Sunday, July 17, 2005

3 Ab myths dispelled

I keep running into people outside the gym (my office-literally) who want to hold on to certain myths about abdominal exercises that have been haunting health clubs for eons and seem to be perpetuated by mass media. Please allow me to dispel them (maybe I won't be able to dispel them but at least I can vent :P)

1.If I do enough creative ab exercises in thousands of reps I will have a great looking 6 pack.

No. If you do ab workouts like it's cardio maybe you can burn a few extra calories, but the reality is that without dieting you will feel your great set of abs beneath the layer of fat that isn't going to go anywhere because there is NO SUCH THING AS SPOT REDUCTION when it comes to working out and burning fat. Also, abs should be worked like every other muscle group that you would train as fast twitch fibers. Do your cardio with big muscles not little ones. Little muscles burn little calories and most people end up over training abdominals which in turn becomes catabolic. Besides breaking down muscle and increasing cortisone production you are ultimately slowing down your metabolic rate. I can destroy anyone's abs in less than 5 minutes. 10 minutes max (and that would include obliques and serratus anterior).

2. Doing ab exercises causes lower back pain.

No. Not doing lower back exercises causes lower back pain. Your body like everything else in nature requires that a certain balance be maintained. This becomes no more obvious than on skeletal muscle. Every muscle system on the skeletal frame has an opposing muscle group whose main function is to put the bone back where it was before we started. Some of the simpler groupings look like this: Chest/Back, Biceps/Triceps, Quadriceps/Hamstrings, Abdominals/Spinal Erectors. When one set of the opposing group shortens the other one lengthens. Lets look at bicep/tricep for a moment. If you touch your right shoulder and look in a mirror you will see that your bicep is in its shortest or most contracted position. Your triceps on the other hand are elongated and in their most stretched out position. Slowly extend your arm until it is perfectly straight. Notice that now your triceps have shortened and your biceps have lengthened. The muscle which is contracting or shortening for this matter is doing the work while the other muscle is for the most part passive but the combined length of both muscles will always be the same no matter what position the muscles are in if you had a way to measure them because the muscles stay in balance. Lets add a new element to our arm demonstration. What if we came to the gym 3 times a week and ONLY trained biceps. what would eventually happen to our triceps? The biceps would start to shorten and stay shortened while the tricep would stay stretched out because it isnt as strong as the bicep and unable to pull it back into position. Moving back to the abdominal/lowerback situation this is frequently the case. People will train their abs and neglect their lowerback. So their abs become strong and eventually shorten while the spinal erectors remain weak and get stretched out of position. This will not only cause lower back problems but will also create posture problems do to the resulting pelvic tilt. When you begin to experience discomfort in the lower back while performing ab exercises take a break from training abs for awhile and concentrate on your spinal erectors. Perform exercises like hyperextensions and static exercises like plank holds and supermans. After a few weeks time begin to reincorporate abdominal exercises back into your regime, but continue to alternate days in which you train your abs and then days in which you focus on your lower back.

3. The faster I do my ab exercises the more reps I can do before I get fatigued so I will gain more benefit.

No. Intensity can be determined by the formula Intensity=(Amount of stress)(distance moved)/(duration of time under stress). You are increasing distance moved but dramatically decreasing amount of stress because you are allowing momentum to take some of the workload which also decreases actual time under stress, because inertia is providing aid rest is achieved which delays true lactic threshold, doesn't allow for complete innervation of the muscle, tends to lean harder on secondary systems that may normally receive incidental incorporation but are now becoming the main force behind the movement. With abdominals this is almost always the hip flexor. Doing ab exercises slowly will definitely insure that you get a more complete innervation of the abdominal muscles and not your hip flexors. Also, make sure that your ab muscles are shortening. don't just bend at the waist. You need to curve at the spine. The same thing for doing hyper extensions for your lower back. don't bend at the waist. If you don't curve your spine you will be just working hamstrings and glutes primarily with a secondary emphasis on your lower back. Concentrate on your target muscle and your results will be better


At 3:50 PM, Blogger Queue said...

Ummm.. so I guess I should put my ab roller to use as a closet extension huh?

At 11:51 PM, Blogger CousinSarah said...

Thank you for dispelling the myths. Now, can you explain why it WANTS TO HOLD on to my stomach as it leaves the other places. :)


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