You’ve done a million crunches, planks and ab workouts, but it seems like you aren’t getting any closer to getting that strong core that you’d like to have. While it’s true that “abs are made in the kitchen,” and eating a nutrient-dense whole foods diet will go a long way to getting you there, what if there were one crucial adjustment you could make RIGHT NOW to make every exercise you do significantly more effective? It turns out there is, and if you’re not employing the technique below, you might be not only wasting your time, you may be putting too much strain on your lower back rather than the muscles you’re trying to strengthen.
It’s all about ACTIVATION, and if the right muscles aren’t being activated, you’re not getting the job done. For any core exercise (or any exercise you do for that matter), you’ll need to learn how to pre-activate the muscles you’re targeting by contracting and loading your weight on to those specific areas of your core PRIOR to performing the exercise. If you’re able to do this effectively, you’ll no longer just be going through the motions… you’ll be making a major impact on your strength with every single repetition.
Let’s take a look at how this translates just with a basic crunch:
With a basic crunch targeting upper abdominal, you’re laying with your back on the floor with your knees bent and your hands gently on your ears to support your head. Before you do anything, close your eyes. This effectively shuts off one of your senses to allow you to focus in even better on your mind-muscle connection. Then, activate your upper abdominal muscles by lifting your shoulders off the floor just a little bit, but really see if you can feel the weight on your upper ab muscles. If you can keep going while maintaining this sensation, continue to perform the exercise, really squeezing every bit of those ab muscles. If you can’t feel the sensation, return to the floor and continue to practice until you can really connect your mind with those muscles. After you’ve reached the top of your crunch, don’t just let go and drop back down…really resist and let yourself down slowly, really feeling those muscles work every inch.
So in essence, it goes something like this:
- Activate your upper abs by lifting off the shoulders a bit, find that mind-muscle connection and really feel it first.
- Perform the concentric (shortening contraction) movement, taking about 1 second until the squeeze and pause on the top.
- Before releasing to perform the eccentric movement, let go a little bit… but pause again in the mid-air making sure the weight is still on your upper abdominal muscles.
- Take 2 seconds resisting slowly back down to starting position.
This strategy can easily translate to any core movement, whether it’s an oblique twist, a plank variation, or anything in between. If you’re really diligent about performing the exercise in this way, you’ll truly maximize every second of your workout!