Nov 08 2012
Having a strong core is vital for a healthy back and sports performance. But what exercises are the right exercises, and are you doing more harm than good? The majority of people who perform core exercises are looking for aesthetic results such as a nice toned stomach. Unfortunately, core exercises…
Having a strong core is vital for a healthy back and sports performance. But what exercises are the right exercises, and are you doing more harm than good?
The majority of people who perform core exercises are looking for aesthetic results such as a nice toned stomach. Unfortunately, core exercises have no effect on how flat your stomach is; this mainly comes down to how lean or how little body fat you have. If you want a strong core to help you perform better at your sport or to help resolve your back pain, then this article is for you! Read on to find out more about what mistakes you could be making and why they could even be damaging to your body.
#1 THE ABS CRADLE
This is one of the devices sold as a quick and easy way to achieve a flat, toned stomach. You are told to lie back and rock yourself to rock hard abs. Unfortunately, like all quick exercise fixes, it has been proven to be 80% less effective than the traditional abdominal crunch! The main effect it is likely to have on the body is over stretching your neck leading to muscle strain & headaches. In the most serious cases it could cause a herniated disk in your upper vertebrae due to the pressure exerted through rocking.
#2 STRAIGHT LEG RAISES
The leg raise is one of the most advanced core exercise you can perform. This exercise barely works the abs at all, but the psoas muscles that attach at the bottom of your spine and your femur (upper leg).
The main problem with this exercise is that most lift and arch their back off the mat as they lower their legs. The movement places unnecessary stress on the lower spine, back discs, and spinal ligaments. This extreme pressure on the vertebrae is specifically in the place where most back problems occur.
#3 SIT UPS
A controversial choice as this movement is possibly the most popular core exercises of all time. I’ve added this as it’s almost universally done incorrectly and for the wrong reasons.
Most people perform this exercise as they feel that it will give them a flat stomach. However unless you have under 10% body fat, you’ll never see your abs! In addition, the rectus abdominals (the six-pack muscles) only activate just as you start to lift yourself 30º off the floor (fig B). The rest of the movement overworks your hip flexors (fig C), which can lead to a slouched posture or even a sharp shooting pain in your groin. Others may experience neck pain as they pull on their head to lift themselves off the floor, not engaging their core.