It’s summer time and everyone would like a six pack.
Not the beer variety that’s all too easy to buy and succumb to, I mean everyone wants the coveted washboard flat belly.
Lately I’ve been paying more attention to what I see people doing in the gym. For about 20 years I trained at home in my own gym so I was sort of insulated from the madness. Now I train at a commercial gym and I’m fully immersed and somewhat appalled at the misinformation out there.
I know that people don’t knowingly waste their time doing ineffective movements. No one wants to spend hours doing useless exercise or worse yet, get hurt.
So it tells me that people are just uninformed.
I’d like to think that if you’re on my blog, you’re one of the lucky ones. That is, one of those people that has done your homework, educated yourself and one who makes the most of your workouts doing effective movements to help you meet your goals, rather than just going through the motions of working out.
So this post is for all those other misinformed but well meaning people out there…(send those people here…;
I thought I’d write about ab training today for two reasons: my son and your abs….
It started with my son, Sam, asking me the other day, “Mom, do you do weighted abs?’
A little background on Sam:
Sam and I spend a good deal of time discussing training. He’s 15 years old and is becoming pretty dedicated to fitness. He said, ‘Mom, I see why you love training. There are so many things I can do, it’s so much fun to see how
I’m getting stronger every day.’
It’s great to have this passion for fitness in common with him because it gives us something to con
nect on. I see so many parents, (mom’s of teenaged boys especially) struggling to find common ground. Sam and I love to talk trai
Ok, back to the question…Weighted abs? Yay or nay?
To me doing weighted abs is a pretty old school abdominal training method. I see several people doing these movements at the gym. Things like hooked feet and a plate being held at the chest for sit ups, weighted side bends and I see a line up at weighted ab machines.
No, my gym isn’t in a time warp.
Let’s discuss why the concept of doing weighted abs is flawed.
First off, the weighted sit up…
I know you know this, but the sit up, especially with hooked feet, will tax the hip flexors more than the abdominals. The rectus abdominus will fire, yes, you’ll get a burn in your abs, but you also potentially can strain the back, especially when adding a 25-45 lb plate to the load. Your possibly already-too-tight-hip flexors will carry the majority of the load as well.
Any weighted side bends are also on the ‘nay’ list. The spine isn’t designed to sustain the sheer that this movement causes. Again, the impetus for potential back strain is there.
Any machine that has your legs locked in a position while you do forward or side flexion is potential for back injury.
Get the message? Your back can be seriously strained while your abdominals aren’t seriously taxed. The risk to benefit ratio is far too high with these movements.
Another reason these exercises aren’t very effective is that they may the abdominal wall, but more likely, they work muscles like the hip flexors (usually already too tight due to excessive sitting).
The quiet and shy muscle, the transverse abdominus will not fire under these loaded positions.
Let me introduce you to the transverse abdominus, hidden under those other ab muscles…
The transverse abdominus is a muscle that, when strong, aids with core stability and reducing back pain and strain. Any movement that involves planking will help get this muscle firing.
Here are some great positions to get the transverse going:
- Plank and plank varieties
- Side plank
- Spider crawl
- Mountain climber
- Push ups
- Get ups
- Renegade rows
- DB rows
Then there’s the hanging variety of abdominal moves. I’m big on these, but not weighted hanging abdominal moves.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that doing any hanging leg raise variety will also help with your pull ups. Your back will be used to stabilize so you’ll be engaging the muscles needed to pull.
Some of my favorite hanging moves include:
The hanging leg raise
The windshield wiper
The hanging oblique lift
The key to hanging leg raises is to think about lifting the hips to the ribs rather than just lifting the legs up. Consider rocking the hips so as to engage the abs more fully and not just the hip flexors.
While the washboard ab look is what you’re after, a solid diet of ab training will not get you there. You can’t ‘spot reduce’. Your body will take off fat where it wants, sadly not always in the place you’d like it to come from.
The best line of defense against belly fat is resistance training. Add a little muscle to your bones to naturally raise your metabolism. As you know, muscle is metabolically active and requires more calories to maintain. You can burn more calories even at rest by having a little more muscle.
Next time you’re in a commercial gym, check out what people are doing to train their abs. You’ll probably see what I noticed. The good news is that you don’t have to be one of them anymore.
Check out how I include planking and hanging leg raises to my workouts. And don’t be surprised if you increase your pull up and push up power in the process.