[vimeo height=”HEIGHT” width=”WIDTH”]https://vimeo.com/208203408[/vimeo]
“How Do I Get Abs?”
Everyone wants abs, right? I mean the movie “300” sparked an interest in abdominal muscles so much that 10 years later a quick google search of “300” ab workouts will give you over 4 million hits in .77 seconds. And just like King Leonidas taught us. Abs are for those who work hard. While you might not have to fight to the death to get them, it may feel that way making them appear through your belly fat, over even worse trying to maintain that washboard through the summer and so on. But with a understanding of basic nutrition, what the function of your abdominal muscles are, how they are supposed to work, and a game plan for executing your summer six pack. You’ll be ripping your shirt off and screaming “sparta” with a front kick to anything standing in your way. Switch your mindset from “abs” to “core”. The core is where all movement starts. If you were to draw a stick figure on the board, cut off his arms, legs, and head what you would have left is the core. And its the development of this core from front to back side to side that will give you your abs. Check this 3d animation video for a visual Often we only think of crunches because those isolate the front visible abdominals, and these are the ones we see in the mirror. But with out a understanding of what the core does is supposed to be doing during exercise and in-balance of all sides, your efforts will be wasted.
A good place to start with ab training is to get your nutrition in check. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. If you treat your mouth like a garbage disposal, your results will be trash. Everyone has abs. If you didn’t you would not be able to stand up, move, walk, breath, etc. Now, how strong they are and how much % of bodyfat you have sitting on top of them will effect the visibility greatly. If your above 25% for women and 18% for men then it is apparent that you haven’t put much effort into your nutrition. A whole 30, paleo, or sugar detox for 30 days is a great place to start. Build some healthy eating habits and eliminating the ones that are keeping that gut on you, such as processed or high carb low nutrient foods. If your bodyfat is already lower then this you are going to need to start getting a little more in depth with your diet. Once you have a sound foundation for what you eating, perhaps following a more calorie or macro partitioning program will be the next step in busting through a plateau and getting leaner. Once you reach about 13% for males and 20% for women you will start to see some visible abs, not the full 6 pack but maybe the top 2 abs will start to poke out and you will have a lean flat looking stomach. It is important that I re-iterate the importance of having a SOUND FOUNDATION of nutrition before embarking in any type of calorie restricting or macro counting diet. A sound foundation consists of understanding the role of what protein, carbs, and fats do to fuel your body and healthy daily habits of when, what, and how to eat for desired results and a healthy lifestyle. If your habits are in line with your lifestyle goals then you should be able to reach this “healthy” level of body fat (13%m/20%f). Now when its time to get that 6-pack your going to have to bite down and experiment into some advanced techniques. The best route is always going to be a certified nutrition coach for this approach but if your looking to do your own self experimenting be ready to commit and see the process through. Just like the garbage disposal, half-ass attempts get us half-ass results. These style diets are usually not sustainable for long time and maintaining a full visible 6 pack year round takes extreme focus and discipline. This often leads to a inturupt in peoples social and family lives and the calorie or macro restrictions often mixed with the ramped up cardio bouts will often lead to some muscle and strength loss, so if leanness is the goal be prepared for that. For more information on this checkout the article from precision nutrition about “The cost of getting Lean”
So what do our abs do? Well first off, they allow you to be able to stand up. They brace and support the spine for static positions, movement, and restriction of movement. They contract, extend, and rotate as well as help control our diaphragm for breathing. So building our aerobic base with oxidative exercise starts with learning how to breath using our abs. Can you brace your abdominals and still breathe a large breath into your lungs without releasing the tension in your abs? This drawing in maneuver is vital to being able to control your body awareness in long distance style training. In running it helps in bracing and eliminating deviance from one side to the other in your gait. In rowing or biking it allows you to stay upright and continue to breath full breaths. Weak abs lead to broken posture, which leads to shorter breaths and eventually over fatigue. It is not uncommon for people with a weak core and infrequent monostructural training to have severe abdominal soreness after running a 5k or extended period of rowing/biking. As we learn to brace and breath we will not only improve our oxidative energy system through better gas exchange but also will be strengthening our abs as we learn one of their most functional purposes.
The ability to control your body through movement can be sometimes defined as gymnastics. To separate from the sport of gymnastics we will refer to it as what its purpose is, kinesthetic awareness. All movement and awareness of the body has to be started in the core. Movement begins in the core and then goes down the kinetic chain eventually reaching the furthest extremity. A great example is throwing a baseball. The pitcher winds up flexing the core in preparation of a powerful extension. Once the core extends the power shifts in to the hips and shoulders, then pitcher plants his foot and presses through the toe while the last of all effort is passed through the shoulder, upper arm, elbow, hand, eventually to the last finger tip that leaves the ball hurling through space. The more efficient with this movement and the more powerful extension of the core leads to more power and speed on the base ball. This is referred to as core-to-extremity. With that idea in mind you can imagine how much core work is involved in explosive movements such as box jumps. Also, going back to the idea of bracing you can see how much static work the core is doing in slower movements such as a handstand or even a basic air squat. Before you can perform in any movement your core must be engaged. Whether its intentions are for bracing or for explosiveness, the core is important for functionality and performance.
The lower part of the core can be referred to as the “lumbo/pelvic hip complex” and is composed of what it sounds like. Your lumbar, pelvis, and hips. These skeletal structures are supported by the abdominals. So working the kinetic chain in a compound and functional way is going to build a solid base for your core strength. The ability to not only statically hold the spine neutral while under load but also to contract and extend is very advanced movement. “abs” do crunches but the “core” gets work done. Compound movements such as the squat and dead-lift or overhead pressing movements all rely on core strength for stabilizing the spine through the lift as well as applying the “core to extremity” principle. The core is what brings the upper body and lower body together, and without it we have no functional strength. Machine style or seated exercises do not have the added benefit of strengthening your core, in fact they may even lessen your awareness and cause imbalances in your LPHC. A combination of slow and explosive lifts of external resistance with proper bracing will strengthen your core and help make your abs more visible.
The final step to building a 6 pack is a little bit of isolation on the area. This doesn’t mean you have to do 100 situps everyday when you wake up, but it could help to start adding isolation exercise if a solid base of core strength and function is achieved. Isolation exercises should be chosen and varied in their ability to stabilize, rotate, flex and resist movement. Stabilizing is easy, the ability to brace and hold a position tightly. Best example of stabilizing is a plank. Rotational exercises are anything involving a twist of the trunk. Some examples are windmills, hammer strikes, trunk twist (w/ band), twisting suitcase deadlifts. Flexion exercises are anything that has flexion and extension of the spine such as sit ups and hip extensions. And finally movement resistance is close to stabilizing but the addition of fighting the external resistance. Pallof presses are a great exercise for resisting movement strength. When training the isolation core exercises be experimental with reps and sets. Anything that involves stabilizing is a mind over matter game where “no pain no gain” is true. 120 seconds in a true high plank with fully engaged thoracic and hips will prove to be quite a test of fitness for anyone.
Your core training should go right along with the Crossfit Hierarchy of training. Nutrition is the base for everything, then you build your kinesthetic awareness with gymnastics, next you can began to add external resistance with some weight lifting, and finally you add sport up at the top. In this case sport has been replaced with aesthetics, where we add the isolation and focus work. The key to “how do I get abs” is eating correctly and understanding the function of the core and using mixed efforts of static, flexion, extension, rotational, and explosive movements to develop its max efficiency. Focusing on only one of the aspects and not having balance will keep your inner sparta wearing a t shirt to the swimming pool but those who choose a basic nutrition model and sticks to it, such as “eat meat and veggies, nuts and seed, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar” -Gregg Glassman, and chooses a mixed modal GPP training program of aerobic, gymnastic, weightlifting. Such as CrossFit, will have the best abs and the most maintainable lifestyle to keep them year round. At Basin CrossFit, first glance it might seem that we don’t focus on specific core work, when you start to understand it’s role and function in our program you learn its the start to EVERYTHING you do. So tighten up!