Posts Tagged ‘Abdominal training’


By David Westerman LMT, FAFS  

Are  we  utilizing  “authentic”  principles  of  Function  when  designing  our  strength  and  

power programs?  

Is  there  a  special  population  that  might  be  missing  two  of  the  most  important  bio‐ 

motor abilities in their training and rehabilitation programs?  

As  a  former  collegiate  and  professional  strength  and  conditioning  coach,  strength  

and power were (and are) the two most emphasized bio‐motor abilities.   

Take,  for  example,  the  “power  clean”  in  an  athletic  weight  room.  This  is  one  of  the  

most  utilized  exercises  in  “power”  training.  The  typical  strategy  is  to  put  as  much  

weight  on  the  bar  and  successfully  lift  it  one  to  four  times.  Let’s  see  if  we  can  use  

part  of  our  litmus  test  of  “authentic”  strength  and  power  principles  to  better  

understand its carryover to three‐dimensional Function.  

  Is  it  three­dimensional? 

  The  power  clean  is  a  sagittal  plane‐dominate  

movement.  Most  activities  require  three‐dimensional  movement  in  all  

muscles and joints. 

  Is  it  specific  to  activity?  

Considering  most  sports  and  activities  have  a  

horizontal component to load, the power clean is mostly a vertical load.  

  What  is  the  neural  input  and  range  involved?  

If  the  weight  is  too  heavy  

and  we  go  through  long  ranges,  we  may  actually  slow  down  the  neural  input  

which will inhibit our power and strength transfer to activity.  

  Are  we  taking  advantage  of  the  Transformation  Zone?  

The  fact  that  

most  of  our  power  is  utilized  at  the  zone  in  which  a  direction  is  reversed  in  a  

motion needs to be considered (i.e. – plyometrics).  

Above  are  a  few  key  questions  that  we  can  use  for  any  population  or  exercise  we  

choose to work with.     

Typically  we  associate  strength  and  power  with  athletes.    However,  the  population  

that  may  need  it  the  most  is  our  senior  population.  With  the  baby‐boom  explosion,  

more  and  more  of  this  growing  population  are  getting  injured  and  becoming  more  

sedentary.  Consider  the  following  scenario  and  proposed  training  /  treatment  



A  75‐year‐old  woman  has  balance  problems  when  walking.  

Through  functional  assessments,  the  practitioner  finds  abdominal  muscles  

are  weak  and  significantly  lack  the  ability  to  move  in  all  three  planes  of  


Potential  strategy 

:  Position  client  in  a  small  stride  position  with  the  left  leg  

forward  in  front  of  a  wall  for  support  and  as  a  target.  To  create  a  load  in  the 

abdominals  we  want  to  reach  with  the  left  shoulder  posterior  (backward)  at  

shoulder  (height)  towards  the  wall  in  a  short  range  of  motion  at  a  moderate  

to fast speed.  


  This  facilitates  tri‐plane  loading  of  the  abdominals  in  the  

Transformational  Zone  of  walking  with  an  exercise  that  replicates  the  

activity,  while  creating  more  power  that  will  transform  into  better  strength       

of the entire kinetic chain by using a short (safe) range and increased speed.     

Whether  you  seek  strength  or  power,  our  strategies  and  exercises  need  to  be  based  

on “authentic” principles of Function. 

Get Strong! Stay Strong! (and be functional)



By Craig Ballantyne (author of Turbulence Training for Abs)

One of my first online training clients, Charlene, had spent years doing long slow cardio workouts and struggling through hundreds of crunches each workout. She even went to “ab classes” on non-workout days (when she could have been at home resting or out with her man) because those ab classes didn’t do her any good.

Like Charlene, most of my clients have been so focused on the latest high-repetition ab workouts featured in the latest fitness magazine, but all they did was waste their time and give them a pain in the neck.

It wasn’t until Charlene dropped 3 exercises from her program and switched to fat burning interval training that she finally had a flat belly for swimsuit season.

Are you sick and tired of doing the same old abdominal exercises but getting no results? Have you spent so much time on your back doing crunches that when you close your eyes at night you picture the ceiling of your gym? Then you’ll love…

The 3 Exercises to Avoid…

If you’ve had enough with lying on dirty floors and crunching away until you get a stiff neck, but you still don’t have a firm belly, then it’s time to give up crunches, sit-ups, and bicycles for good.

Those 3 should really be called “lame”, “harmful”, and “useless”. You literally never need to do those three abdominal exercises ever again, and you can still lose belly fat, flatten your stomach, and define your six pack abs.

If you rely on boring, back-breaking abdominal crunches and sit-ups to burn belly fat, you’ll never lose the ugly belly fat covering your abs. To get more fat burning results in less workout time, use fat burning interval training and total-body abdominal exercises instead.

Research shows that most abdominal crunches, situps, and machines are extremely dangerous for your low back! But you can do simple, safe, and effective abdominal bodyweight exercises and interval training at home to flatten your stomach. Are you ready for 21st century ab exercises and abdominal workouts?

You now need to use ab exercises where the focus isn’t on crunching or spinal flexion, but instead use abdominal exercises that offer stabilization and resistance to rotation (rather than doing a lot of rotation like in old school bicycle crunches).

These new types of exercises include planks, side planks, exercise ball jackknives, exercise ball pikes, and many, many more. All of these can be done at home, but without the indignity of lying on your back in the dirt!

Just because these abdominal exercises aren’t your traditional crunches, doesn’t mean that you won’t get that great ab burning feeling following your workout. These core exercises will still help you build 6 pack abs, but in a much safer way that will reduce the incidence of low back pain.

The Evolution of Ab Exercises

The first ab exercise in the evolution of abdominal exercise training is a simple plank. This exercise needs to be mastered by beginners and those at risk of low back pain. The goal here is to work up to a 90 second to 2 minute hold in the plank position.

The next core exercise is the side plank or side bridge. A little more difficult than the regular plank, the trick here is to keep your body in a straight line and keep those hips raised up. Brace your abs at all times.

Want to Work Your Abs 30% Harder Than Normal?

Once you’ve mastered those ab exercises, try the plank with your elbows on the stability ball. According to Men’s Health magazine, this exercise works your abs 30% hard than a regular plank. To increase the difficulty of this ab exercise, try moving the ball further away from your body.

The fourth ab exercise to work your entire core is the stability ball jackknife. Here, you will place your feet on the stability ball and your hands on the floor or elbows on a bench. Then you will bring your knees to your chest, while maintaining the plank position, and then return to the starting position.

Similar to the ab wheel, the next exercise in the evolution of ab training is the stability ball rollout. Place the ball in front of you, with your hands on the ball, roll the ball out, stretching and maintaining your back in a straight line, and contract to return to the starting position.

The last ab exercise is a plank rotation. When you take a regular plank and combine it with a side plank, the subsequent resisting rotation works to provide a total body workout. So to perform this exercise you will start in the side plank position, and without moving your hips rotate to a regular plank, and then over to the opposite side plank position. Continue to do this, while keeping your back straight and hips raised.

Crunches are old news. You just won’t get the same total body benefits of this new type of training. So try out these 6 ab exercises that will provide not only an exceptional core work, but a total body workout as well.

Drop those 3 exercises for more results and less workout time.

When Charlene finally gave up crunches, sit-ups, and bicycle crunches, she was astounded by the change in her abs from interval training and the new abdominal workout program she was using. Plus, she saved 90 minutes per week by giving up her endless crunches and sit-up program along with the long, slow cardio workouts. That gave her 90 extra minutes per week to enjoy her flat belly with her man.

Get Strong! Stay Strong!



While gymnastics is used in this post the concepts apply to any endeavor.  Most would agree that a strong “core” is essential to all sporting activities and tasks of daily living. What is the core and how do we train it to maximize performance? Generally speaking, the core consists of the lower back, lateral trunk and abdominal (rectus abdominus, obliques, transverse abdominus) musculature. For years, largely based on traditional anatomy lessons and body building routines, we believed that endless sit-ups and hyperextensions were the way to go. As our understanding of human movement and sports performance have grown, we began to realize that training for performance often required a different approach – hence the term “sport specifi c” training. Simply stated, the more an exercise looks and feels like the activity to be performed, the greater the carry- over to that activity. When designing exercises to enhance performance, one must look at the activity or skill and ask – how does gravity, ground reaction forces and momentum effect the body and how do all the muscles and joints interact to complete a skill or movement?  In the traditional sit up one lies on their back and attempts to bring the shoulders up towards the pelvis, in essence contracting only the abdominals. For performance/ function we would ask – when in gymnastics do you lay on your back and do this? Are the gravitational forces the same? Are the ground reaction forces the same?  Is the momentum the same? Do all the body parts interact similar to a gymnastics skill?  The answer is rarely, if at all. In gymnastics, the body is primarily in a vertical position with various components of spin and rotation acting against gravity, utilizing and absorbing ground reaction forces and momentum. Therefore, training the core in an upright position would be a better choice to facilitate greater muscle, joint and balance receptor activity, ultimately leading to greater carry-over to the skill or activity. It also facilitates more effective interaction between all the muscles and joints involved in the skill, not just one or a few as seen in the traditional sit-up or hyperextension exercise. The object being to enhance the body’s ability to load to explode.  The true function of the abdominal muscles is to decelerate or control backward bending and rotation of the trunk. You do not need them to forcibly fl ex the trunk forward (as a sit-up does) because gravity will do this for free. The muscles of the low back help decelerate forward flexion and rotation of the trunk. The respective muscles of the trunk rely on various other muscles to assist them with the task at hand.  One common theme that is critical for human movement and sport is that all muscles need to be eccentrically elongated relatively quickly (loading) to enhance their concentric contraction (exploding). Think of a rubber band, the more you pull it the harder and faster it snaps back. Your muscles utilize the same principle called the stretch shortening cycle to enhance the muscles ability to move the body explosively. An easy example of this is in jumping. You always “squat” down or load first to enhance your ability to jump or explode higher. Try jumping up high without bending your knees or ankles first; its impossible.   So when training the core think of how they are going to “react” in relation to gravity, ground reaction forces and momentum in the context of how they will be required to function.

Get Strong! Stay Strong!




Here are a few “functionally based” core exercises to follow up my Death Of A Sit Up post. Take care not to overextend the back.  I like to use wall to limit excessive motion.  Can progress to holding medicine ball.  Make sure to stretch the hip flexors as a tight hip flexor will limit hip extension and cause you to compensate by extending the back more.  Some cues I give are to squeeze the butt, push hip forward and dont reach back too far.  Remember,  most daily activity only requires small efficient amounts of trunk motion.  If single leg is too challenging then toe touch opp. foot or keep both feet on ground.  Have fun!

Get Strong! Stay Strong!



Many years ago the sit up was king of abdominal training.  Today in the world of rehab, function and performance training the tide has shifted away from the sit up.  Our study of the human body, how it works and how it responds to various training modalities has led to a shift in our training methods.  Also, Stuart McGill PhD has shown the shear and compressive forces on the lumbar discs while doing a sit up to be quite detrimental to the health of the spine.  Now, we don’t just train the “stomach,” we see the body as a link system and the trunk, front, side and back collectively make up what is now referred to as the “core.” Most abdominal activity occurs while in the upright position working against gravity, ground reaction forces and momentum.   In fact clinicians and trainers, in the know, very rarely train muscles.  They train movement.  Activities like walking and swinging a golf club are engrained in our brain as patterns.

Think of this, people do thousands of sit ups to work their abdominals for the almighty six pack or what they consider “core” training.  If you think of this functionally, while standing, do you really need your abdominals to forcefully pull your shoulders down to the floor?   Of course not, gravity will do this for free!  So what is the “function” of the abdominals?  The rectus abdominus eccentrically controls back bending and the obliques eccentrically control rotation.  This all works together (with the back buscles) to control posture and produce rotational torque for efficient walking and more powerful activities like throwing a baseball or catching your child as they jump into your arms.  It is the rotational and side to side activity that drives us forward.  A bicycle moves forward only because the wheels are rotating.

Current abdominal exercises consist of arms overhead, reaching back, chops, diagonal chops and rotations using various modalities such as medicine balls and bands. We use kettlebell swings, waiter walks, snatches, cleans and windmills.   Also, variations of push ups, planks and bridges are utilized.  Assymetrically loaded squats, deadlifts and lunges are great abdominal activators.  Many want the washboard ab “look”, but the real question is are you training for show or go?  It is possible to have both!

Get Strong! Stay Strong!