A flat toned stomach has to be the most sought after goal I hear from my clients. It seems to be the Holy Grail when it comes to improving our body shape.
When I ask clients what they have tried in the past to achieve these results, I commonly get the reply ‘I do lots and lots of crunches on the floor but my stomach won’t flatten’.
So let’s delve into the reasons why only performing endless abdominal crunches simply just doesn’t work.
Firstly, we must understand that our core musculature wraps around our intestinal organs like a corset so if we have any inflammation in the gut it will switch off our core muscles so our abs will not be able to contract effectively.
Eating ‘dead’ foods like boxed, canned and processed items causes inflammation.
These foods are ‘dead’ as the body uses more energy to break down the food than it actually provides!
We have to remember that it takes life to give life so we need to consume foods that were actually alive at some point.
Performing abdominal exercises with an inflamed digestive system will not only mean our abs aren’t responding to the exercise but also faulty motor programs develop.
Typically the neck and hip flexors get overworked in order to carry out the movement and will ultimately lead to poor posture.
Secondly, all organs in the body communicate through the same nerves that control our muscles.
The stomach, upper and lower intestines are all connected through nerves from the lower spine so if these organs are inflamed then it will also inhibit the deep muscles in the back, which also use the same nerves.
Therefore, lower back pain is a direct result of poor nutrition rather than just a matter of strengthening the core!
Finally, we have to look at how the abdominal muscles actually function physiologically. Our muscles have two types of fibres – slow twitch, designed for posture and stability and fast-twitch, responsible for fast and explosive movements.
The Rectus Abdominis or the ‘Six-pack’ muscle is predominately a fast twitch muscle and must be trained like one.
In this case, we need to recruit these fibres by performing abdominal exercises that are powerful in nature by using heavier weights for 8-12 repetitions.
Doing hundreds of crunches will simply put the abs in spasm and fatigue them without actually strengthening the muscles effectively.
Also, our abs are supposed to flex forward and backwards so performing crunches from the floor is limiting the range of motion of the muscle and really only working it 50%.
Crunches over a Swiss ball are a lot more effective as you can extend over the ball.
If you want to flatten your stomach forever then follow these simple guidelines and you will no longer be fighting a losing battle but losing inches around the waistline:
- Avoid ‘dead’ foods like canned, boxed and processed items.
- Eat foods what were once alive. It takes life to give life!
- Other causes that can disable the core muscles are stress, alcohol, medical drugs, food additives, preservatives and colourings.
- Focus on functional exercises that require stabilisation. Ask a fitness professional for ideas.