Six Pack Abs?
I ride a bike to and from work everyday, and lately I've been feeling back pain. Then, I've also noticed that I don't sit down correctly (and I spend almost 9 hours a day sitting in front of a computer). So I decided to do a little reaserch and found out about the importance of building a strong core in order to avoid these back pains. Here's a compilation of the best information I've come across on the net about abdominal and core training.
Abdominal training is very misunderstood. Many people place a lot of emphasis on abs without understanding how the abs function or why they are even training in a certain way. Let’s explore the correct way to train abs for the results that you want!
Why is core work important?
Strengthening your core will allow your body to efficiently transfer force from the lower to the upper body and back again, thus ensuring that any force you exert to move your body forward isn't wasted in moving your body sideways, etc. A strong core will allow you to keep optimal body alignment for whatever you’re doing (swim, bike or run), and this in turn will reduce your fatigue in the long run (good form usually takes less energy than bad form).
Eating the right foods is at least 75% of the battle when trying to achieve that 6 pack. Eat the right foods and your job will be easier, eat the wrong foods and you can do all of the exercises below until the cows come home with little results. Start eating right as the first step of good abdominal training.
What Are the Core Muscles?
Different experts include different muscles in this list, but in general the muscles of the core run the length of the trunk and torso. The following list includes the most commonly identified core muscles as well as the lesser known groups.
Rectus Abdominis - located along the front of the abdomen, this is the most well-known abdominal muscle and is often referred to as the "six-pack" due to it's appearance in fit and thin individuals.
The most well-known and prominent abdominal muscle is the rectus abdominis. It is the long, flat muscle that extends vertically between the pubis and the fifth, sixth, and seventh ribs. A strong tendinous sheath called the "linea alba," or white line, divides the rectus abdominis down the middle, and three more horizontal tendinous sheaths give the muscle its familiar "washboard" look in very fit athletes. The rectus abdominis helps to flex the spinal column, narrowing the space between the pelvis and the ribs. It is also active during side bending motions and helps stabilize the trunk during movements involving the extremities and head.
Erector Spinae- This group of three muscles runs along your neck to your lower back.
Multifidus - located under the erector spinae along the vertebral column, these muscles extend and rotate the spine.
External Obliques - located on the side and front of the abdomen.
The next group of muscles that make up the abdominals are the external oblique muscles. This pair of muscle are located on each side of the rectus abdominis. The muscle fibers of the external obliques run diagonally downward and inward from the lower ribs to the pelvis, forming the letter V. You can locate them by putting your hands in your coat pocket. The external obliques originate at the fifth to twelfth ribs and insert into the iliac crest, the inguinal ligament, and the linea alba of the rectus abdominis. The external oblique muscles allows flexion of the spine, rotation of the torso, sideways bending and compression of the abdomen.
Internal Obliques - located under the external obliques, running in the opposite direction.
The internal oblique muscles are a pair of deep muscles that are just below the external oblique muscles. The internal and external obliques are at right angles to each other. The internal obliques attach from the lower three ribs to the linea alba and from the the inguinal ligament to the iliac crest and then to the the lower back (erector spinae). The lower muscle fibers of the internal obliques run nearly horizontally. Along with the external obliques, the internal obliques are involved in flexing the spinal column, sideways bending, trunk rotation and compressing the abdomen. Because of their unique alignment, at right angles to each other, the internal and external obliques are referred to as opposite-side rotators. When the trunk rotates left, the external obliques (on the right) contract. When the trunk rotates to the right, the external oblique fibers (on the left) activate the movement.
Transverse Abdominis (TVA) - located under the obliques, it is the deepest of the abdominal muscles (muscles of your waist) and wraps around your spine for protection and stability.
Hip Flexors - located in front of the pelvis and upper thigh. The muscles that make up the hip flexors include: psoas major, illiacus, rectus femoris, pectineus, sartorius
Gluteus medius and minimus - located at the side of the hip
Gluteus maximus, hamstring group, piriformis - located in the back of the hip and upper thigh leg.
Hip adductors - located at medial thigh.
Hard Core - Exercises to Strengthen Your Abs For Better Performance
A strong core will allow you to keep optimal body alignment for whatever you’re doing (swim, bike or run), and this in turn will reduce your fatigue in the long run. "If your core is weak, nothing else can be strong"
"Around the world"
This set should be considered reasonably advanced. If you have not done core work before, then you may consider doing some basic crunches before stepping up to this workout. Before I describe each exercise it's important to remember the following 5 things:
1. As with anything new, introduce your body to these gradually. These will work your body in a very different way than you are used to, so take it easy!
2. If you aren't breathing while doing these, then you're doing them wrong.
3. Go slow. Speed is not important, and will usually lead to using momentum to cheat your way through the exercise.
4. Quality over quantity.
5. Do these with other people. It's great fun, and will keep you motivated.
I call this "Around the world" because it works all of your core muscle groups. There are 15 different core techniques to this routine - 3 for each side (the front goes twice). You'll start by selecting your interval. The total number of reps you will do in this routine is based upon the number you choose here x 15. So, if you select 25 then you will be doing 15 X 25 = 375 reps. For beginners I'd choose 10, intermediate 15, advanced 20-25, Elite 25-35. At the end, lay on your stomach for 2-3 minutes and gently come up into a cobra position to stretch your stomach muscles. Make this a part of your workout routine twice a week, and you'll be amazed at how much stronger you will feel come race day.
1. Standard Crunch - Think about a string attached to your belly button & running through your body pulling your stomach towards the floor.
2. Knee-up crunches - Focus on keeping the small of your back against the floor even throughout the range of motion. SLOOOW.
3. Hip lifts - Keep your legs straight and don't let them rock back as your lift your hips. YES - I'm pushing down w/ my hands so I could hold this forever for the camera, but you should put your palms facing up! These are tough... don't speed through them.
4. Oblique crunches - You should feel your ribs pressing pinching into your side. Try not to fold forward, but rather bend up trying to get your elbow to touch your feet.
5. Side Plank Dips - Keep your body in a straight line (one plane) and keep the movement smooth and slow. Your hips should just touch (but not rest on!) the ground.
6. Oblique Leg Extensions - This not only works your obliques, but should also engage your piriformis & hip flexor as well. Don't let your leg touch the ground, and when the leg is fully extended your butt should be tightly squeezed rotating your leg out ever so slightly (this is the piriformis part).
7. Supermans - Each side counts as 1/2 of a rep. Your stomach muscles should be engaged when you lift up. Think about your arm and leg not only being pulled up, but also out. Hold it at the top for 2 seconds.
8. Bridged Leg Lifts - Each leg counts as 1/2 of a rep. Keep your butt down. You don't need to lift your legs super high.
9. Pushups - Keep your head raised and looking forward, and your body in a perfect horizontal plane. Your elbows should bend back, not out to the side.
10, 11, 12. Repeat steps 4, 5, and 6, but do the other side.
13. Heel Touches - Each heel touch counts as 1/2 of a rep. Keep your shoulder blades off the ground, remember to breathe, and make sure your feet are far enough away from you that you have to really reach to touch the heel.
14. Bicycle Crunches - Each leg counts as 1/2 of a rep. Each twist w/ leg extension should take you long enough to say "one one thousand" to yourself, no faster. Try to keep your shoulder blades off the ground.
15. Half Up Twists - Sit up, put your hands on top of your knees and then lean back until your arms are straight. Cross your arms in front of you (each hand holding an elbow) and start twisting! Each side counts as 1/2 of a rep.
Sources of Information
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