We do not train the abs for them to get shredded.
Defined abs are a function of nutrition, first and foremost. If you are not happy with the current state of your midsection, something has to change.
This might mean some kind of dietary changes that might not be one of the most fun things in the world. Not ready for this kind of change? Then neither is your body.
Visible abs starts with a low body fat. That means if you cannot see your abs, fat loss is in order. Once you can start to see them, ab work becomes a little bit more involved. But it is really still a nutrition problem.
That might be a little bit of tough love but this idea has not left most people’s thought process.
Everyone has a six pack deep down, it is just covered by body fat. The muscles could grow and get stronger but they would still be covered. We have to remove the fat. The best way to do that is nutrition.
I had a teacher in college give me a good analogy. Let’s say you go on a cruise for 10 days and eat nothing but buffets. You are going to gain weight but where, specifically, is it going to go? Face, midsection, hips, arms, etc.? We do not know exactly where it’s going to go.
Fat loss happens in a similar way. Doing ab exercises doesn’t mean we are going to lose weight from the midsection. People will actually see their first fat loss changes in their neck/face. You cannot target fat loss in a given body part.
You can target muscular strength and hypertrophy but I have already gotten too far off topic.
The real purpose of core training is to hold the spine in a neutral position. The spine has muscles pulling on it in all directions. Similar to a bridge with support cables. Everything pulls evenly to distribute the support. If one side breaks then the other side is going down.
When we are training for core stability there are a few steps we can use to lock the spine into place and move with that stability.
- Find neutral
A lot of people walk around without a neutral posture. People who sit a lot tend to have a rounded back and people that are on their feet most of the time tend to have a large arch in their back. Neither of these are neutral. They are probably resting posture for that individual but it is not ideal.
A good way to find neutral is to get on all fours. Next, follow this sequence: arch, round, arch, find the middle ground. That middle ground is neutral and it may feel hard to hold.
- Lock neutral in
Once we have neutral it has to be locked in by bracing the core muscles.
The abdominal brace is firing all of the muscles that surround the spine while still being able to breathe. Think about getting punched in the stomach. You would tighten the muscles to brace the punch. That is what we are looking for.
Brace then breathe and hold.
We have found neutral and locked it in so the last step is to move with a neutral spine. This can be hard for some people.
I like to start with just a reach from the all fours position. We can then move on to extending one leg straight back. It lastly would turn into a birddog.
These 3 steps teach us how to brace, breathe, and move with a neutral spine. This is important for core training because poor posture makes a broken link between upper and lower body.
If we are not creating a stable platform to transfer energy from lower to upper then there is no point to what we are doing.
Following these 3 steps will help you get the most out of core training. Just don’t expect it to hand over a six pack.