When I was a young lad around 13 years of age I developed an obsession with 6-pack abs. I blame Peter Andre.
I suffered from obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) and there were certain things I couldn’t escape doing. One of my many things was 1,000 sit-ups per day. If that doesn’t sound bad enough, imagine how I felt when I lost count… GUTTED!!! I had to start again.
I remember December 31st, 1999 like it was yesterday. I was 15 years old and my dad had asked me to have a shower and get ready for a neighbours millennium house party. I had half an hour to get washed and ready, but had to complete my sit-ups first, so upstairs to my bedroom I went.
I can’t remember how many times I lost count, but I do remember the pressure I was under to finish up and get ready. It was horrible.
Anyway, I’d lost count several times and after a while I could hear my dad shouting to me. As I wasn’t replying he decided to walk upstairs and into my room. He went crazy at me because I hadn’t had a shower yet. I told him I had to finish my sit-ups, but kept losing count. His reply… “You need help!”
I knew it wasn’t normal, but my sit-ups still had to be done. I then concentrated harder than ever and finally completed my reps. Job done, time for shower and party.
This wasn’t all I did either. I used to have a Gym Body 8 which is best described as eight pads which have an electrical charge that go through them to stimulate your stomach muscles, which forces them to contract repeatedly. Kind of like doing 1,000 crunches, but not.
I would use the pads constantly. One of my funniest memories was me sitting at the PC with these electro pads on, playing Championship Manager whilst eating chocolate gateau. What the hell was I thinking?
Years of sit-ups have caused me all sorts of problems. I’ve suffered from back pain and tight hip flexors. I have a large scar on my coccyx from carpet burn and I’m sure I have permanent ear damage from my old man shouting at me (that’s a joke by the way).
Now to the educational part.
Before I was a PT I used to think my core was abs only. Let’s take a closer look at our core (trunk).
To simply understand what our core is, imagine your body with no arms and legs. Yep, that’s our core.
Our core is made up of 3 muscle layers:
* The deep muscles of the spine (position sense muscles)
* The middle muscle layer (inner unit)
* The outer muscle layer (outer unit)
The deep muscles of the spine (position sense muscles)
The middle muscle layer (inner unit)
* TVA (transversus abdominis
* Pelvic Floor
The outer muscle layer (outer unit)
* Rectus Abdominis
* External Obliques
* Erector Spinae
* Latissimus Dorsi
Abdominal bracing is a great way of activating your core. This is simply done by tightening your abs.
Front and side planks are a good foundation to begin with. I recommend prone skydivers as well because if you work the front you must work the back.
When you are ready to progress try using equipment to cause instability. This is a fantastic way of making you core work harder. I recommend equipment such as BOSU/stability balls and wobble boards/cushions.
Working in all three planes of motion (frontal, sagittal and transverse) is ideal for optimum core function.
It’s worth noting that big compound movements such as squats also work your core.
Core training isn’t all about isolating the area, but I’ll leave that for another blog.
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