Three Tips for Successful Abdominal Training
Updated: Dec 25, 2017
The phrase abdominal training tends to come with a side full of obsolete myths. Personally, I'm not the biggest fan of the phrase "abdominal training" and think there is a lack of full understanding of what should happen during a good abdominal workout. I believe stability training and more specifically, the ability for one to have global and local muscular, sensory, and motor control during tri-planar activity more accurately describes the phrase. This type of training should be sought out to those who are looking to build athleticism, lose weight, or general health. In other words, this goal should be desired by everyone!
Here are my three essential tips to successful "stability" training.
1. Rib Position: Think "down and in" when training to maintain rib position. Two aspects of the ribs that should be appreciated are the left versus the right along with the infrasternal angle. Typically with certain biomechanical patterns, the left ribs tend to become externally rotated and flared. Conversely, a rib hump attributed from internally rotated ribs is usually seen on the right. As a result of the left rib flare, the external obliques become lengthened and pulled into a poor position. The poor position results in inhibition with a concomitant increase in paraspinal activity. Looking at the anatomy of the external obliques you will find that one of the main actions is for chest and abdomen depression (Ribs!) However, your newfound "obliques" in your low back are now your prime movers for thoracic depression resulting in a stiff and rigid thoracic cavity. Secondly, the infrasternal angle should be maintained at a relative angle of 90 degrees. Conserving this angle will allow you to acquire a rotational rib cage while simultaneously creating your zone of apposition (ZOA). A loss of ZOA creates poor diaphragmatic function as well as hyperinflation. Hyperinflation produces a rib cage with the inability to depress along with paraspinal breathing and an increase in neck pain due to overuse. By bringing your ribs "down and in" you are putting them in an optimal position to leverage your abdominal's while reducing the chance of compensatory actions.
2. Pelvic Position: Pelvic dysfunction can be problematic if not addressed during training. Assuming that the pelvis is in a state of neutrality, one must first be able to maintain sagittal plane control. While performing a sagittal plane exercise, the main focus is extremity movement with pelvic stability without falling into an anterior pelvic tilt creating excessive lordosis. In this plane, we want to perform a slight posterior pelvic tilt at the onset of the exercise. This shortened pelvic to rib position will begin to activate the obliques while promoting rib depression. If you do not feel the muscles of your side ab wall engage from the posterior tilt, chances are you created a false perception by either forcing ribs down, bringing knees towards chest, or contracting rectus and transverse abdominis. Once the sagittal plane is obtained the frontal plane can they be challenged . Main compensations that will occur in the frontal plane will be lateral deviations. Moreover, the right side of the pelvis & thoracic wall may try to become hyperactive and inhibit the left side. This is due to the positional asymmetries that are seen throughout the body that should be addressed prior to partaking in an abdominal program.
Lastly, the most powerful plane of them all, the transverse. This is a critical plane to train in when you have accomplished the first two planes of motion. This plane is where you will tap into your rotational power and speed that everyone needs to achieve. The rotational component of movement can be extremely powerful and effective if performed correctly. Ensuring you are following the proper progressions of sagittal, frontal, and transverse will allow you to correctly challenge your body and see continuous improvements.
Key Points: Tri-planar activity with emphasis on sagittal/frontal plane, posterior pelvic tilt, slight kyphosis (rounded) thoracic spine, exhalation for rib depression, maintaining depressed ribs with shoulder flexion
3. Breathing: Proper breathing must be obtained to perform any form of abdominal training. The ideal breath is going to start with an inhalation from a domed diaphragm and continue with chest/posterior mediastium expansion. Upon exhalation, the full amount of air is expired starting from the chest and depressing down towards the abdomen while the ribs are drawn down and in. Throughout the inhalation and exhalation phase, proper rib position is maintained by keeping the infrasternal angle low and the obliques drawn in promoting your ZOA. When correct breathing is coupled with proper positional patterns, proper abdominal training can be achieved.
The three concepts there were noted throughout this article all contribute from one another. If the ribs are remained flared than your ZOA is lost and breathing will become dysfunctional with paraspinal activity and accompanied lumbar lordosis. As a result, these three ideas are pivotal when performing any abdominal exercise. Remember, an abdominal training protocol should follow the order of sagittal, frontal, and transverse plane control. Once each is obtained than more advanced tri-planar activity can be pursued with a strong positioned "core."
Key Points: Initial breath bring ribs down and in, decreases infrasternal angle, slight posterior pelvic tilt, arms remain fixed, abdominal's resist various oscillating motions in sagittal, frontal, and transverse planes.