If you currently perform abdominal exercises like crunches to tone your midsection then I’ve got news for you. The new trend in abdominal training is moving away from exercises like crunches and for good reason. Crunches put your spine through a large range of motion under a load and may predispose you for a disc injury according to Spine Expert Dr. Stuart McGill. New research into how your spine and abdominal muscles work has inspired a new way to train our abdominal region that gets better results, improves your posture and prevents injury. Check out this video on what Dr. Stuart McGill hads to say about back pain, spinal flexibility, and crunches:
Abdominal Exercise VS Core Exercise
The concept of the core is complex and the definition can vary from expert to expert. However, I want to give you a brief explanation of the core so you know what it is and what it isn’t.
First of all, although ignorant fitness professional would have you believe otherwise, the “core” is not simply a new way to refer to your abdominal muscles. The core musculature includes the abdominal muscles that wrap around your mid-section. The abdominal muscles are:
- Rectus abdominus: This is the “six pack” muscle that runs from your sternum to your pubic bone.
- External obliques: Runs from the side of your ribs to your pelvis in a forward diagonal pattern
- Internal Obliques: Runs from from the side of your ribs to your pelvis in a backward diagonal pattern
- Transverse Abdominus: Located underneath the other abdominal muscles, this is the deepest of the abdominal muscles and the only abdominal muscle that runs horizontally while wrapping around your waist like a belt.
The core goes beyond the abdominal muscles to include the muscles of your hips, your lower back, your pelvic floor, your diaphragm as well as the muscles that attach all the way up the spine to your neck!What I want you to take away from this explanation is that the abdominal muscles don’t work in isolation and you will get better results working them with integrated exercises than with endless crunches or leg lifts.
Better Ways To Flatten Your Belly and Prevent Back Pain
The first two core exercises I start my clients on are the front plank and side plank. These exercises are an excellent introduction to proper core training and give great results in slimming the waist and toning the midsection.
Here is my video explanation of how to do the Front Plank exercise with a workout program at the end of the video. I even did it half-naked so you can see what the proper spinal position should look like. Check it out:
Here is my video explanation of the Side Plank exercise complete with a workout program at the end of the video. Make sure you master the side plank on your knees before you move to the feet version especially if you have low back or shoulder issues:
What I want you to do is to put the Front Plank and the Side Plank workouts together. First, do the Front Plank workout. Then, do the Side Plank workout (again, make sure you master the side plank off your knees before you progress to the feet version. If you’re not ready to do it off your feet, you may experience low back or shoulder pain). To really take your midsection to the next level, perform these workout BEFORE the rest of your workout. Try it and leave a comment below to let me know how it worked!