So speaks the title of one of our favorite Flickr girls contributor, Amproshoot. Posted May 5, 2008
The genesis of much of the ab work we do these days probably lies in the work done in an Australian physiotherapy lab during the mid-1990s. Researchers there, hoping to elucidate the underlying cause of back pain, attached electrodes to people’s midsections and directed them to rapidly raise and lower their arms, like the alarmist robot in “Lost in Space.”
Shemuscle photo by Brian Moss
In those with healthy backs, the scientists found, a deep abdominal muscle tensed several milliseconds before the arms rose. The brain apparently alerted the muscle, the transversus abdominis, to brace the spine in advance of movement. In those with back pain, however, the transversus abdominis didn’t fire early. The spine wasn’t ready for the flailing. It wobbled and ached. Perhaps, the researchers theorized, increasing abdominal strength could ease back pain. The lab worked with patients in pain to isolate and strengthen that particular deep muscle, in part by sucking in their guts during exercises. The results, though mixed, showed some promise against sore backs.
From that highly technical foray into rehabilitative medicine, a booming industry of fitness classes was born. “The idea leaked” into gyms and Pilates classes that core health was “all about the transversus abdominis,” Thomas Nesser, an associate professor of physical education at Indiana State University who has studied core fitness, told me recently. Personal trainers began directing clients to pull in their belly buttons during crunches on Swiss balls or to press their backs against the floor during sit-ups, deeply hollowing their stomachs, then curl up one spinal segment at a time. “People are now spending hours trying to strengthen” their deep ab muscles, Nesser said.
But there’s growing dissent among sports scientists about whether all of this attention to the deep abdominal muscles actually gives you a more powerful core and a stronger back and whether it’s even safe. A provocative article published in the The British Journal of Sports Medicine last year asserted that some of the key findings from the first Australian study of back pain might be wrong. Moreover, even if they were true for some people in pain, the results might not apply to the generally healthy and fit, whose trunk muscles weren’t misfiring in the first place.
“There’s so much mythology out there about the core,” maintains Stuart McGill, a highly regarded professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Canada and a back-pain clinician who has been crusading against ab exercises that require hollowing your belly. “The idea has reached trainers and through them the public that the core means only the abs. There’s no science behind that idea.” (McGill’s website is backfitpro.com.)
The “core” remains a somewhat nebulous concept; but most researchers consider it the corset of muscles and connective tissue that encircle and hold the spine in place. If your core is stable, your spine remains upright while your body swivels around it. But, McGill says, the muscles forming the core must be balanced to allow the spine to bear large loads. If you concentrate on strengthening only one set of muscles within the core, you can destabilize your spine by pulling it out of alignment. Think of the spine as a fishing rod supported by muscular guy wires. If all of the wires are tensed equally, the rod stays straight. “If you pull the wires closer to the spine,” McGill says, as you do when you pull in your stomach while trying to isolate the transversus abdominis, “what happens?” The rod buckles. So, too, he said, can your spine if you overly focus on the deep abdominal muscles. “In research at our lab,” he went on to say, “the amount of load that the spine can bear without injury was greatly reduced when subjects pulled in their belly buttons” during crunches and other exercises.
Instead, he suggests, a core exercise program should emphasize all of the major muscles that girdle the spine, including but not concentrating on the abs. Side plank (lie on your side and raise your upper body) and the “bird dog” (in which, from all fours, you raise an alternate arm and leg) exercise the important muscles embedded along the back and sides of the core. As for the abdominals, no sit-ups, McGill said; they place devastating loads on the disks. An approved crunch begins with you lying down, one knee bent, and hands positioned beneath your lower back for support. “Do not hollow your stomach or press your back against the floor,” McGill says. Gently lift your head and shoulders, hold briefly and relax back down. These three exercises, done regularly, McGill said, can provide well-rounded, thorough core stability. And they avoid the pitfalls of the all-abs core routine. “I see too many people,” McGill told me with a sigh, “who have six-pack abs and a ruined back.”
The Phys Ed column will appear here in Well every Wednesday and also in print once a month, in the Sunday magazine. In it, Gretchen Reynolds, who is working on a book about the frontiers of fitness, will write about what the latest science can tell us about how to make ourselves stronger, more flexible, less prone to pain and generally fitter and healthier. We want to hear what you think, so stay tuned and offer your comments and questions.
The best lower ab exercises
1. Support knee ups
2. Support leg raise
3. Hanging knee up
4. Hanging leg raise
5. Reverse crunch
6. Incline reverse crunch
7. Stability ball reverse crunch
8. Reverse crunch with medicine ball behind knees
9. Hip lift
10. Bent knee leg raise/hip lift combo
11. Incline hip lift
Lesson #6: Avoid weighted side bends, which thicken the waist. Instead, opt for body weight elbow to knee twisting crunches, twisting hanging knee ups and side crunches to develop your obliques
Which would you rather have: (A) a tiny waist that narrows down from broad shoulders and V-tapered back or (B) A muscular, but thick, wide and blocky waist.
AB REGION—A PROBLEM AREA FOR WOMEN?
A woman’s pelvis consists of four bones (paired innominate bones, coccyx, and the sacrum) held together by ligaments. The size and shape of these bones have a tremendous impact on how a woman looks physically. The pelvic shape is classified by the “Caldwell-Moloy” (4) system.
There are four “pure” pelvic shapes in this system–android (A), gynecoid (B), anthropoid (C), and platypelloid (D) shaped pelvis. The pelvis of any person may have some features of the opposite sex. A and C are most common in males, B and A in white females, B and C in black females, while D is uncommon in both sexes (3).
The android pelvis (sometimes called a “true male pelvis”) is found in about 20% of American women. Women who happen to have such a pelvis tend to have “flat rear ends.” Many of the “waif women” prominently seen in the industry modeling have this type of pelvis. Women with this shape of pelvis have virtually no real difficulty in achieving a flat stomach because their pelvises are similar to the average man.
The gynecoid pelvis (sometimes called a “true female pelvis”) is found in about 50% of the women in America. It is the “classic” form that we associate with women and has an anteroposterior diameter just slightly less than the transverse diameter. Lucy Lawless of Xena, Warrior Princess fame has a classic gynecoid pelvis. Women like this tend to be shapely and curvy and are able to have a flat stomach without really dropping body fat levels low enough to cause some female problems (i.e., irregular periods, fertility problems, and hormonal balance disruption).
The anthropoid pelvis is very long and almost “ovoid” in shape. It is more common in nonwhite females (it makes up about 25% of pelvic type in white women and close to 50% in nonwhite women). Women who have such a pelvis shape tend to have “larger rear ends” and may carry a lot of adipose tissue/weight in the buttocks as well as in the abdomen. These women can have a flat stomach with some real effort (they may have to drop body fat levels down a bit lower than women with the other two aforementioned pelvis types, but it’s possible.
The platypelloid pelvis is very short(almost like a “flattened gynecoid shape”). Only about 5% of women have a true and pure pelvis of this type. Women having a platypelloid pelvis tend to carry a lot of weight in the lower abdomen. It’s very difficult for these women to have really flat abdomens without getting body fat levels down into the single digits.
What does all this have to do with having a pouch? Since many women are a mixture of pelvic types regardless of what they do they are still going to end up with a little pouch in their abdomen region
Another important factor in developing award-winning abs is to carefully monitor your caloric intake. In order to bring out the ab muscles, plan on losing 1-2 pounds per week. Between 6-8 weeks from now you should have an awesome set of abs on display.
Never forget your abs!” says IFBB Fitness Pro and 1998 NPC Team Universe (Fitness) runner-up, Amy Yanagisawa. “They are your body’s center of power and provide core strength.
Strong abs aid balance, help prevent lower back injuries and promote good posture. Consistent abdominal workouts (10-15 min, 4-5x per week) performed correctly are not just for physical well-being, but for aesthetics too. Another important tip is to be sure to keep track of your ab exercises in your workout journal so you know which exercises work best for you and produce the best results!”
There are dozens of ab exercises to help you maintain good posture, alleviate lower back pain, and improve your athletic performance. This article has provided you with the tools to develop an intelligent, varied routine that meets your specific training needs and goals. Finally, there is no magic formula that will make your abs appear. Nothing replaces the time and consistent effort you put into your quest for phenomenal abdominals!
1. www.testosterone.net, Oct 30, ’98, No. 25
2. www.acefitness.com, American Council on Exercise (ACE), Study Reveals Best and Worst Abdominal Exercises, May 14, 2001
3. www.kumc.edu, Sexual Differences in the Pelvis (pg 337)
4.Old Dominion University School of Nursing, Anatomy & Physiology http://web.odu.edu/webroot/orgs/hs/nurs/nursing.nsf/pages/664anatphys_sp00
Phenomenal Abdominals In 8 Weeks or Less!
By Rob Wilkins
Professional Member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
How many infomercials have you seen where an “expert” says, “For the low-low price of $49.99 our product will help you get rid of your gut and develop the best set of abs on the planet!” In the ads, fitness models show off their six-packs attained by using Product X. However, these same ads fail to mention the importance of the four primary ingredients for developing great-looking abs: cardiovascular exercise 3-4 times per week, effective ab exercises, eating foods low in fats, and the right set of genes. To have great abs, body fat levels must be reduced, so don’t rely on the AB-roller, AB-maker, or AB-shaper to give you the chiseled look you desire. In order to change your body you must first understand how it is designed.
The central function of the abdominal region is to provide a strong foundation on which both the upper and lower body moves. Let’s briefly look at ab anatomy.
There are four muscle groups that make up the abdominal area:
1. The Rectus Abdominis (RA) – The “RA” runs the length of the ab area from the pubic bone to the chest and pulls the torso toward the hips and the hips toward the torso. It’s responsible for tilting the pelvis, which may affect the curvature of the lower back. Strengthening the “RA” will enhance performance in sports requiring jumping, running, and lifting objects. The “RA” when fully developed will provide you with the “six pack.”
2. The External Oblique (EO) – The “EO” runs diagonally to the rectus abdominis and aids in the twisting of the trunk. The left external oblique is activated when twisting to the right, and the right “EO” is activated when twisting to the left. Strengthening this area will improve performance in sports where trunk rotation is important such as golf, tennis, and baseball.
3. The Internal Oblique (IO) – The “IO” lies underneath the external oblique and runs in a diagonally opposite direction. The “IO” muscle aids the trunk in twisting in the same direction as the side they are on. Strengthening this muscle will improve your performance in sports where you rotate the trunk, such as skiing, canoeing, and soccer.
4. The Transverse Abdominis (TA) – The “TA” runs horizontally across the abdominal wall and along the midsection underneath the external and internal obliques. The “TA” pulls the abdominal wall inward, forcing expiration. Strengthening the “TA” will enhance performance in sports with short-term power activities such as karate, shot put, and football.
EFFECTIVE AB EXERCISES:
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recently sponsored a study (2) to find the most effective and least effective ab exercises. The study conducted by Dr. Peter Francis from the Biomechanics Lab at San Diego State University compared 13 of the most common abdominal exercises and ranked them from most to least effective. The study consisted of 30 healthy women and men, ages 20-45, ranging from occasional to daily exercisers. They were put through a series of exercises, including the traditional crunch, modified crunches, partial body-weight exercises, and exercises using both home and gym exercise equipment. Muscle activity was monitored during each exercise using electromyography equipment.
Each of the 13 exercises was ranked for muscle stimulation in the rectus abdominus (long, flat muscle extending the length of the front of the abdomen) and the obliques (long, flat muscles extending along the sides of the abdomen at an angle). Overall, the top three abdominal exercises were the bicycle maneuver, captain’s chair and crunch on the exercise ball.
For best results, Dr. Francis recommends choosing several of the top-rated exercises and doing a five-minute exercise session daily. If one exercise is uncomfortable try others until you come up with a variety that meet your needs. This will help maintain muscle balance and prevent boredom (2).
According to the San Diego State University/Ace Abdominal (2) study the following are some of the most effective ab exercises:
1. Bicycle maneuver- Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed to the ground. Put your hands beside your head. Bring knees up to about a 45-degree angle and slowly go through a bicycle pedal motion. Touch your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee. Keep even relaxed breathing throughout.
2. Captain’s chair – Stabilize your upper body by gripping the handholds and lightly pressing your lower back against the back pad. The starting position begins with you holding your body up and legs dangling below (are legs bent or straight?). Now slowly lift your knees in toward your chest. The motion should be controlled and deliberate as you bring the knees up and return them back to the starting position.
3. Crunches on exercise ball –Sit on the ball with your feet flat on the floor. Let the ball roll back slowly. Now lie back on the ball until your thighs and torso are parallel with the floor. Place hands behind your head (or cross your arms over your chest) and slightly tuck your chin in toward your chest. Contract your abdominals raising your torso to no more than 45 degrees. For better balance spread your feet wider apart.
4. Vertical leg crunch – Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed to the ground. Put your hands behind your head for support. Extend your legs straight up in the air, crossed at the ankles with a slight bend in the knee. Contract your abdominal muscles by lifting your torso toward your knees. Make sure to keep your chin off your chest with each contraction. Exhale as you contract upward; inhale as you return to the starting position.
5. Traditional crunch – Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor in front of you. Lie on an exercise mat rather than hard floor to prevent back strain. Position your feet hip distance apart. Place your hands behind your head so that your thumbs are tucked behind your ears. Hold elbows slightly out to the sides and keep chin pointing upward. Curl up and forward lifting your head neck and shoulder blades off the floor. Make sure you’re not pulling your head forward with your hands. Keep a fists distance between your chin and chest to be sure to target your abs and not strain your neck. Pause at the top of the movement and tighten your abs. Slowly lower your head, neck, and shoulder blades as you inhale and return to starting position. Remember to keep knees bent and back straight throughout entire exercise.
These exercises will provide a good starting point for any workout newcomer or seasoned veteran looking for a shapelier waistline. However, in gyms all around the world, millions of people are spending hours upon hours working on their abs. and may not realize that genetics can make it much more difficult to develop the sleek and shapely ab muscles so many desire..
See more abs: http://femalemuscle.com/arnold07_1_2/pic567.shtml