Copyright 2006 Ainsley Laing
Just last week, I was talking to my friend Jack, who is a Tri-athlete. To train, he runs, swims, cycles and lifts weights. I hadnt seen this guy for about 6 months and he has really changed his body quite a bit with his rigorous training schedule. He was showing me how his body had changed and asked me, what else can I do to strengthen my abdominals? My answer, as always, was very long winded and inspired this article. Thanks Jack!
There has been a paradigm shift in the last few years in fitness science about how to strengthen abdominals. Have you heard the term core body strength? Then you have heard about this trend. What is means is that in order to strengthen the abdominals, all of the muscles of the front, side and back of the torso must be exercised. It also includes strengthening the pelvic floor muscles! This is because all of these muscles work synergistically to stabilize the middle of the body.
Using the core training philosophy will not only improve those wash board abs, but will help your posture and ability to avoid back injury. To implement this doesnt necessarily mean doing different exercises than you are already doing, so long as you are working out your abdominals, obliques and spinal erectors (lower back). It means doing them differently.
Here are 2 core techniques that will improve your workout:
1. Work on pulling your pelvic floor muscles up. Women who have been pregnant will remember doing Kegel exercises. Same movement, but you want to practice holding these muscles up at all times during your workout. As your pelvic floor muscles get stronger, you will start to notice that when you pull them up, your lower abdominals tighten up. This is because of the interconnection of the muscles of the abdominal wall and the pelvic floor muscles.
2. Pull your belly button towards your spine. This motion engages all the ab muscles.
I highly recommend that you apply these 2 core techniques not only when you are doing abdominal exercises, but when you are doing ANYTHING. Using these techniques for abdominal work increases the focus of the exercise and the number of muscles worked. Using these techniques when running or weight lifting displaces the force throughout the core, which will result in better balance/stability and less downward compression on the spine.
If you would like to know more about core body work, there are tons of books and workout videos on the subject. Another really good way to learn about core work is to take a Pilates class, Stability Ball class or Bosu. This philosophy is becoming very popular and as such there are new core workouts coming out all the time. Ask your trainer or at your gym about them.
Sources: Spencer Pilates Instructor Certification Manual