Every time I go to the gym, I see some of my fellow gym members performing sit-ups or crunches. Sometimes, even worse, they perform these whilst hooking their feet under a metal bar, exercising the hip flexors! Doing sit-ups/crunches is so 1970’s, and knowing what we know now, I cannot understand why anyone would ever do these exercises.
Firstly, when performing crunches, and repeatedly bending the spine, spinal discs will be damaged. It is completely wrong and the reason why so many people hurt themselves when they exercise.
Secondly though, from a functional point of view, the main function of the abdominal muscles is not to flex the spine, but to stabilize it. As a matter of fact, your abdominal muscles play a critical role in maintaining an upright position and preventing you from falling forward due to gravity!
So, if you really want to get better results from your abdominal workout, dramatically reduce your chance of a slipped disc or sciatica and train your abs the way they should be trained, i.e. for stability, please read on.
Before you continue, please be aware that this workout does not follow traditional pathways. You might not experience the same abdominal muscle soreness that you would feel traditionally. That does not mean the exercises do not work! The main goals here is to create stronger abs, and a more stable core.
Exercise number 1:
Perform a plank, resting on your elbows. Your body should form a straight line. Make sure you brace your abs as if someone were about to punch you in the gut. Hold for 30 seconds, rest of 30 seconds. Repeat once. Increase the intensity of the exercise by placing your feet on a bench. Or to make it even harder, place the weight on your hands and position these 6 to 8 inches in front of your shoulders.
Exercise number 2:
The Mountain Climber. Assume push up position with the hands on a bench and slowly lift one knee to your chest. Pause for 2 seconds, lower it slowly and repeat with the other leg. Perform the exercise for 30 seconds and rest for 30. Repeat once. One can increase the intensity by placing the hands on a Swiss ball.
Exercise number 3
The Side Plank. Lie on your side and prop your upper body up on your forearm. Raise the hips until the body forms a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat on the other side. Do one more set. Increase the intensity by placing both feet on a bench. Raise your top leg and keep it raised for the duration of the set to make the exercise even harder.
So there you have it. Three exercises that work your core and improve your stability at the same time. Good luck!
Ps Ever wondered when you should use ice and when to use heat? Click on this link to find out.