I was originally going to do a little feature on weekends I was going to call The Weekend Repost, but I feel as if I’m letting you down by just re posting an article that ran during the past week that happened to be popular and that you may have missed. So instead I bring to you another installment in the popular series Exercises You Don’t Need To Do. Maybe that will become the weekend feature? I’ve got to stop write/thinking…On with it!
Picture this scenario if you will-you walk into the gym most every day at your usual time and there he or she is, performing crunch after crunch, side bend after side bend, leg raise after leg raise, in what looks to be an eternal series of the same monotonous exercises day after day in the bleakest of hopes that today may be the day that a glorious set of abdominal muscles will begin poking through when they next look in the mirror, sound familiar? I’m not here to tell you that doing ab exercises are a waste of time, because like all exercises they have their place. The fictional example I just provided is a common strategy though, and the energy and time used by those who employ this method could be better utilized for much greater results.
First we need to know exactly what our fictional ab trainee, let’s call him Crunchy, is trying to accomplish. Let’s do our best Sherlock Holmes impersonation, and use deductive reasoning to see if we can solve this mystery. By doing this and eliminating what Crunchy isn’t trying to doing, we’ll eventually arrive at what he is trying to do.
As we have noticed every day, Crunchy is doing abdominal isolation exercises by the bucket load. So that rules out Crunchy trying to get a ripped mid section. The best way to accomplish having great looking abdominal muscles that you can see is to have a low level of body fat. Seeing as it is not possible to lose body fat in a localized area as fat tends to be used more or less uniformly from across the entire body, Crunchy isn’t trying to lose his belly flab by crunching it away.
If he was trying to get a low enough level of body fat to be able to see his abs, the first thing he would want to look at is his diet. If his abs aren’t visible then he’s likely over 10 percent body fat and needs to get under that number. The method of losing body fat is and always will be the same and that method is very simple. Crunchy must consume fewer calories than his energy demands require so that the deficit can be made up from drawing energy from his own reserves of fat.
As an aside, some might make the mistake of thinking that doing some cardio might be what Crunchy should be doing to shed that fat. The only purpose cardio serves is to increase the caloric deficit and it definitely does that very well. If you’re in a huge rush to lose body fat, even at the expense of your muscle mass, then do lots of cardio. If boosting the amount of calories you’ll burn throughout the day while simultaneously sparing your muscle mass is a goal you prefer the sound of, then do sprints.
So we have deduced that Crunchy is not trying to get an awesome six pack for a beach holiday. Well then maybe he’s really into training his core and wants the strongest core muscles he can get, so that’s why he does all those crunches. Except there are better exercises to get a strong core than crunches. Like squats, chin ups, pull ups and Olympic lifts. Even barbell biceps curls are a decent abdominal exercise.
The purpose of core stability training is to, you guessed it, train the muscles that stabilize your core. The best way to train your stabilizing muscles is to put them in a situation where they will be required to do their job. Increasing the weight you use on your squats will put your entire core to the test and you will get the benefits that squats bring to the table as well.
To wander off topic again, when this whole core craze began, the focus seemed to be on the muscles on the front of the torso. The abdominals, obliques, intercostals, even the pectoral muscles. The entire back is neglected in this scenario and the back makes up 50 percent of our core. The transverse abdominals, which wrap around our back to support our lower back and pelvis. The erector spinae to extend and support your spine. The trapezius muscles needed to shrug. The quadratus lumborum and multifidus to extend and rotate the spine. Lastly the gluteal medius and minimus, located under the maximus and needed so that we can run. These are equally if not more important muscles for stability and mobility to consider when training our core.
So Crunchy isn’t trying to get ripped abs or a strong core. So what is he trying to accomplish? I’m just going to leave that question with you as I don’t have an answer. Direct abdominal work can be a very small part of ones training, but your time can be better spent doing other exercises. They, like the muscles in your back, will be used every time your spine needs stability. So until the next installment of Exercises You Don’t Need To Do,