Planks & Crunches – Oh No!

1-3-2014 6-13-34 PMOften the first question I am asked by personal training clients or students in a fitness class (no matter the age) is, “How do I get a flat stomach?” My answer is, “You have to work your whole body. You cannot just spot train.” Have you ever seen someone out of shape with a six-pack or lean midriff? Probably not – it is the whole package.

Unfortunately, while looking around any gym, you will see everyone doing planks and crunches with the ideal hopes of a flat tummy. The plank, can help tighten your abs (not reduce belly fat) while reducing lower back pain if done correctly. Often people are more focused on the length of time a plank can be held rather than on the form. Crunches and sit-ups, on the other hand, can actually make back pain worse. Lying face-up on the floor and curling the trunk can worsen low-back pain.

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Crunches can place a lot of pressure on the intervertebral discs of the lumbar spine. As the spine bends to lift the upper body, the discs are compressed at the front which pushes the back directly in the hard surface of the floor. This pressure can be even greater for those who exercise in the morning, because lying down all night reduces the gravity’s pull on the body, resulting in more fluid in the discs, making them more susceptible to injury during a crunch.

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The iliopsoas is one of the main muscle groups that produces spinal flexion when pulling the upper body off the floor during a sit-up. Iliopsoas’ main function is flexion at the hip. Therefore, if you have been sitting all days (hips flexed) with the iliopsoas shortened, doing an exercise using the hip flexors makes the muscle tighter and pulls the lumbar attachments forward, causing more low-back pain.

There are many definitions of core muscles. One good definition is “any muscle that attaches to the pelvis or spine.” Core muscles can either provide stability to the spine or produce strength to cause movement at the hips and trunk. These muscles are designed to be most effective when standing; therefore, the best core work is done standing.

For more information about good core exercises, set up training session with Janet Hunt at 256-614-3530 or another certified personal fitness trainer.
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.
By: Janet Hunt

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