After 10 years in the Marine Corps you would think that crunches would be my favorite exercise, right? Well after a few years of research and learning from some of the greatest fitness professionals in the world, I have come to find out that crunches are the enemy to developing a strong core and a sexy six-pack.
I’ll be honest with you, I thought crunch upon crunch and sit up after sit up would get me a lean healthy six-pack, but all it did for me was give me a jacked up lower back and tight hip flexors, and 100 points on my physical fitness test!
But now that I am much wiser and do not have to succumb to many of the dumb things I was told to do as a Marine, I have learned the proper way to get strong and healthy, and my goal is to share some of the things I have learned and hope that you can get on your way to a more effective way of training your core.
Let’s get started with some of the common myths associated with the core
#1: Sit-ups and crunches are the best for bringing out those sexy abs
Research supports exercises that place emphasis on movement of the lumbar spine may be one of the worst things you could do for your body. Dr. Stuart McGill, a well known spinal biochemist has often cited that one of the surest ways to hurt your lower back is to repetitively flex and extend the lumbar spine.
The rectus abdominis, (your so-called six-pack) is broken up into several smaller segments that are directly attached to your rib cage. When you repeat movements like crunches and sit-ups, you create a pattern of shortening your chest and a rounded posture. Instead of a six pack, all those crunches turn to poor posture, and a host of other problems to come with.
#2 Crunches make me lean and give me a six-pack
Are you still serious?
Crunches do not make you lean, eating healthy and being lean makes you lean.
I worked with tons of clients who never did a crunch and are lean with a six-pack. Trust me on this one, I have crunched and crunched but never produced an overnight six-pack. All those crunches did for me was give me 100 points on my physical fitness test, some tight hip flexors, and a weak lower back. If that is what you want, then keep on crunching, but I suggest you eliminate them from your workout.
So where do we go from here?
Back to the basics! Now, before you give me that confused look like my little boxer puppy Lola, let me explain…
A true plank should look like a person standing up, no hunchbacks, or prone crunches.
I wrote a killer article on 10 ways to make the plank harder. Click here to discover more challenging variations.
After you have demonstrated that you can hold planks the proper way its time to roll on.
Literally, the next part of developing a strong core is the stability ball. If you have not tried these before, get ready for some serious core strength. I suggest starting with a larger ball until you can do at least 10 clean reps.
Start on your knees with the ball out in front of you. Next, place your elbows on the ball and tighten up your midsection (Think of making it tight right before getting punched).
From there you simply want to move the ball forward slowly while allowing your torso to lower to the ground ( Think nose, chest, and hips moving all at once). The key to this exercise is to keep tight, and not allow your lower back to take over. If you feel it in your lower back, you could be going down to far, and you need to start from the beginning and repeat the movement but not go as low. The stronger you get, the lower you will be able to go.
Stability Ball Rollouts
Stir The Pot
Stirring the pot with a swiss ball is an exercise that will challenge you while leaving your abs screaming for more.
Done stirring the pot? Great, time for everyone’s favorite exercise, the ab wheel rollout.
These things have been around since the 60’s, and are great for developing a six-pack. However, most people jump right into this exercise without mastering the basics first.
Once ab wheel rollouts get easy, try the hanging leg raise.
I would recommend adding at least one or two of these exercises to your training day each week. Start slowly and work on clean reps. Once you can do solid 8-10 reps of each exercise for multiple sets, try a harder version.