Friday, October 24, 2008

What Are the Best Ab Exercises?

Most of our ab exercises involve the abs moving either our upper body or lower body in an up-down motion. Lately, I've read a couple of things that made me think a bit more about what might be the best way to train the abs. Or, at the very least, ways that we don't train our abs but should be.

Recently, I read articles that stated that weight belts aren't effective at protecting the lower back from lifting injuries. One of the articles came out point blank and said that you have a weight belt on your body already: it's called your abdominal muscles. It stated that if you needed a weight belt, then you need to train your abs better.

I think there's a hole exists in some people's ab training: training our abs to contract powerfully enough to protect the lower back from injuries when doing intense work, be it our jobs or our exercise. Abs are often trained by movement but the act of locking the abs so that movement doesn't occur in the core have very legitimate real-world carry-over. It also explains why the humble push-up is such a good ab-trainer. Ab isometrics, l-sits, and ab wheel work also hits the abs powerfully in this exact manner.

Another use that doesn't get mentioned much is the role that the core should play in your breathing. I don't understand how this gets missed by people who understand how fat gets burned off your body. In order to burn fat, you have to have oxygen present. What happens if you're not getting enough oxygen into your bloodstream? You're not losing fat as fast. I've worked out with several overweight people and the ones who lost quickly are the ones who are deep, diaphragm breathers. Shallow, chest-breathers struggle. Vince Gironda believed heavily in the power of deep breathing during training. Matt Furey said it best on this topic: if you can't be heard breathing from another room while training, then you're not breathing deeply enough.

So, give this some thought when you train. Make sure that you're not getting pidgeon-holed in your ab training. Those muscles do a lot of things for your body and make sure that your training is hitting them all.

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