, which help to support the whole body. As I mentioned they are the key to the good posture, so if the most important link of the structure is weak that leads your body structure to compact and compress down.
I read somewhere that “our core has one main function and that is to protect our spine from injury”. That is very well put! That is the mere truth. The spine should be protected very well in order for our body to function properly. That is why we should make sure that we give our best to do so-meaning we strengthen our abdominal and lower back muscles. And before you start pointing me, nagging about how you told me that we should do some abs, give me the chance to explain! If you follow the traditional methods to workout your abs-doing endless amounts of crunches, all you do is focus on rectus abdominal or in other words the six pack. In fact there is more to the abs than rectus abdominal. You are neglecting the muscles that do the actual work of protecting the spine-they are located deeper , plus the lower back muscles. Besides that a research by McGill has shown that repeated spinal flexion damages spinal discs.
And as Mark from “The Primal Blueprint” says: “The core does not exist to contract or bend over and over again; it’s there to resist force.” That is why I will suggest you better ways to workout the abs in a way that will contribute to a better posture, healthier back and better-looking body.
First of all concentrate on some stabilization. If you are the typical fitness junkie, and you’ve trained your abs with traditional sit-ups and crunches, I bet that every single exercise listed below will make you break a sweat!
My favorite exercise I use when working for midline stabilization is the plank(“the plank is a static exercise in which you hold a modified push-up position, with your weight on your toes and forearms and your body forming a straight line from your neck through your ankles.”-Bryan Krahn)! There are endless variations of the plank but there are already people who explained it pretty good so I will give you the links and you could educate yourself further. If you are a beginner you could try holding in a plank position starting from 20seconds, till you go up to 60seconds. There are a lot of people that do bodyweight planks for 3-4 minutes, but I find it to be a waste of time. In stead I’d suggest something else. When you are able to hold a plank for 60seconds, try putting some weight on your back, or if you have a weight vest put it on and hold the plank position. That is much better. You could also do some plank variations. Try lifting your left arm in the air and your right leg. Then switch hands and legs. You could also do one arm planks.
Another thing you could do is plank-to- push up– start from a plank position( the weight on your forearms and toes), and get up to a push up(the weight goes on your palms and your toes).
And last but not least you could do some “clocks”-stay in a push up position. With your body tight, your butt squeezed start moving yourself around your legs, till you make a full circle. By the way I often get asked by people watching, how exactly staying on your forearms and toes helps your abs. Well,the weight of your body and gravity will pull the middle of your body towards the ground, and your back will start sagging and probably arch. To prevent this you must use your ab and stomach muscles and pull in your belly button and squeeze your butt cheeks to keep your body in good alignment.
Second place is for L-sits– the L-sit is basically a static hold. Here is a video that will help you with some progressions for the L-sit.
Next, it is time for ab rollouts, and here is a great tutorial how to do them.
Here is a pretty detailed article about the glute-ham developer sit-ups and the hallow rock.
That does a pretty good job in explaining the hallow rock!
And that is for the Glute-Ham developer sit-up!
There are a lot more midline stabilization exercises that you could include in your workouts but these are my favorite. If you incorporate them in your program I am sure that it will work out pretty good. I consider that the best time to do them is after the warm-up because if you do them after your main workout, your muscles will be already sore and it won’t be as effective.