We live in the information age – but sometimes I believe it should be called the miss information age. There are literally thousands of websites, articles, YouTube videos, Personal Trainers and other Average Joes out there giving their advice on what exercises and training protocols give the best results. Some (but probably most) have very little (or very basic) understanding of how the body actually works. I don’t want to harp on about the negatives – I want to share with you some of the biggest training mistakes people make – hopefully this will save you time, give you better results, meaning you move and train your body the way it was intended.
Abdominal Training – the more sit-ups the better? NO! NO! NO!
If we briefly look at the anatomy: The abdominal wall is made up of 3 layers; TVA is the deepest layer and it major role is stabilisation of the spine. The Internal and External obliques also stabilise, rotate, tilt the rib cage and or pelvis depending on the anchor (trying to keep this simple). While the Rectus Abdominis (the 6 pack muscle) flexes the trunk (sit-ups) and is a stabiliser under heavy loads.
Most people train their abdominals incorrectly! Performing 100’s and some people 1000’s of sit-ups everyday – believing that doing so will give them those washboard abs they see on the infomercials. I hate to say it, but you are wasting your time. Sit-ups work your Rectus Abdominis predominately – which is in actually fact a fast twitch muscle fibre. Fast twitch muscle fibres respond best to less repetitions and higher loads. So rather than do 100 sit-ups and training your abdominals like slow twitch muscles (which will decrease function and performance)– grab a weight or a medicine ball and perform sets of 8 – 12 reps.
If you are performing sit-ups from the floor you are not working you abdominals properly! Your abdominals flex your trunk about 30 – 35⁰ but also work eccentrically (backwards) 35 – 40⁰. This means that when you perform a sit-up from the floor you are using less the 50% of the muscles range of motion. This can easily be ratified by using a Swissball and going through the full range of motion.
People are often scared to perform exercises that involve rotation or side bending but these exercises are crucial for working your Obliques (both External and Internal). These muscles are the same as your Rectus Abdominis and respond well to load – remembering not to sacrifice form for the sake of extra load. Woodchops and Swissball Side crunches are 2 of my favourite exercises.
Now not forgetting to mention the TVA – the major stabiliser of the low back – this is the only Abdominal muscle that is slow twitch – this muscle along with the rest of the inner unit (pelvic floor & multifidus) require greater neurological control and respond best to more repetitions and longer tempos (the time it takes to perform a repetition). These muscles are endurance muscles and should be trained for 3 – 5mins.
Training your abs properly is only the first step in achieving your six pack or eight pack if you dare, Proper nutrition – meaning high quality foods, proper digestion – and looking after the organs that lay beneath your abdominals is also paramount.