They don't do core workout exercises, but still, many wish they had ripped ab muscles while their belly is unfortunately everything but flat, let's say.
The thing is, having ripped abs is something that goes beyond personal appearance gratification.
One of the big advantages of doing the correct core workout exercises is that it can benefit your back and greatly improve posture, if done with the due precautions
said Dr. Gianfranco Beltrami in a recent interview. He is a sport doctor and a teacher at an Italian university.
What Are the Correct Rules to Follow When it Comes to Core Workout Exercises?
Abdominal muscles are composed of four different muscles:
- Rectus abdominis: located along the front of the abdomen. This is the most well-known abdominal. Often referred to as the six pack.
- External abdominal oblique: located on the side and front of the abdomen.
- Internal abdominal oblique: located under the external obliques, running in the opposite direction.
- Transverse abdominis: located under the obliques, it is the deepest of the abdominal muscles and wraps around your spine for protection and stability.
All of them need to be trained to build a strong core, and don't forget to do lumbar exercises in order to create a balance and improve the whole core stability.
The trick is to perform the core workout exercises in the correct form, so you don't overload your back and keep back muscle pain away.
Fore example, be careful with those exercises that are supposed to work your abs, but actually put a lot of stress on the hip flexor muscles.
Unwittingly, this can cause muscle imbalances with possible negative effects on posture.
You also need to breathe with the right rhythm, exhaling deeply during the active phase of the movement (like I always advise), so that the diaphragm does not impede the work of the abdominals, which are also expiratory muscles.
Finally, a slow and controlled execution of the exercises (all exercises to be honest) is highly recommended.
Can We Also Get a Flat Belly This Way?
Well, the presence of belly fat depends on several factors, starting from genetics.
I know people that, just by nature, tend to build belly fat (fat between the skin and the abdominal muscles) and people that are ripped without doing any core workout exercises.
That's just how their metabolism is, unlucky the ones, lucky the others I guess.
But belly fat depends also on hormones, diet and life style.
This is why to get a flat belly it's not enough if you just do targeted exercises for abs. In fact, you need to add some cardio activity to help burn the excess fat.
And, of course, you don't want to waste all the work by following an unhealthy diet and eating junk food, right?
Ideally, you should follow a Mediterranean diet, with high consumption of fruit, vegetables and cereals, fish and legumes. Plus, not much meat and low fats.
Do I Have to Exercise Every Day?
It depends on your level of experience. For beginners it is enough to train three times a week (every other day).
Typically, a Monday-Wednesday-Friday type of thing.
If you already work out regularly, you can even do these core workout exercises every day, maybe trying exercise variations. An idea could be using the Swiss ball (but we better know it simply as exercise ball).
The exercise ball allows you to do ab workouts with a wider range of movement than other traditional crunches on the ground, for example, and, this is great benefit...it doesn't affect back muscles.
Besides, you activate the agonist and antagonist muscles that, working in sync to rebalance the small movements of the ball, will improve your balance.
It is no coincindence that exercise balls were initially created for rehabilitation purposes. In fact, the exercise ball can help those with balance disorders and neurological/orthopedic problems.
Finally, Is It Better to Do More Sets or More Reps?
Generally, I recommend doing 3 sets for each exercise with 1 minute rest between sets (click here to read more about sets & reps).
In this case, for core workout exercises, each set should consist of 15/20 to 50 reps, depending on your training level.
At the beginning 15/20 reps will feel like a huge workout, but it doesn't take too long to build up endurance with abs workout.
If after a while you want to increase the intensity, it is better to gradually increase the number of reps rather than the number of sets.
Sometimes at the gym you see guys doing core workout exercises with extra resistance (weights or cable), but again, beginners should avoid that
What Are the Best Core Workout Exercises That Don't Hurt My Back?
As you may know if you've ever tried, sit ups done on the ground can really heart your back. They are not dangerous for your back, don't worry. But it hurts while you do sit ups anyway.
Same way, there are other exercises that are not too comfortable for the lower back.
In my experience, here are a few ab exercises that are quite good and safe:
- Exercise ball crunches
- Exercise ball planks
- Ab wheel crunches
Generally speaking though, the range of the movement plays an important role in preserving your back from hurting.
Take crunches for example.
You don't need to crunch all the way to your knees, because only the first part of the movement really works your abs. After that, your back and the hip flexors will be solicited.
Let's see which core workout exercises target the four abs areas:
- Rectus abdominis: crunches and lying leg raises
- External abdominal oblique: hip twists (lay on your back, raise and bend your legs, and twist left and right)
- Internal abdominal oblique: dumbbell side bends
- Transverse abdominis: planks and stomach vacuum
There are four points to keep in mind:
- Work out all the four ab muscles areas: see above in this article
- Perform the exercises in the correct form: avoid overloading the spine. Some core workout exercises can be bad for that reason, and several put quite some stress on the hip flexors
- Breath correctly: abs can get maximum contraction while you exhale. During the active phase of the core workout exercises remember to exhale all the air
- Control the movements: ab are muscles composed of slow contraction fibers. Slow execution is therefore better in this case
Finally, I recommend reading the alternatives to sit ups if your back hurts.
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