How To Get Better Abs
Can you spot the one thing that all these exercises have in common?
If you guessed “neutral spine” you would be absolutely correct. In these core training examples you will find that my spine does not arch or bend when increasing the tension and this is a crucial component. The core muscles are responsible for stabilizing the spine and preventing injury under tension. When tension is increased, in this example by straightening my arms or my legs, the abdominal muscles should be sufficiently engaged to resist torque and prevent the spine from moving. These examples of static core training involve great attention to maintaining a neutral spine and substantial engagement of the abdominal muscles.
Static core training differs from dynamic core training in that the goal is to maximize “stiffness” of the core and eliminate any motion of the spine when tension is added. Dynamic core movements are more integrative such that you can contract your core musculature and move through a range of motion. A crunch or curl-up would be considered dynamic while a plank is static.
When performing these three exercises, along with many other static core training movements, it is crucial to perform the following cues:
Brace your core (tighten or “expand” your ab muscles to ‘brace’ as if someone were going to punch you in the gut)
Tuck your tailbone (performing what is known as a posterior pelvic tilt will help to keep your spine in line or ‘neutral’)
Breathe! (learning to incorporate breathing into a brace technique is critical for many reasons)
It is worth noting that in the first two variations the majority of muscle activation and sensation should be felt in the abs and NOT in your back. If any sensation is felt in your low back, a modification to the exercise is encouraged. There are many ways to decrease the intensity of the exercise to allow you to focus on maintaining a proper brace and a neutral spine. I highly recommend that you incorporate these movements into your training routine for bulletproof abs and a stable, healthy lower back!
Have any questions about this circuit, or looking to improve your conditioning and reduce pain? I’m always game to help, get in touch!