Beach Muscles aren’t Manly’s Core ©
Those sixpack abs you see on Manly Beach
don’t always correlate with a solid core and healthy spine. In fact a lot of the abdominal exercises aimed at building a sixpack can be damaging and cause imbalance to many spines. Don’t be confused between muscles for show and muscles built for function.
Most people think that a six-pack = strong core and back.
This is called “Bro-science”. A lot of weight lifting and gym training folklore is built around “Bro-science”. Bro-science is garbage information that evolved by passing on misunderstood concepts and half-baked theories from one gym Bro to another.
Your sixpack (rectus abdominus muscle) is only one muscle of the abdominal wall, and it’s only a minor part of your overall core strength. A strong core, one that will support and protect a spine, is made up of the diaphragm, pelvic floor, transverse abdominus, oblique abdominals, rectus abdominus, as well as muscles of the lumbar spine. Training all of these muscles to brace and transmit loads in a coordinated manner, whilst you are breathing and performing tasks with your limbs, is the basis of a strong core.
It is not much use training your “sixpack” with a crunch movement that has no useful crossover to the real world. Crunches create muscle imbalances, poor movement patterns and can set you up to be injury prone. The high forces they cause in vertebral discs combined with the repetitive spine flexion can actually create an injury. This means that exercises like sit-ups and crunches are best avoided.
What are better alternatives for training a strong core?
The following four drills are simple rehab (or prehab) exercises that can create a strong core.
A fairly well known exercise performed on hands and knees:
(Healthy movement and muscle coordination with NO loading).
Lying Supine Rotation
A very helpful drill, for activating small interspinal muscles, whilst relaxing any tensions in the larger strap muscles:
It is important that your pelvis doesn’t tilt or rotate during this movement – this is the goal, and it’s what makes it so difficult. Better to do a couple of perfect repetitions than to do 10 bad reps:
(see level 1-7 of this video series)
Again. It is important that your pelvis doesn’t tilt or rotate during the movement.
Do you already have a healthy spine?
Generally speaking, training standing up and using heavy dumbells/barbells will be of more value to you than using all the “Bro-tastic” exercise machines that you see most gym goers training with. Yes, it may feel awkward to use dumbells instead of a machine and yes it is more hard work to train standing up than sitting on a machine, But you are at the gym to exert effort, right?
You may find yourself having to back down the load on some exercises when switching to freeweights. The reason for this is because somewhere in your body, you have a weak link that needs to catch up with the other strong areas. Training with free weights will help you strengthen the weak links. Then you can progress, injury free and get stronger all over. Avoid machines and avoid training sitting down…
Want to really create a core of steel?
The best core exercises don’t even look like ‘core’ exercises. When performed heavy and correctly these are actually some of the best core exercises around:
– Turkish Get-up (with kettlebell or dumbell).
– Front squat.
– Overhead squat.
– Heavy dumbell one arm clean and push-press and shoulder-press.
These exercises are advanced but valuable for creating spinal stability because they require and teach:
– Stability whilst also breathing under load.
– Combined, co-ordinated contraction of antagonistic muscles that support the trunk.
– Flexibility and open-ness in the shoulders and hips.
– A nervous system that can find spine stability under unstable loading.
This blog post is NOT a rehab plan prescription, nor is it a fix-all for every core issue. It is a basic guide to warn about dangerous Bro-science and inform about better exercises. If you have any specific questions, you are most welcome to ask on my FB site (www.facebook.com/LightTouchChiro). You can find this blog on my FB page at 15/01/14.
Dr Andrew Maher.
[ Tags: Manly Chiropractor Core Exercises]