From a physical safety perspective as well, it is important to prioritize your abdominals exercise so that the more difficult exercises only become part of an advanced regimen, when all of the necessary muscles have a degree of conditioning to even undertake these. Additionally, part of your safety consideration must be eliminating completely those exercises frequently performed for the abdominals but which involve outright risk of injury to the back area.
What to Leave in, What to Avoid – From the Chiropractic Perspective
Dr. Ben Weitz, a sports chiropractor who has treated many leading bodybuilding clients at his practice in southern California, and author of The Back Relief Book, recommends avoiding such exercises as full sit-ups, which heavily involve the psoas (hip flexor) muscles and can worsen back problems, and Roman chair sit-ups, which also involve mostly the hip flexors with minimal isometric abdominal involvement. “Hanging leg raises are a very advanced exercise and should be done by only those who already have very strong abs. Otherwise, they are purely a hip flexor movement, which can be very stressful to the back. It is better to start with lying reverse crunches and slowly build up to these. You can use a sit up board and slowly incline the part where your head is until you progress to the vertical (hanging) position,” he adds about exercise modification.
While basic safety is always an underlying concern for sports medicine specialists such as Dr. Weitz, using correct form that both minimizes risk and maximizes results is key to safety in his perspective. As he notes in this regard, “A common mistake with both reverse crunches and lying hip thrusts is to use your legs rather than your abdominals to perform the movement. Many who perform the hip thrusts try to get a large range of motion, (lift their hips high off the floor), by using their leg muscles to achieve this. The hip thrust exercise works best with a relatively small range of motion. Less is more in this case. Another frequent error when performing reverse crunches is to lower your legs too close to the ground, which can strain the back.”
Integrating Form, Movement and Diet for Optimum Results
Continuing to listen to your body even while paying attention to strict form is always of ongoing importance as your ab training becomes more advanced. As Dr. Weitz concludes: “You should try to use strict form and make sure that you feel the movement directly in the target muscles. You should be aware that if you are performing the exercise in such a manner that is loading your spine instead, pain may not occur until you have been performing the exercise for weeks or even months. What happens is micro trauma and only an accumulation of micro trauma over a period of time will result in tissue damage and pain. What can help your back, can hurt your back if performed improperly.”
In conclusion, no program with even the best principles of effectiveness, intensity and safety applied to it, will be complete without a complementary program of diet and nutrition as intelligent as your improved training. High levels of body fat over 12 percent around your midsection will not disappear just because you have begun even the best ab training program that could be designed for you. This requires an equally efficient diet routine – then the effects of your hard work can finally be seen by you and everyone else.