Are you doing endless crunches and core exercises, feeling a pain in your thighs and in the lower back and not a lot else? Are you starting to find yourself tempted by the infomercial promises of hot abs in just ten minutes a week? Or are you doing nothing, just thinking one day you should get those abs tamed?
Well stop right there! Abdominal training is something we all focus on but it’s very easy to go through the movements for months without actually targeting the right area, which makes for frustration and lack of results.
The trick is to have a background understanding of what you should be feeling and how everything works, rather than just following the instructions and hoping for the best.
What are Abs?
The deep muscles of our lower back and abdominals are designed to provide the main stabilisation for our spine. When we have good support from these muscles we are stronger, less prone to injury and have better posture. However it is a common problem for many people to have weakened stabilising muscles that don’t do their job properly and tire easily.
What’s the problem?
Years of a less than active lifestyle, having kids and having incorrect posture can contribute to this weakening, which we often don’t even notice until we start to get back pain and niggles.
When we have an injury or strain that causes us to stop using our core muscles effectively, our bodies will compensate by using other muscles (butt for example) to take over the load. If we don’t retrain our original stabilising core muscles again these secondary muscles will continue working, even post injury. This will lead to an imbalance over time.
Problems with you abs
We can’t just poke our tummies (though feel free to, just for the fun of it) to see whether we have weak postural muscles but if you do have a weak core you may notice a few things:
• ‘Niggly’ pain or tiredness in your lower back
• Feeling like you have no ab muscles
• Pain in your lower back when you do ab exercises
• Reduced movement when you ‘squat’ down or bend down
• Feeling that you are ‘weak’ in your upper body
These are all pretty general symptoms but you get the idea!
Lack of abdominal stabilization is not something that we can adjust over night or even over time without setting yourself up with the correct core alignment. We need to attack the issue from several angles.
Firstly we need to convince our deep core muscles (abdominals and lower back) to do some more work. This requires gentle persuasion and kind words- stop short of chocolates and wine though. Secondly we need to get the muscle groups that have taken over to do less work. Basically tell them to shut up!! Both these muscle groups are going to need regular reminding before they’ll do this automatically.
Setting yourself up with correct core alignment
Lie with your feet on the ground, knees up. Place your hands beside you and relax.
Imagine you have a plate sitting on your stomach, centred on your belly button.
Imagine there is a marble on the plate.
Tilt the ‘plate’ so the marble heads towards your feet then upwards towards your head. Repeat this a couple of times. Now settle the marble in the centre, as if it’s resting in your belly button.
Your lower back should be flat on the floor and your abs should be slightly contracted. This is the correct starting position for working on your back.
Julz’ Secret of success:
The key is to set your body up into correct alignment before commencing any exercise. We need to understand that if our core muscles are long out of use it will take a few tries before we can find the right position so don’t be disheartened if you don’t ‘get it’ straight away. You’ll need to concentrate to hold the position, you’re abs won’t work initially unless you tell it to.
If you need some extra motivation then head over to www.julzdarroch.co.nz for some exercises you can do at home that are mum friendly.