Professional secrets for a summer stomach, Part 2

Josef Brandenburg, special to wtop.com

WASHINGTON – In Part 1 of “Professional secrets for a summer stomach, Part 1,” I revealed why “core” or “ab” training should not be your primary focus when working on perfecting your stomach.

In the second half of this series, we’ll touch on how to achieve a safe and time- efficient core workout. But first, I’ll tackle the most common question I receive from people who read my articles on core training: “Why no crunches, Josef?”

Why crunches aren’t safe

Dr. Stuart McGill, an expert in low back pain, studies where low back pain and injuries come from, how to prevent them and how to treat them. His decades of research revealed that crunches are “the most potent mechanism leading to [spinal] disc herniation.” McGill says that the repeated motion-like movement in crunches is an easy way to cause injury.

What to do instead

The real purpose of your core is to prevent movement at the spine — in order to keep it safe — and to transfer force from side-to-side and/or top-to-bottom.

To do core exercises correctly, it shouldn’t look like you are doing anything. But that’s the point: You are working hard to prevent movement.

The four core movements to include in your workout

  • A real plank
  • Half-kneeling anti-rotation press
  • Side plank
  • Active leg lowering

    How to use these exercises

    Exercises are like ingredients: They don’t make meals alone, it’s all in what you do with them and who’s cooking.

    Put these at the start of your two resistance training sessions for the week — after your foam rolling and warm-up, and before your strength work.

    Day One

    • A real plank: Work up to holding the plank for 20 diaphragmatic breaths. (See the video below for details.)
    • Half-kneeling anti-rotation press: Complete eight per side with a full diaphragmatic breath at the “hold” position. (See the video below for details.)

    Do the plank, followed by rest. Then do the half-kneeling anti-rotation press, followed by a 1-minute rest. Repeat two-to-three times.

    Day Two

    • Side plank: Work up to holding for 10-to-15 diaphragmatic breaths per side. (See the video below for details.)
    • Active leg lowering: Complete five-to-eight per side with a full diaphragmatic breath at the bottom position. (See the video below for details.)

    Do the side plank, followed by rest. Then do the active leg lowering, followed by a 1-minute rest. Repeat two-to-three times.

    How to do a plank the correct way

    Half-kneeling anti-rotation press

    A side plank done right

    Core training with active leg lowering

    Keep me posted on how this workout plan works for you in the comments below.

    Editor’s Note: Josef Brandenburg is a D.C.area fitness expert with 14 years of experience and co-author of the international best-selling book “Results Fitness.” In 2004, he started The Body You Want personal training program, which specializes in helping you get the body you want in the available time you have. You can also check out his blog, follow him on Twitter, or check out his fitness videos on YouTube.


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