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May 7, 2012
One of the most frequently asked questions in the fitness center is: “How many crunches do I need to do to get rid of my belly fat?” The answer to this question is as simple as it is disappointing: NONE! Anatomically we all have six-packs, but unfortunately most of us have a layer of fat covering them, which makes it a little tough to see them. Instead of doing a couple crunches to change the look of your midsection, you need to do holistic metabolic workouts and eat healthy –this is the answer that most people do not want to hear. While we want to look good, the benefits of a strong core go well beyond our appearance. The function of our inner core muscles is to contract before movement occurs to stabilize the joints. Research shows that the lack of proper core activation links directly to chronic back pain. Here are the JCC’s top 3 Core Secrets:
1. Crunches vs. Planks?
Answer is: Planks! A plank-type movement will stimulate your inner core muscles which help to stabilize joints and support your spine. Crunch-type movements stimulate your external core muscles which are responsible for moving or preventing motion of the extremities and trunk after the inner core muscles have fired. The deeper muscles play a larger role in back pain prevention, so they are the most important muscles to be worked on. To get a strong core, you want to do both, but master your plank first.
2. Master the ‘Brace’
While most of us are used to crunching our abs into submission, very few actually possess the understanding of how to properly engage our deeper core muscles during planks or how to engage them in daily life. Virtually everyone knows about a plank and is able to hold one, but we are often left wondering how this exercise actually trains our abs when it feels like our shoulders, legs and lower back are doing all the work. The answer is bracing. To do any abdominal exercise correctly you need to learn to brace. Abdominal bracing involves a simultaneous contraction of all abdominal muscles to provide additional stiffness and support to the spine – it does not mean just drawing your belly in! It takes practice to master the brace. Here is a simple drill:
A brace involves tightening the abs (not just drawing them in) as if to avoid being poked in the stomach. This drill can be practiced by placing one hand on the stomach and one hand slightly above the small of the low back. Apply pressure by pushing in to stomach while tightening your abs to resist. You will feel your back extensor and abdominal muscles simultaneously tighten. Beginners should hold each brace for 5-10 seconds and releasing several times to become familiar with this action. Now try bracing during your planks and you can feel the difference! Always brace your core while lifting weights, kids or groceries.
3. No spot reduction
Physiologically we can’t remove fat from one particular spot from our body. You can train your muscles and have very strong abs, but you will never get to see them, unless you remove the layer of fat. To actually lose body fat, we need to exercise –not just one body part, but preferably metabolic total body workouts – and eat healthy. Nutrition is the key for body transformation. So the saying “the best abs are made in the kitchen” applies.
(Article courtesy of Susanna Pier, Fitness Director at the Ronald Gardenswartz JCC of Greater Albuquerque)
Health & Wellness information brought to you by the JCCA and Club One
Having a strong core has multiple benefits