For most people, one of the main goals when beginning a weight loss program is to achieve a flat stomach. There is an old fitness saying that “abs are made in the kitchen,” and for the most part, this is true. A healthy diet plays an important role in obtaining well defined abs. If you are overweight, you will probably not see your abdominal muscles, regardless of how defined they are. In addition to eating right, there are some abdominal exercises that can help your body look and feel healthier. However, there are some abdominal exercises which should be avoided, but are still around today due to misunderstandings in the public sphere. In this
article, I will discuss abdominal exercises that you should have in your routine, as well as some that you should stay away from.
Bad: Crunches vs Good: Planks
Over the past fifty years, crunches have been a staple in most abdominal exercise routines. While it is true that the crunch is fairly effective at activating rectus abdominus (the main muscle responsible for the six pack look), it is not ideal for other surrounding parts of the body. The transverse abdominus, which is the deepest abdominal muscle, is not nearly as active as the outer rectus abdominus during the crunch. This means that crunches will do very little to improve your core endurance and posture.Actually, quite the opposite is true - if done in large amounts, crunches can actually cause an already bad posture to become worse. This is caused by high amounts of forward flexion in the exercise and a tendency most people have to round their backs during repetitions. This ends up causing extra pressure to be exerted on the lumbar spine. If you have a bad back, you should definitely avoid crunches. Instead, add the plank to your regimen to improve your core stability. This is an effective strengthener of the transverse abdominus, and is a useful tool for improving posture.
Bad: Sit Ups vs Good: Russian Twists
Similarly to the crunches, sit ups should be avoided by most people because of their negative effects on the lower back and on posture in general. Like the crunches, this exercise really only hits the outermost layers of the the abdominal wall with any notable intensity. An alternative move is the Russian twist. This is a good exercise because it allows you to target just about every major abdominal muscle, including the often difficult-to-hit obliques that run along the sides. This makes this exercise an essential part of a balanced routine. It is important to note that when you attempt this exercise, make sure you pay very close attention to your form. This is a move that should be done relatively slowly, and you should be wary of rounding your back at all times. If you keep your back straight, engage your core, and move through the exercise at a relatively moderate pace, you will do great!
Sometimes Bad: Leg Lifts vs Good: Mountain Climber
Leg lifts are more complicated than they seem at first glance. The move looks simple: lift the legs up, bring them back down to the ground, and repeat. However, as they say, the devil is in the details. During this exercise, you have to take precautions such as moving slowly, keeping your hands under your low back/glute region, and planting your back firmly to the floor. If you do all of this, the leg lift is an okay exercise for the lower abdominals. But, if you fail to do any of these things, this exercise will likely cause lower back pain. Even when done correctly, sometimes this exercise can cause low back pain. Overall, this is not a great exercise. It just doesn't work for everyone. On the other hand, the mountain climber is a more reliable and more useful exercise. If done correctly, it hits the entire abdominal wall, and it doesn't place much pressure on the lower back. It also provides potent cardiovascular benefits. Make sure to give the mountain climber a home in your workout routine!