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The Proper Way to Engage Your Abs and Reduce Back Pain
Truly engaging the abs when you’re working out and not getting the hip flexors and not getting the soleus and not getting the lower back involved is extremely, extremely difficult. I want to be able to explain in this video, some of the physiology and some of the science behind why you should train a specific way when it comes down to targeting your abs. The abs are not just about the rectus abdominous. You’ve heard this time and time again. I don’t want to sound like every other fitness YouTuber out there. I want to give you my breakdown, what I’ve done in the past and what I think would work well for you.
Now, ordinarily, I’m in the kitchen giving you nutrition content. That’s my jam but, let’s face it, a good part of my life is also about training and I want to be able to share with you, the science that I use when it comes down to training, functional training and actually making sure that I have a healthy body. Now that I’ve got the studio gym, I can start showing you this kind of stuff. If you want to see more content like this, be sure to let me know because I’m happy to do it. First things first, when you’re training your abs, I like to do an engagement series for my abs.
Totally different from what you would normally think. What I’ll do is, I’ll actually take something like a kettlebell or a dumbbell and I’ll literally, just hold it up. All I’m going to do, I’m not going to do those crazy refrigerator crunches that people do where they swing it from side to side but I’m going to flex my abs off and on while I’m holding a weight over my head. You’ll see slightly, flex, relax. Flex, relax. What that’s doing is, that’s engaging the transverse abdominous. I’m pre-fatiguing the transverse abdominous so that when I do go into my ab movement, I’m able to actually engage my core a lot better. I’m not just flinging with my lower back and I’m not just swinging around.
You don’t need a heavy weight. If you want to take a couple steps to engage the abs while you’re moving too, you can. I sort of walk back and forth. This is a great way. It doesn’t seem like it’s doing much but it has a big impact. Then, I’m going to swap that out, flip it up to the other side, same thing, engaging this side. Keeping it nice and tight, flexing a little bit and relaxing. Flexing, and relaxing. All that’s doing is engaging the transverse abdominous, which holds the rectus abdominous in.
Okay. Now, when it comes to training your abs, this is extremely, extremely important. I see way too many guys messing this up. Let me show you something real quick. If I am on a mat and I am just doing a regular crunch or a regular sit up or anything like that, I want you to take a good look at my lower back, look at what happens. If you’re like me and you’re working in an office a lot, you’re probably going to have tight hip flexors and tight soleus. You can see right now, when I come back, there is an arc in my lower back.
When I engage, it makes it really, really tight. You see that constant swinging there. Boom. It’s not supposed to do that. How do we avoid that? We roll up a towel or we use something like this, which may seem like cheating but I’m telling you, it’s going to keep the soleus out of the equation. If your soleus gets engaged, you’re soleus sits on the back, lower back of your body, and it transfers through your pelvis, to the inside of your legs. A lot of times, people think they have tight hip flexors and a tight back, usually, it’s a combination of the two with the soleus.
One of the biggest ways people impact their soleus negatively, is by training without having proper back support. Some of you might think it’s a sign of weakness, to train with back support. No. Whole different ball game. It’s the opposite. Our bodies aren’t designed to be constantly and repetitively moving up and down like that. What I’ll do, is use a pad like this. Now, my back is supported. I no longer have to engage that soleus. I’m significantly stronger. My feet no longer come up. Every single bit of engagement is on the abs where it’s supposed to be. I have now been able to take a regular crunch and make it significantly, significantly more effective.
You see, you always hear people saying, “Don’t do thousands of crunches, it’s not going to do you any good.” They’re right. Because, if you don’t have the proper back support, it doesn’t work. All you have to do is roll up a towel, take a phone roller, take a pad like that, and that’s going to help your abs engage significantly more. There’s one more thing I want to show you really quick.
After you engage your abs, is the only time you want to add added resistance to them. I see way too many guys going straight in to doing weighted resistance exercises for their abs. There’s no pre-exhaustion. There’s no engagement to the abs yet.