Don’t Train Your Abs…

…the way you normally do.  It’s not working, and it can be bad for you in the long run.  You may love doing 1,000 crunches a day, or you may hate doing 1,000 crunches a day.  Either way, you heard somewhere that it was the one and only way to develop that coveted six pack.  As it turns out, it may work; just not very well.  For all of those reps, you don’t burn a whole lot of calories, and you don’t activate a whole lot of muscle.  I’ve never seen anybody break a sweat from just doing ‘ab work’.  It doesn’t happen!  When we do break a sweat, it’s during the slow, boring, aerobic work.  Apparently it’s common knowledge that moderate intensity exercise is the best for burning fat.  Going for a brisk walk, or a few minutes of shoveling snow count as moderate exercise.  Are you kidding me? Instead of going with the typical recommendations, just ask this simple question: How well does it work?

If you’ve spent some time following the fitness plans recommended in Cosmo, then you know that soup can curls, arm circles, and leg lifts are less than worthy exercises.  Hopefully you sought out ways to achieve more efficient results, and make full-body compound exercises the majority of your training.  Now, why are you doing anything differently with your abs?   You should still be sticking with full body, compound exercises, that place additional stress on your abdominal muscles.  However, if you’re adding in extra exercises, then where are you going to put them?  After all, nobody wants to spend hour after hour in the gym.  Instead of marathon training sessions, try to include ‘core’ specific exercises in your finishers or metabolic conditioning circuits.  Here’s why:

Core-Intensive finishers allow you to combine cardiovascular training and core training, allowing for more effective exercise and quicker results.

Why spent 15 minutes doing crunches, and then 30 minutes on the treadmill?  Instead, try a 10-15 minute finisher.  You’ll burn more calories, you’ll target your abs better, and you’ll save half an hour of your life.  Smart planning would include the use of unilateral exercises and asymmetrical loading, increasing the use of the ‘core’ musculature.  They require your muscles to stabilize against asymmetrical loading, which can train your body to resist flexion, rotation, and side bending.  Maintaining a neutral spine is difficult as it is when you squat and do push-ups; your abs work hard to protect your back.  When you perform asymmetrically loaded lunges and single arm bent over rows, you can train yourself to resist asymmetrical motion.  Planned correctly, those two exercises alone can be very demanding cardiovascular.  Traditional weight training would have you complete all of your sets of lunges, then all of your sets of rows.  Super-setting would have you casually alternate between the two exercises at a moderate pace.  You can create a mild conditioning effect by quickly alternating between both sets of rows and both sets of lunges.  However, for a great metabolic effect, alternate between the upper body and lower body between every set.  This is what I mean:

  • Single Arm Bent Over Row, Right arm
  • Left Leg Reverse Lunge (Load right arm)
  • Single Arm Bent Over Row, Left Arm
  • Right Leg Reverse Lunge (Load Left arm)

The only downtime between these 4 sets is to switch the dumbbell from one hand to the next.  It’s practically non-stop exercise, and the muscles from your shoulders to your hips create tension to resist rotation and lateral flexion.  Sounds like Abz and Cardio to me, only it’s way better.  I trained my upper body yesterday after class, and took two videos of recent finishers that I’ve performed.  One of them comprised of a TRX superman pushup, a fat grip standing cable row, and an alligator walk.  Each ‘set’ consisted of 8 pushups per side, 10 rows per side, and 10 reps in each direction with the alligator walk.  After 6 rounds of that last Monday, I was beat.  Here is yesterdays video of one set:

The exercises I used in my real finisher yesterday came directly out of my post about Atypical Barbell Exercises.  I wanted to combine a few of those exercises in the ‘land mine’ position to demonstrate how you can indeed create a cardiovascular effect from strength training exercises.  Below you’ll see me perform the grapplers press, anti-rotation press, Meadow’s row, and rainbow deadlift.  The sequence was chosen for total range of motion, and the barbell progresses from overhead down to the floor; until I threw in the rainbow deadlifts.  Even though Sundays are a lower body day for me, I included the deadlift variation because it wasn’t that heavy, and I find that some light lower body work helps aid in recovery and contributes to my overall mobility.  Check out the video below:

I’m pretty excited that I’ve been able to post two days in a row.  To be honest, I wrote this yesterday and saved it for today, because I had to wake up early to do for work for class.  I’m looking at a busy week, but I’ll be back again with more!

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