Let’s toss in a disclaimer for all the muscle heads in the beginning. I understand that those who lift for a living (they actually receive an income for their performance) will need to focus on key body parts and lift for that specific purpose. This article is targeted towards the average individual who just wants to stay fit, STRONG, and healthy. With that being said, lets dive in.
If I were asked what question do I hear most often, it would have to be “what are some good core exercises I can do”? My answer always shocks the person asking because its goes against conventional wisdom. I always respond, “Squats, Deadlifts, Push-ups, and Pull-ups”! I know that this sounds ridiculous because squats and deadlifts are lower body exercises right? Push-ups and Pull-ups are upper body exercises right? Wrong. If done correctly they are TOTAL body exercises. A push-up performed correctly involves every muscle in your body working together to produce force. The less involved one part of the body is, the harder another part has to work. This effects the overall efficiency of the individual.
A better approach?
I suggest not approaching your training in this manner. Ditch the Ab day, leg day, arm day routine. Focus on a movement pattern and develop that. Get a strength goal and actively train toward that. Pick exercises to do around that primary lift that will help make your performance better. Doing 300 Sit-ups every night is much better than doing nothing, but its nothing compared to a 20-30 yard heavy farmers carry. A properly executed rack walk. A front lever on a set of rings. These are better (less stressful) ways to develop core strength. They also teach the body to operate as a “unit”. One muscle never works alone.
Tension and relaxation
Once these two things are mastered, you will be able to work on your abs ANYWHERE. You must learn the proper execution of tension in order to get the most out of any movement. This will make you engage your core, glutes, lats, etc. at the proper time. Making the movement smooth while targeting all muscle groups to help assist in the completion of the exercise. This is where you want to be. Relaxation must be done at the proper time to ensure the muscle has enough time to recover as well as keep your “chi” (energy) in balance. There are several books on this subject. I suggest reading up further and exploring this topic. Tension is a display of strength, but will fatigue you quickly. Relaxation is a display of weakness, but it is also recovery. Find balance.
More bang for your buck.
Conventional wisdom tells us to get on the floor and do 100 crunches for washboard abs. I actually worked out this way before. I would do “500 rep days” on one muscle. Crazy, I know! I personally think you will get much more out of a compound movement that incorporates not just strength but mobility as well. The 1/4 “Get up” is a perfect example of this.
This movement promotes great shoulder stability with a over head load. You have to keep the core engaged and “braced” to move throughout the “Get Up”. It even involves a crunch in the beginning. Also, you are working on hip and thoracic spine mobility. This is more rewarding than 100 crunches, and lets be honest, its more fun!
No matter what you do, do something! I suggest you do it with the greatest reward you can obtain from your training. Having arm days just doesn’t do it for me. You are training your body to move independently and it just doesn’t work that way in my opinion. Train safe and train smart!