Welcome back! Please settle in and get ready to enjoy the third episode of #abs: The Money Muscles. A few of you after reading part 2 have let me know you intend to take the training of your transverse abdominis more seriously, and I have to admit just hearing your intentions brought me a lot of happiness. The reason being is that I can promise you that you will see improvements in all areas of your training as your core becomes stronger, and when you improve-I’m happy! I feel that if I can help you to make continued progress through these articles, then that alone is reason enough to motivate me to bring you more knowledge that you can apply to take your training even further. I have said this before, but in life and in training we are all in this together, so let’s all be the best that we can be!
When we last left off, we had discussed how to train each abdominal muscle individually, while ultimately recognizing that the most effective method of training this group of muscles is to do so as if they are a single unit. Before I get to how I do my own abdominal specific training on a daily basis, I want to expand a little bit more on the chief function of the abdominal muscles, which is stability. Taking the abdominal muscles role of stability and putting them into action without specifically targeting them is a great method to achieve the result of them all working together. When we do larger free weight movements where the core is forced to stabilize the spine, then we encourage the natural transfer of power from the core to the limbs. In order to challenge the muscles that are in charge of stabilizing us like in this example, it makes the most sense to remove anything that will assist in stability. Allow me to explain further, as this is step one in my personally preferred core training plan.
When using a bench to perform military presses, or bench presses, just to give a couple of examples, your body is braced against the bench. This is doing the majority of the work that your core would have to do, not to mention your legs and the muscles stabilizing your shoulder blades. If you want to increase strength, then you have to increase overall strength. If you want to increase overall strength, that increase starts at your core. You want to kill two birds with one stone? Get rid of the bench.
I am in no way suggesting that you should never use a bench. I am suggesting that when you are training your chest, or your shoulders to continue with the examples given above, then you have to spend at least half of your training not being artificially stabilized. In the case of the military press, simply do the press standing. You can turn that into a push press where you dip slightly and drive through your legs to help to increase the action of the transfer of power. If you are pressing behind your neck while braced against a bench as a traditional military press is performed, you can begin the push press from the standing position at your front delts, but finish with it over and behind your head, squeezing the traps to stabilize your upper back. That is where the additional stability for the exercise is needed, as well as your entire core, and your legs. So in short, that shoulder and triceps exercise has now magically transformed into a complete body exercise that leans heavily on core contraction to ensure spinal stability.
The same goes for the chest press. Using dumbbells while lying with your shoulder blades on an exercise ball also will remove the stability of the bench. Now we are forced to raise our core as there is no bench to rest our glutes on, and hold our core very tight or we are going to roll off of the ball. If you want to take this one step further, try it with just one, very heavy dumbbell. The first time you do be careful you don’t go flying off of the ball because you may not be used to it. Your abdominal muscles will be working overtime just to keep you on that ball, and you have to press the one heavy ‘bell which will further put you off balance. My partner Ryan and I usually do these exercises in a circuit that will include the bench version as well, so the best of both worlds can be had.
Other exercises to consider when training for core strength are the simple, basic exercises that you have to provide the stability for. Squats and deadlifts are great core exercises as are the Olympic lifts. Chin ups and pull ups are also extremely good for training the abdominal muscles. Just be sure to hold your low back in its natural arch and do not swing at all. Keep your body straight as you go up and down. You are going to want to swing and that is natural, so you need a strong core to prevent that forward momentum.
Lastly before I get into my core specific training regimen, I was talking on twitter last night to someone named Roy Spiekerman III. We had a really interesting chat by way of 140 characters or less, which is a great way to keep conversations flowing and even I might add. We talked quite a bit about his lengthy gymnastics background that he has parlayed into all-star cheerleading. Please excuse my lack of knowledge on the sport so I can’t really expand on it at this point, but I intend to learn more after hearing about some of his training history. Roy does 10 sets of 10 standing tucks as a part of his core training! Standing tucks are backflips in case you aren’t aware. I was blown away by the sheer athleticism of such an idea, and to be honest have never heard of such a thing being performed as an exercise.
This has started my overly active mind down the path of thinking of other less than common core exercises. You can bet I’ll get back to you at some point with my progress on that. For now though, I am in now way suggesting that learning to do standing tucks is a necessary step in building a strong core, but I found the idea so intriguing that I thought it was worth the detour, as I wanted to share this with you all. I hope to have more to report on gymnastic training that can be applied to our programs at a later date. Stay tuned!
Getting to my own core specific training, or the loose translation of it because my partner Ryan never seems to do the same thing twice. When it comes to these combinations it’s totally his domain. Or dominion of pain would be a more accurate description. The basic premise of our system is to break the training into three parts. I’ll start with everyones favorite, plank day. On this day a ten minute plank is always involved. Make sure the whole time to try and pull your belly button in as far as you can to engage the transverse abdominis when you are doing them, by the way. The ten minute plank is really a combination of many planks. These plank days involve side planks, push up planks, plank suicides, alternating leg raises, superman planks, side crunch while in side plank, knee to opposite elbow plank and on and on goes the drill for ten agonizing minutes. If there was only one exercise I ever were to perform again, this would be it. There isn’t one that is a truer test of strength and mental toughness, and the resulting core strength is incredible.
Moving on to day two, the emphasis shifts from the stability dominant transverse abdominis and the inner oblique muscles used in day one, to the more superficial muscles of the the outer oblique and the rectus abdominus that will now be tested on day two. This is where contraction of these muscles will be the focus as exercises such as crunches, weighted supermans, leg raises, side crunches, Turkish get ups, Russian twists, hip raises, side leg raises to crunch and all manner of spinal flexion and rotation are involved.
Day three is sort of a merging of the two days. It’s the day that tests our core stability in a functional manner as the exercises all involve mobility. Exercises such as bosu ball mountain climbers, bicycle on the bosu ball, exercise ball pushups and plank rollouts, burpees to chin ups or pull ups, cable chops, and medicine ball chops while jumping forward with each chop in one direction while medicine ball frog jumping back in the other direction. This is actually kind of fun, although don’t let me let you believe it is any easier than the other days.
The combinations of these drills that happen every day seem to be endless, but that’s Ryan’s method. The constant evolution of the training stimulus. The general guideline is that each drill last roughly ten minutes and of course is continuous. There is no rest in our training, and we’re happy to keep it that way. When you combine these core specific drills with the general core reliant exercise that also happen each day, you can see how the emphasis on our training revolves around core building. We still squat, deadlift, bench and row, but there is always an eye looking toward strengthening our core.
These three article in #abs: The Money Muscles have dealt with everything from the muscles of the abdomen, their function, and how to effectively train them whether it be through targeted core training, or by ancillary means through the necessary stabilizing of the spine when engaging in full body movements. All three articles have dealt with the building and strengthening of the core muscles. Nothing has yet been said on how to get these muscles to show themselves however, but on Friday I’ll begin getting into looking at effective fat loss techniques. I’m going to be featuring fat loss as a regular Friday tradition for a while. It seems there is so much to learn and to share when it comes to the art and methods used to get lean. I look forward to talking about that more with you. So let’s all meet here again tomorrow shall we, but until then my friends,
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