Abdominal crunches do not flatten your mid-section. Knowing this has probably just freed up 10-minutes of your workout time. PLANK IT OUT for those 10-minutes and strengthen your core while working multiple muscle groups at once!
Abdominal crunches activate the well-known rectus abdominis muscle, also known as the six-pack (if its definition is visible through the overlying body fat and skin). You can work this muscle to absolute fatigue but nothing is going to happen to the body fat that is layered on top of it (I like to refer to this as the ‘blanket’). Your body can’t take that ‘blanket’ and transform it into more six-pack muscle, nor does it use this ‘blanket’ as fat for fuel for the exercise. Spot reduction is probably the most famous fitness myth, yet we cling to it with great optimism. For some reason, we hope that if we keep trying to spot reduce, or keep doing those 100-crunches a day, it may eventually work. It won’t, so change your focus. Cut the boring crunches out of your workout and expend your energy elsewhere.
FIRST & FOREMOST- DO YOUR CARDIO. Aerobic exercise elevates and maintains your heart-rate in an effective target zone over a period of time (calculate your fat burn zone by first finding your max heart rate *220-your age* then multiple this number by 60%-70% *max HR x .6-.7* The resulting number is what your heart rate should be within to burn body fat). After about 20-30 minutes (every body is different) your body switches from using carbohydrates to fat as fuel, since fat is a better fuel source. Now you are in your fat-burning zone for the rest of your aerobic workout. Burning body fat will allow you to see more muscle mass, and will remove some of the stubborn ‘blanket’.
SECONDLY, STRENGTHEN YOUR CORE. The muscles of your core are deeper and more important than just the rectus abdominis. Your core is your foundation of strength. These muscles connect the upper and lower body, and, like a chain, you are only as strong as your weakest link. Core muscles keep your spine and pelvis in proper alignment while you work and play, providing stamina and preventing injury so you can work and play harder.
If you’re still attached to the idea of spot reduction, know that core strength can affect the appearance of your waistline. Strong muscles in your core, as well as other key upper and lower body muscles, enable better posture when standing and sitting, giving the illusion of a trimmer tummy. Strengthening your core also ignites your ‘inner corset’ pulling you into a beautiful hourglass figure!
As a Personal Trainer, I personally believe that PLANKS ARE HIGHLY UNDERRATED. Any backlash or boredom regarding planks is probably the result of doing them incorrectly. A lot of people think it’s an easy exercise, so they don’t keep their pelvis in a neutral position (it’s either too high or too low). They also don’t keep their shoulders aligned and retracted, allowing the shoulder blades to wing up, and don’t fully engage the transverse abdominus and glutes at the same time. So how do you know if you’re doing them wrong? If you’re feeling the burn in your lower back and arms and not through your core, glutes, and quads.
PLANK IT OUT PROPERLY (Now that’s a mouthful!):
- Assume the plank, or “pre push-up” position.
- Make sure your hands are placed shoulder-width apart and in line with your shoulders.
- Make sure your feet are hip-width apart.
- Make sure your spine is in a neutral position (no peaks or pikes with your booty!)
- Make sure you are contracting your core, your glutes, and your quads.
- Always keep your neck/head neutral (think of keeping your spine in a straight line)
The FUN thing about planks is that there are so many VARIATIONS and so many different positions you can do to isolate different muscles! But I think that deserves it’s own post!
PLANK IT OUT, you won’t be disappointed with the results… I promise!