Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Real Core

For my job I was required to write up, with a partner, a small article for our monthly fitness newsletter. For this article we were able to choose a topic of interest and I decided that I would address something that I see ALL OF THE TIME in the gyms we run. This topic I am speaking of is core work. I always get approached by participants asking for a new exercise to do to help make their abs look better. My response is always something similar to: "Well, to make your abs actually show you have to eat well and focus on burning fat ." Most poeple nod, continue to do thier cardio at a conversasional pace on the treadmill and end thier workout with 10 minutes of crunches. I can't stand crunches and have stopped using them with my clients, for my own workouts, and am constantly working to offer my opinion of crunches to gym members and fellow trainers. I have been reading recent literature, explaining the down sides of crunches and sit-ups, as well as articles explaining other methods of core work that are more appropraite and much more beneficial. In the article that my co-worker and I composed we explained the reasoning behind avoiding crunches and sit-ups as well as provided some substitute exercises for members to try out. We explained that crunches activate the hip-flexors to draw the lower limbs towards the chest while the abdominal muscles are activated at a much lower rate. Another problem with crunches is the effect that they have on the back. One day of crunches is not going to do much damage but over years of performing the same crunches every workout there is going to be a dramatic effect on the lower back. The spine is not meant to be stressed over and over in that manner. Substituting crunches with other exercises such as planks and stabilizing movements allows the abdominals to get more activation as well as causing the rest of the core muscles to activate along with them. The purpose of the core is to transfer force from the ground and lower limbs to the upper body and the resistance on the body. The core is also important in stabalizing the center of the body while the limbs are moving and being effected by external forces. Therefore training the core should encompass these attributes. Yet, people still feel that crunching is the best way to get "chissled abs" and will continue to think this even though they are told differently. I will just stick to training my clients with more functional core exercises and avoid "abs" all together and watch them get stronger and healthier through this type of training.


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