Monday, April 1, 2013

Firing The Abs

Over the week-end I listened to a presentation, "Core Conditioning Combos", by Sherri McMillan. Sherri has been a part of the fitness world for over 20 years as a conference presenter, an award winner in the industry and author of five books. She reminds us that one of our problems is that we live in a world where we are in a flexed position all day long. We get up in the morning, eat breakfast (easy to flex forward here), drive to work, sit hunched at the computer, drive home, eat dinner and collapse in the Lazy-Boy to watch TV. It's no surprise that trainers see more and more people with backs hunched over, shoulders rounded, forward head and their bellies leading the way!

One interesting fact that she brings to light is that while we used to see this in people in their 80s, we now see it in people in their 30s. Look around and see if you agree. It's a problem that requires more than just an exercise or two and there is not a quick fix. Abdominal exercises are not the total answer, but it's part of the equation. I don't want you to drop to the floor and do crunches thinking that you are going to end up standing straighter with a flat belly. I do want to share one simple idea of hers that everyone can do all day.

Pull your stomach in as hard and tight as you can. Then let that contraction go to about 25%. At 25%the abdominals are still firing. Give yourself a target to do this say every time your cell phone makes a noise (calls, texts, emails) or for some it might be every time you walk into the kitchen. You pick your own "trigger point" that will remind you to pull in your abs as hard as you can, release it to 25%, and hold it as long as you do until you are reminded again. Your core is made up of many muscles including the muscles supporting the spine. The abdominals are a part of that, but not the whole thing.  This is a good place to start.