Crunches, sit-ups, swiss ball crunches, reverse crunches, etc., they all do the same thing! They all train the abdominals in flexion. SO? If you are working the abs there wouldn't seem to be a problem with such training. The truth of the matter is only performing these types of exercise neglects full development of the trunk.
The abdominals and low back work a great deal to provide a variety of stability mechanisms to the body and only performing trunk flexion exercises neglects many of these functions. It is also amusing to find that most people train their abdominals without any attention to the same principles they would for the rest of the body.
For example, when was the last time you performed one hundred squats for your legs? It makes sense that the abs need to be stimulated with load as well. However, not only do they require progressive resistance they also need to be challenged in a variety of movement patterns.
I KNOW! We should be performing some more cool looking exercises on unstable surfaces… NOPE! Maybe we need to find the next great machine that will answer all our needs… NOPE! Maybe there are these "secret" exercises that are only known by Eastern European countries… NOPE!
The majority of your abdominal training should occur within other exercises. You can also take common exercises and put unusual spins on them to really stimulate trunk training. This makes training the abdominals not such a chore and you will find some new found firmness in that midsection.
One of the easiest and most effective means of strengthening the abs is by utilizing overhead lifts. No, this would not be the same as sitting on a bench with a back support, or a machine. I want you to stand up and without a belt start performing your overhead lifts.
Because raising the weights above one's head raises the body's center of gravity, the body is now challenged to restabilize. You will also find that strong overhead lifters must incorporate their trunks into the lift to develop optimal tension for greater strength.
Here is a brief list of some of my favorite overhead lifts:
* Shown with barbell.
You will notice exercises such as the overhead squat and snatch are included in this list. The overhead squat will not stress the lower body as much as other forms of squatting. Therefore, it is more of a dominant upper body exercise. The snatch is a dominant lower body exercise, however, catching the weight above head is a terrific core exercise.
Some time ago I wrote an article on the value of one-arm barbell lifts. I have to admit, these lifts are a great challenge, but also provide great rewards. However, I understand they may be intimidating to many who are first trying to implement such forms of training.
Many of the exercises described in that article can also be performed with one dumbbell or kettlebell. These objects are a little easier to control and are a nice way become familiar with one arm lifts.
One-Arm Side Deadlift.
To review for some, one-arm lifts are phenomenal because they require such great body control. Very often we are use to loading our bodies equally. While this seems like an obvious method of training, it does not necessarily meet the demands of the real world. Often our bodies are challenged to lift odd shaped objects to (such as grocery bags) and have to keep our spine stable and protected.
The following exercise take very little time to learn and can be incorporated easily into a program:
Picking Up Weight
Expert throwing coach, Dan John, has always had the philosophy that one of the fundamental forms of exercise is picking up a weight from the floor. When you stop to think about all the muscles required to lift a heavy object from the floor it is quite amazing. Can you remember the last time you moved furniture and your back hurt for days? Well it shouldn't! Pulling weight from the floor is so primal, but weak in our current society. Believe it or not, our abs were made to help our body out during such activities as lifting from the floor and not nearly as much to crunch repetitively.
If you are not one that is experienced in such lifts then you will want to start light and in a range of motion that is comfortable. You do not have to go very heavy to reap the benefits of these lifts. The most common form of lifting a weight from the floor is the deadlift.
Bodybuilding.com writer Jamie Hale performing Single Leg Deadlifts.
Many years ago it was also known as the health-lift because of it reputation of being such a phenomenal overall body exercise. The fundamental deadlift technique is not difficult to learn and leads to have fun variations.
The idea of not spending hours on abdominal training may seem pretty foreign and strange to most. However, it is impossible to become proficient in such lifts without increasing abdominal strength. There is a very distinct difference between strong abs and those that show in a six-pack.
Usually there is very low correlation between the two. A six-pack can be developed through the use of all the above mentioned lifts because they burn a great amount of calories and employ a great amount of muscles. On the other hand, it is difficult to build great strong abs with the methods that many use today.
Take my challenge to use these lifts and email me with how much of a change you feel!
About The Author
Josh Henkin is owner of Innovative Fitness Solutions (www.ifsstrength.com) in Scottsdale, Arizona. Coach Henkin has presented nationally in the field of fitness and sports enhancement. He is also the author of High Octane Sandbag Training manual and DVD (www.sandbagexercises.com). You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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