Thought sucking in your gut may seem a pointless way to improve fitness? The action of pulling in can actually strengthen your abs… Believe it or not, it’s more effective than conventional crunches.
When the average joe is doing a crunch, often hes compensating for weakness by relying on incorrect muscles. Rather than getting a 6-pack, he’s stressing neck, shoulders and lower back. By simplifying the movement, you insure that you activate your most important abdominal muscle the transversus abdominus (TA).
The TA is the bodys girdle, helping stabilize your spine, its powerhouse (as those who do pilates well know) and a natural weight belt (much more fashionable than the ones old-time lifters sport in the gym). By learning to activate and strengthen the TA, you reduce stress on your lower back, get stronger and are able to push higher weights.
To active the TA, perform the “drawing-in” maneuver by pulling your belly button into your spine. This can easily be done sitting in your chair at the computer (try it right now!) or lying on your back with knees bent. Pull in the belly button and press the lower back into the mat or back of the chair, keeping shoulders back and relaxed, chest out. Think of performing a pelvic tilt, bringing your rib cage and your hipbones closer. Keep breathing and exhale as you draw in. Don’t arch your lower back when you release. Perform at least 10 of these at a time, as often as possible throughout the day.
Once you get used to activating the TA, exercises like the plank and the opposite arm/leg raise can further strengthen and stabilize, give you a flatter, firmer tummy and protect your lower back. You can also move on to crunches to work your rectus abdominus.
A personal trainer can help correct bad form and insure you’re not compensating or wasting your time.
Miss Fit, also known as Eve Hartman, is a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer who gladly makes house calls. For more information, contact her at 914-588-0591 or at www.cyclicaltraining.com.