Feeling clueless? Well you are. Most people are clueless when it comes to training their abs. You had the best of intentions – I’ll do sit-ups and crunches and that spare tire will melt away. That’s what you hear celebrities are doing in their workouts and it’s what you see on TV, so it must be ok, right? WRONG!
I just can’t wrap my head around why people are still doing crunches and sit-ups … but then I see personal trainers doing the same. I believe people think – If the muscle is contracting and I feel the burn; then it must be good. It must be producing results, right? WRONG!
A 300lb person can squeeze their abs until they pass out, but that fat is still going to be there. Just like a 100lb person can squeeze their biceps until they burn, but they’re not going to get bigger biceps. So why do people think crunches and sit-ups = six-pack abs?
I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s simply a lack of knowledge.
Dr. Stuart McGill is one the smartest people on the planet when it comes to the human body. (I have some of his books and I often have NO CLUE what he is saying … he is that smart!) Point being, he has repeatedly shown that repetitive spinal flexion (the bending of your spine when you do a sit-up or crunch) is the exact movement that causes DISC HERNIATION!
Here’s another fact: Every sit-up or crunch places around 760lbs of compressive load on your lumbar spine! Imagine the biggest sumo wrestler on the planet compressing on your LOW BACK … that can’t be good.
Oh, and want to make it even WORSE for your spine? ADD A TWIST!!!
Crunching with a twist: Flexion combined with rotation (about to get nerdy here) pushes the nucleus pulposus (the jelly-like center of the disc) back and to the side, which is precisely where discs tend to herniate! Unless you’re looking for workers comp or something, I would probably STOP!
So, now you know that although you had the best of intentions, you were really ABUSING YOUR SPINE. And you are now probably thinking – Well (smarty pants), what am I supposed to do then?
Without further delay:
1) Planks (regular/side)
2) Plank (saw)
3) Half-kneeling cable anti-rotation press
4) Hip-to-shoulder flexion (reverse crunch)
5) Anti-flexion (roll out)
Remember… baby steps. You have to crawl before you walk.
I promise you, your spine will love you for reading this.
Unfortunately, a blog cannot take the place of personalized guidance by a professional trainer or even of an instructional video. Make sure to check out our YouTube page (need to create) and we will demonstrate these exercises and more in upcoming videos!