Alright everyone, summer is officially here and it’s time to hit the beach! Let’s make sure that you are looking your best this summer and get those abs tuned up! Most people have heard the old adage that “abs are made in the kitchen” but I don’t want to beat a dead horse, yes eating right is key to having good abs but there are things you can do to help them along the way. Up until now I would bet that if you are training your abs you are doing some type of crunch variation or machine, but I am here to tell you that there is more you can do!
If I asked 100 people at my gym their favorite exercise, I don’t think that one person would say “crunches!” That is probable because they are not fun, unless you already have abs you don’t see a lot of results, and they can be stressful on your back. That is why I want to introduce you to stabilization training. Stabilization training is just what it sounds like, you are using your WHOLE core area (front abdominals, oblique’s, and back) to keep your body stationery. This forces you to be using and contracting your core muscles for the duration of the exercise, rather than only while you crunch or contract. There are even published studies that show participants that trained using only stabilization outperformed their counter parts in sit-up tests!
What are these movements you ask? Let me tell you about a few of them so you can try them out yourself. One example of stabilization training that most people already know is the plank. During this move you will be in a pseudo push-up position- with your toes and elbows/forearms on the ground, all you need to do from here is lift up your midsection and hold. Focus on keeping your core tight and your body straight the entire time. Hold this position for approximately 30 seconds to start and work your way up. The Side Plank is variation of the Plank done with one elbow and the side of one foot on the ground. Reach your free hand/arm toward the sky and hold again focusing on your core.
There are tons of Plank variation out there, if you are looking for a challenge try using a swiss ball or bosu ball or two to balance elbows/feet or both on! Another move that some of you may have seen or tried in your own work outs are Mountain Climbers. Again in a push up position, hold at the top of the push-up and bring one knee at a time toward your chest. You usually see people doing them very fast with no regard for their form. Using stabilization training let’s slow it down and focus on keeping your back STRAIGHT and not rounding your lower back as you pull one leg at a time toward your chest.
Now for something a little different, Dynamic Stabilization. Before you say anything, I know that these two words are directly contradictory to each other, dynamic means to move while stabilization means to keep still. That is the beauty of these workouts though, your body is moving while you are fighting to keep your core stable and tight throughout the exercise. Some examples of Dynamic Stabilization include Farmer Walks/Carries and many iso-lateral movements. A Farmers Walk consists of holding one OR two dumbbells at your side and walking a certain distance. Rather than let the weight pull you down, keep your shoulders back, walk with good posture and keep your core tight!
Iso-lateral movements are just a fancy way of saying you are doing something with one arm or leg (if you have Hammer Strength machines at your gym you will see that many of them have parts that allow each arm or leg to push/pull an independent weight stack, these are iso-lateral machines.) Let’s take dumbbell shoulder press as an example. Choose ONE dumbbell of less weight than you can usually press; next you are going to get into position, hold your core tight and press up with only your right arm. You will find that it takes a lot of strength to keep you in your seat and not tipping over- that is your core hard at work!
There are many different types of stabilization training core workouts around, beyond what I have mentioned. I suggest if you are confused about one from above or would like to find out more to use Youtube.com. It is a great tool for finding new workouts or gaining clarification on workouts you are confused about. Just like everything on the internet though, watch a few videos and make sure they are at least similar so you know you are doing them correctly to avoid injury. Try integrating some of these movements into your workouts and see for yourself. I can’t promise you a 6 pack for summer, but I can promise you will feel it the next day!
Fitmark Ambassador 2013