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Go Deep

January 8, 2015



Truly effective abdominal work begins at the deepest of muscle layers and works its way out.  No matter what abdominal routine you are doing, if you think about connecting from the inside out you will be training your core to work more efficiently.

This is particularly important for the fitness buff that, because of an unexpected back injury, has required physiotherapy to increase core strength even though he/she proudly displays 6 pack abs (is this you or someone you know?)  This is also significant for anyone who is haunted by recurring pain that never seems to completely disappear.

Here’s why:

There are four layers of abdominal muscles; from the outside in: Rectus Abdominus, External Obliques, Internal Obliques and finally the Transversus (please see last week’s Fit Tip “Fight For Flat” for more on the transversus and how to connect it).  Each abdominal layer plays its own biomechanical role.  Outer layers are mobilizers (meant to create movement) and the inner layers are stabilizers (meant to create more structural soundness).

Go even deeper and you arrive at the pelvic floor (kegel muscles).  The pelvic floor works hand in hand with the transversus to create deep core activation and stability.  More specifically for abdominal work, you are targeting the anterior pelvic floor: the “stop the pee” muscles; often mistaken for the posterior pelvic floor muscles: the “stop the gas” muscles.  Yes, blunt.  Clear images are key when targeting deep, hard to find muscle groups.  Check out this great 3D tutorial for clarity.

Before doing an abdominal exercise try the following: RELAX EVERYTHING then:

  • stop the pee (do it but don’t overdo it)
  • sink and flatten the abs inward
  • perform the exercise while at the same time trying not to loose these deeper connections
  • stop and rest if you loose them and then try again

By reprogramming your body to engage your abdominal layers in a sequence that begins innermost,you are helping to ensure that each muscle layer continues to act in its rightful role.  Lack of awareness and strength in the deep stabilizing muscles causes mobilizers to over work, grip and struggle to gain structural stability when that was never their role in the first place.  This can often set off a chain of compensation in the body creating muscle imbalances that leave you highly susceptible to injury.   The first step in attempting to resolve unexplained sources of pain (especially in fit individuals) is repatterning activation from the inside out. You will develop a stronger, flatter core.  You may find sources of pain gradually disappear. You will be less susceptible to injury in the first place.  An added benefit?  A high likelihood of increased sexual pleasure and performance.

So in your workouts today (and always) GO DEEP.  Your body will thank you.

Fight For Flat

January 8, 2015

Fit Tip Friday #2 (3)

It’s simple: your muscles work they way you train them to.  If you want a flat stomach you need to train your abdominal muscles to flatten as you contract them.

One of the reasons Pilates is so popular is that it has become known as the workout that “flattens your abs”.  There is  a very specific way to contract and use your abdominal muscles in this workout.  When you are aware of this you can bring this concept into any workout you are doing.

You will never successfully flatten your stomach with abdominal work unless you begin paying specific attention to HOW you are doing it. Instead of just tightening your stomach as is as you complete exercises, first, you need to think of contracting your abdominals in.  This is so important if you do a lot of abdominal work and still feel like your stomach is “pushing out”.

Breathing is key here.  Use the exhale to think of emptying your lower abdominals of every last drop of air (focus on the area between your navel and pubic bone).  Think of your lower stomach like balloon. As your breathe out the balloon is deflating and the power of your lower abdominal muscles are pushing the air out of your mouth.  As this happens your abs actually contract inward.   Think of doing this before you begin any exercise (especially ab work)  for a deeper core connection. As you progress through your exercises and as you start to fatigue, fight to keep your abdominals flat as you notice “pushing” or “ridging” outwards.  Fight For Flat!

By paying attention to this as you workout you are activating the deepest layer of your abdominal muscles: the transversus.  Its fibres run horizontally around your mid section and the inward contraction is what actually activates it.  If you are doing abdominal work with your stomach pushing out you aren’t actually training your transversus to engage and it is not being strengthened in any way.

Put Your Mind Into the Muscle

January 6, 2015


Think about what muscles you want to activate before and during repetitions and not the muscles you want to stay away from working.

This may sound straight forward but have you ever thought about where your mind goes as you complete exercises?  For example: if you are trying to strengthen your core lying on your back doing crunches (ab preps in the Pilates world) and when you do this you consistently feel your neck taking over, don’t think to yourself, “why does my neck always hurt when I do crunches?”…of course it will work because your attention is drawn to it! Instead say to yourself, “my core is what is controlling this movement”.  You may be surprised by the difference!

Eric Franklin, creator of The Franklin Method says it best, “Where the mind leads… the body will follow”.

It may sound silly to some of you but give it a shot!