Pooch Belly Syndrome
I am 1.57m, 53kgs, Asian, 45 years old, 2 kids both Caesarian (and I am wondering if this has anything to do with my abdominal problem). My diet is fairly healthy, but I am not that strict because I love food, both healthy and sinful. I don’t binge and have a pretty good control over my cravings. I stir fry and eat a lot of veggies, rice, meat, fish, an enormous amount of fruit, not a lot of bread but when I do it’s whole grain. Not a lot of junk food either because I hate greasy food – maybe twice a year
My food consumption is well within my daily quota of 2,200 calories per day, if not less. I hate breakfast, so I drink one serving of whey protein, a cappuccino and one banana.
For my workouts, I run, use an elliptical trainer because of my knees.
Then I do various strength training, mostly upper and mid body since I do a lot of running. I alternate so that I spend about 1.5 hours in the gym depending on the rest intervals. In conclusion, I think I have a sufficient deficit of 1500 calories per week at least.
The big question is: Why on earth can’t I seem to lose that bit of roll on my tummy or get my stomach looking flat? I am highly motivated. I like what I am doing and often come home feeling better than when I left.
Should I resign myself to the fact that two caesarian childbirths make it impossible to get a nice flat (not even thinking of ripped) abdomen again?
I read through your e-mail, and noticed quite a few potential issues that might be contributing to your frustration with your abdominal area. If you
I thought that these were such important issues, that I am going to answer question in detail for the benefit of all our readers.
Obviously, two C-sections does not help and can make things more challenging.
After pregnancy, the body needs to normalize and it takes 9 months or more to get back into physiological balance. This balance is not just hormonally-related
When you have a C-section, the abdominal wall is cut and the muscles are sewn back together. This creates scarring through all levels of your abdominal wall.
This also could happen to the muscles of the pelvic floor after childbirth. When your inner unit and abdominal wall become dysfunctional, then your outer unit muscles which are used for movement (such as your gluteus maximus),
If this sounds complicated, let me simplify everything I just mentioned by saying that an exercise program needs to balance muscles that may have become
Although this may seem like complicated or boring details to you, if you really want that flat and lean lower abdominal area and you can bear with me through some anatomy and physiology, I promise it will be worth the effort.
To get a stomach area that is flat, strong, stable and hard as a rock, you really need to understand what these "inner unit" muscles are all about.
The inner unit is a group of deep muscles that provide the necessary joint stabilization for the spine. If the inner unit doesn’t activate your spine properly, your spine, pelvis and joint structures are placed under a lot of
The inner unit consists of the transverse abdominis, multifidus, the pelvic floor and the diaphragm. Research has shown that the inner unit muscles operate on a different neurological loop than other core muscles.
The Transverse abdominis (TVA) is the deepest, innermost layer of all abdominal muscles. Think of the TVA muscle as your body’s natural weight-lifting belt. When the TVA contracts, it causes hoop tension around your mid section like a girdle or corset. If the TVA muscle does not tighten up and work properly, acting as a girdle around your waist to stabilize your spine and pelvis, you are at much higher risk of injury (or dysfunction as in a protruding abdominal wall).
For example: you bend over to pick up the laundry basket and your TVA does not activate properly. The stress to the spine that follows eventually leads to overload of the segmental (one-joint) stabilizers and POW! You back low back goes out and you’re in pain.
This happens because the segments of your spine tighten down but the gross stabilizer (the TVA) does not, leaving the spinal segments to work on their own.
When the TVA does not work properly, the joints will begin early degeneration leading to many other types of orthopedic problems as well.
To activate the TVA, draw your belly button up and in towards your spine. This activation should be done before any bending over or reaching overhead, especially with heavy loads. A little trick is to get a string and tie it around your waste at the bellybutton level. Draw your abdomen up and in toward your spine as far you can, then let it out about three-quarters of the way and tie the string at that point. It should be tight but really not noticeable. If your TVA relaxes and extends your abdominal wall, the string will tighten up and you will immediately get feedback.
The next inner unit muscle you have to consider is the multifidus. This muscle lies deep in the spine spanning three joint segments. The multifidus provides joint stabilization at each segmental level. Each vertebra needs stiffness and stability to work effectively to reduce degeneration of joint structures.
The third set of inner unit muscles are the pelvic floor muscles. It’s important for the pelvic floor and the inner unit to work properly. In many cases, due to operations such as hernias, hysterectomies and C-section
You mentioned that you were doing "mid body exercises," however, if you’re not specifically working each of these three inner unit muscles, plus the diaphragm, your lower abdominal area will not achieve the strength or muscular look that you’re after.
Let me share a few of these inner unit exercises with you:
– Four point transverse abdominis tuck
Click here for pictures and explinations of the exercises listed above.
In your situation, where you’re eating well, you’re training and you’re highly motivated, another condition could be a contributing factor in your abdominal area not looking like you want it to: It’s called visceroptosis.
Visceroptosis is a condition in which the internal organs have been compressed and displaced by poor posture and the enlarging womb from pregnancy, and this
The displacement of internal organs can stretch the attachments which hold the stomach, liver, and kidneys in their proper place in the upper abdomen.
The long and short of all this is that your insides have to be in shape for your outside to be in shape and that requires exercises that most people are not doing.
You could also look into other aspects of your workout schedule, especially your cardio training. At up to 60 minutes per session, you might be doing more cardio than you need. When cardio is overdone, muscle imbalances or injuries such as knee problems can occur. I would suggest alternating days of resistance and cardio exercise. It looks like you are doing some alternating, but you shouldn’t consider running as a replacement for
Keep in mind, your body can adapt very quickly to an exercise program as you get in better and better condition. When I was training Greg Haugen, the 4 X world champion boxer, I would have to adjust his exercise regimen every 21 days. If I didn’t, he would adapt and stop making progress.
It’s especially easy for your body to adapt to aerobics. When you do too much aerobic exercise, your body becomes more energetically efficient.
So the question is, what is the alternative? One solution is to begin alternating some of your conventional steady state cardio with higher intensity interval training. Interval training is very challenging but very effective, not to mention time efficient and it’s a good way to break a plateau if your body has adapted to conventional long duration, steady state cardio.
For example: run hard for one minute, reduce speed for two minutes, run hard for one minute, reduce speed two minutes, and so on. A great interval program I learned from Ori Hofmekler, author of the Warrior Diet is as follows:
Start jogging on the treadmill at the 7th level for one minute, increase it to the 8th level for one minute, increase again to the 9th level for one minute,
After your interval program, then go on to do your regular resistance training for the entire body or do a simple circuit weight training program, depending on your goals and amount of time you have. Resistance training
Your diet may also be contributing to your abdominal frustration. Your diet seems very clean, but if you have food intolerance to certain foods it will tend to bloat your lower intestines and contribute to the "pooch belly"
When someone has food sensitivities, it’s important not to eat foods from the same source until your immune system has had time to deal with the problem food. This keeps it from being overburdened and leads to a nicer looking body.
The simplest test for food intolerance is to eat your normal diet and ask yourself two hours after a meal, how do you feel. If you feel sluggish, mentally-clouded and lethargic, then the last foods you consumed may not
Also on the subject of diet, you mentioned you figure you have a 1500 calorie per week deficit. Over seven days that’s only a 214 calorie per day or just under 10% deficit. If you have a 2200 calorie per day maintenance level that would put you at 1986 calories per day. Although its not a good idea to cut calories too low, fat loss does boil down to calories in versus calories out and you might need to reduce your calories further. I’d recommend you journal your food intake to be sure or your caloric intake and then test the results of
Last but not least: What is your stress level like? When your body is constantly stressed, losing body fat is extremely difficult. By reducing your stress level
Wow. I think this was the longest Q & A column I have ever written, but your question raised so many important issues and I know that so many people with similar situations will be reading this that I wanted to be thorough
You now have a lot of ideas and suggestions to work with and some new exercises to incorporate into your abdominal/core routine. Still, having a flat, strong, functional and lean abdominal area is such a huge subject that it can’t be tackled in one column. If you want more information including many more exercises that work both the outer "six pack" muscles as well as the
David Grisaffi, C. H. E. K. II, CFT, PN
Abdominal Myths Your Should Know
Developing a great set of six-pack abs is really quite simple once you understand my unique Firm and Flatten Your Abs system, which includes two important components:
1. A workout program consisting of carefully selected, biomechanically correct abdominal exercises, and
2. A nutrition program that optimizes fat loss and maintenance or growth of lean muscle tissue.
As simple as this sounds, I’ll be the first to admit that ab training can be an extremely confusing subject at first because there is so much conflicting information on the subject.
Opinions Are Just That! Opinions
Countless opinions, rumors, and theories about ab training are continually being circulated by an endless parade of "experts" including doctors, personal trainers, infomercial gurus, and even friends, teachers, and parents. Some information is valid, but most of it isn’t. It’s hard to sort through it all, let alone know what to believe. Abdominal mythology abounds, and some myths never seem to die.
That’s exactly why I wrote the e book Firm and Flatten Your Abs: To help you cut through the myths and lies and lead you straight to the truth that will help you develop the type of body that you’ll be proud to show off the next time you hit the beach.
Before we discuss the anatomy and physiology of the abdominal muscles or the actual training routines, the first thing to do is clear your mind of the myths, lies, and misconceptions that have been polluting your brain as a result of gym folklore, false
More bad information is published and told about ab training than any other health and fitness subject, and I’ve boiled it down to 14 myths that are particularly damaging and pervasive. I will explain 3 of them in this article.
Let’s put them to rest permanently, shall we?
MYTH #1: If you train abs every day, you’re guaranteed a six-pack. One of the most common abdominal myths is that training your abdominals every day is the best way to get a small waistline and develop the six-pack look in your stomach. This misconception was probably funneled through the bodybuilding world, because so many bodybuilders train their abs daily prior to competitions. Despite the fact that bodybuilders appear on stage with incredibly ripped abs, their abs come from their diet, not just their daily ab
Daily training is not only a waste of time, it’s an approach that won’t work for the average person who doesn’t use performance-enhancing substances or have a naturally high recovery capacity.
There are two reasons that daily abdominal training is unnecessary and does not guarantee you a six-pack.
First, the muscle tissue of your abs is virtually the same as the muscle tissue in the rest of your body. Abdominal muscles cannot become stronger and more developed without time to rest and recover after each workout, just like any other muscle group such as your biceps or chest. You wouldn’t do 100 barbell curls every day to "see your biceps" or 100 bench presses every day to "see your pecs," so why do the same for your abs?
Second, even if you could achieve excellent muscular development in the abs with daily training, you won’t be able to see your abs if they’re covered with a layer of fat. Daily abdominal training does not burn the fat off your midsection! Fat is lost by creating a
During the initial phase of the Firm and Flatten Your Abs program (Level 1), I recommend that you perform exercises daily for the first two to three weeks. However, these Level 1 exercises are very basic movements using only your body weight, and they are designed to prepare, strengthen, and neurologically program your body for the more advanced exercises to follow.
For the long term, you can get fantastic results training your abs every other day (about four days a week), and once they’re developed, you can maintain your abs with even less frequent training.
MYTH #2: You can eat pizza and hamburgers and still maintain a six-pack as long as you work out right after you eat them. The truth is that developing your abs is achieved through exercise, but seeing your abs is more a function your diet than any other factor. You could have a great set of abs completely covered with fat. The secret to uncovering the abdominal muscles is nutrition.
Theoretically, you could lose the fat covering your abs while eating whatever you wanted, as long as you still had a caloric deficit. However, eating calorie-dense junk food makes it much harder to maintain the caloric deficit you need to burn body fat. Furthermore, eating fast food and other nutritionally-void junk as regular daily staples in your diet will eventually exact a serious toll on your health.
You simply cannot expect exercise to cancel out poor eating habits. It takes proper exercise and nutrition to get optimal results. Go into your local fast food restaurant and look around. How many people do you see that have an envious abdominal region? Chances are, you won’t see any!
MYTH #3: Sit-ups develop the abdominal muscles best. It’s ironic, but the sit-up, which is the most popular exercise in the world for the abdominals, might be the absolute worst exercise and could even be dangerous for some people under some circumstances.
What most people don’t realize is that the sit-up is not a true abdominal exercise. During a sit-up, your main trunk flexor, the iliopsoas muscle, often does the majority of the work while the abs are not optimally recruited.
Because the iliopsoas muscle originates on the lower back, the sit-up literally pulls on the lower back with every repetition, especially if your feet are held down or anchored, or the repetitions are performed quickly in a jerky fashion. This is why too many sit-ups can lead to a strength imbalance between the iliopsoas and abdominals, as well as poor posture and lower back pain.
Some people who have very strong abs and lower backs may be able to perform conventional sit-ups more safely than others. There are also some safer and more effective ways to perform sit-ups. One is the Janda sit-up. This exercise uses the law of reciprocal inhibition, which means that if one muscle is working, its antagonist (the opposing muscle) must relax.
During a Janda sit-up, instead of holding your feet down, your partner reaches around and holds your calves. As you sit up, you contract your hamstrings and glutes by pulling your calves back against your partner’s hands. (You can also press your lower legs
If I prescribe sit-ups, I simply have my clients do Janda sit-ups. However, Janda sit-ups can be difficult to perform on your own and because of the injury potential from sit-ups in general, and since there are so many other more effective exercises, I have left sit-ups out of this course completely.
It’s incredible, but true: You can develop amazing abs without ever
Coach David Grisaffi,
P.S.If you enjoyed this workout, then you will love the workout programs in my Firm And Flatten Your Abs E-book. You can get more information on the home page at:
About the Author:
David Grisaffi majored in physical education and holds multiple certifications including 3 from the prestigious CHEK Institute: Level II high Performance Exercise Kinesiologist, Golf Biomechanic, and health and lifestyle counselor. He’s also certified by the ISSA as a personal trainer and specialist in performance nutrition. David has been a high school wrestling and baseball coach and is currently an independent trainer and strength coach. He has been sought after by some of the top athletes in professional sports including world champion boxer Greg Haugen and professional golfer Michael Putnam. David’s ebook, Firm And Flatten Your Abs is an online best seller which teaches you how develop “six pack abs" while improving strength, function and athletic power at the same time. Find out more on the home page at: www.FlattenYourAbs.net
Ripped, six pack abs may get admiring looks at the beach or by the pool, but in my world as a strength and conditioning coach, what comes first and counts the most is not looks, but function. Stated differently, I’m talking about athleticism. Function is the ability to use those abdominal muscles for a reason, such as excelling in sports.
The interesting thing is, when you train for function and athleticism, the form almost always follows the function. Train like an athlete and you will look like an athlete. Perhaps you won’t build the muscle bulk of a bodybuilder, but take a good look at wrestlers, gymnasts or boxers. There you have some of the most athletic people in the world, and it is no coincidence that in these sports you also see some of the finest physiques in the world as well.
As a specialist in sports-specific training for boxers, I speak from experience, and if you’d like to learn how to develop the punch-proof six pack abs of a pro boxer with the strength and athleticism to match, then read on.
People in the mainstream public are finally starting to realize the effectiveness of boxing training, as the class schedule at your local health club and the DVD rack at your local video store will show you. Some of them are quite good, but most are NOT the real thing. To deliver a punch such as in REAL boxing you need to not only hit hard enough to stop your opponent, but also posses a mid-section strong enough to take a punch and protect your vital organs. That takes a very specific and very serious type of abdominal and core training.
I’ve trained professional boxers for more than 13 years and boxing physical culture goes back long before that. In fact, boxing was one of the two most well known sports in America up until the mid 60’s (baseball was the other one). The old training regimes of boxers still linger today. Traditions are hard to change and this type of conditioning gets handed down from boxing generation to the next.
When I first started, I saw that there was no real science behind what most of the pro boxers did – they just did what everyone else had done before them. There’s a lot to be said for the traditional methods, but with the addition of modern exercise methods and the application of scientific core training, the results and level of physical conditioning in the top pros today is simple awesome to see.
When working with an old school boxer, I implemented changes slowly as I had to gain trust before I could implement all of what I knew. Once they saw the improvement in power and speed they all started believing. The best part is, you can begin to apply some of these training methods in your own workouts immediately, and you can do it knowing that they have been proven effective by the toughest athletes in the world.
Boxing is sport that utilizes different metabolic systems of the body. Each metabolic system needs to be addressed for total success to be achieved. One cannot just have great strength and not have strength-endurance, for example. Strength-Endurance is the ability to contract a muscle system over an extended period of time. This is one component a boxer must train to achieve success. Explosive strength is another component, which is the ability to develop maximum force in the shortest time period. Have you ever watched a Mike Tyson fight? His left hook was what we call EXPLOSIVE STRENGTH!
Also a boxer needs to be trained in all planes of motion so they can produce a punch hard enough to render their opponent un-conscious!
There are many different routines I prescribe for my boxers depending on their starting condition and the amount of time they have before a fight. Each program is thought out thoroughly before being implemented.
For our purposes, I’m going to teach you four exercises that I use with most of my boxing clients which have also been appropriate and equally effective for my personal training clients who are not boxers but who would like the athletic physiques and punch proof abdominals of a boxer.
I like to change routines with my clients on a regular basis and you should too. You can incorporate these exercises into your regular routine for variety which stimulates new progress and gives you a break from the boredom. This core/abdominal program will get your abs rock hard in no time. It creates an powerful, strong core that not only looks good but functions correctly. This program will give you the body of an athlete.
The only equipment you need for this "punch proof abdominals" program is a medicine ball or a deflated Swiss ball (as shown in the pictures), an overhead bar to hang from and a floor mat.
David Grisaffi’s Punch-Proof Abs
(A1) Hanging Leg Raise – Multi-Position Holds
This is a very advanced exercise designed for highly fit athletes. Do not perform this exercise as pictured above if you are a beginner or if you have lower back pain or injuries. Intermediates can adjust the holds to 5 seconds or perform regular reps. A regression to make the exercise easier is to use the bent leg variation with the knees bent at a 90 degree angle.
Perform the movements in the following sequence:
(A2) Swiss Ball Alternating Crunch With Knee Pinch
This exercise is designed to have rotation and co contraction of flexion at the same time.
Note: During all abdominal crunch exercise, place your tongue on the roof of your mouth as if you were swallowing. This helps stabilize your cervical spine.
Position: Lie on a bench with a with a Swiss ball or a large leather medicine ball pinched between your legs
1. With some force contract your oblique muscular system so your right elbow is hits the Swiss ball with some power.
(A3) Swiss Ball Forward Roll ("arms extended crunch"):
Trunk flexion or "crunch" sit-up is the most popular exercise for conditioning the abdominal region. However, if the crunch sit-up is not performed with additional abdominal exercises like the ones mentioned earlier it could have a detrimental effect on your body over time. When performed correctly, the crunch is a good upper abdominal region strengthening exercise. If the crunch is overused it can lead to a more ridged thoracic spine. It also contributes to a shortened rectus abdominis, which in turn pulls the rib cage towards the pelvis resulting in poor postural alignment. This leads to the inability to extend backward, increasing likelihood of injury and poor posture.
Position: Lie on a workout bench. To perform the exercise correctly, maintain proper neutral posture in the cervical spine. Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth preventing shear forces through your cervical spine. Keep the lower back pressed firmly against the floor throughout the exercise.
1. Place your arms straight out toward the ceiling while pinching the Swiss ball between your legs.
2. Moving slowly, contract your rectus abdominis rising up one vertebra at a time. Keep tension in the abdominals at all times. Do not let your chin drop to your chest. A good way to maintain neutral posture in the cervical spine is to pretend your chin is traveling towards the ceiling. Once you have reached full contraction, slowly return to the start position.
3.Once you have reached full contraction, slowly return to the starting position
4. Repeat for the prescribed number of reps
A4) Back Arch
The back Arch is designed to strengthen all the extensor muscles of the body. Note: this is similar to the "Cobra" exercise, but the difference is your hands stay on the ground rather than held free to the sides of your body.
Position: Lie flat on your belly on a mat or comfortable surface. Keep your head in the neutral position.
The workout is circuit-oriented as that is always a good way to develop not only muscle strength and endurance but also to burn body fat. The workout was set up to shift you from burning carb fuel to burning fat fuel. Do this routine on an empty stomach and you will see results in less than few weeks: Less fat, more strength, punch proof abdominals!
Coach David Grisaffi,
P.S.If you enjoyed this workout, then you will love the workout programs in my Firm And Flatten Your Abs E-book. You can get more information on the home page at:
About the Author:
David Grisaffi majored in physical education and holds multiple certifications including 3 from the prestigious CHEK Institute: Level II high Performance Exercise Kinesiologist, Golf Biomechanic, and health and lifestyle counselor. He’s also certified by the ISSA as a personal trainer and specialist in performance nutrition. David has been a high school wrestling and baseball coach and is currently an independent trainer and strength coach.
He has been sought after by some of the top athletes in professional sports including world champion boxer Greg Haugen and professional golfer Michael Putnam. David’s ebook, Firm And Flatten Your Abs is an online best seller which teaches you how develop “six pack abs" while improving strength, function and athletic power at the same time. Find out more on the home page at: http://flattenyourabs.net
Fitness Fads Come And Go, But The Swiss Ball Is Here To Stay
What’s hot in the world of abdominal and core training today seems to change as fast as the latest clothing styles. New gurus, new infomercials, new machines – today’s fitness marketplace is all about “what’s new.” I often write reviews about the latest, greatest ab and core training gadgets, usually debunking most of them, but this time I’m actually going to do the opposite.
As new products push their way into the fitness scene, some truly legitimate, cost effective devices get pushed out, forgotten, or even worse – dismissed as “fitness fads.” Such is the case with the swiss ball (also known as a “exercise ball”, “gym ball” or “stability ball”)
Why Some Fitness Experts Condemn The Swiss Balll
Swiss balls have been around a long time in physical therapy and rehab settings and when they crossed over into the mainstream fitness world, they were probably hyped a bit too much. It’s not that they didn’t deserve the attention, its that many fitness “experts” placed the swiss ball up on a pedestal as the end-all be-all of abdominal, core and fitness training, rather than representing the ball for what it really is – a single training tool among many– just like barbells, dumbbells, cables or any other fitness equipment.
As a result, entire training systems were built around the swiss ball (neglecting other forms of training), and people misused and overused the ball. Some trainers used the ball for “exercises” that were nothing more than circus acts. I’ve seen it all – everything from standing on top of the ball and squatting to bench pressing on the ball with 400 pounds..
As a result of the over-hyping and misuse of the swiss ball, some coaches and trainers have recently spoken up and publicly renounced the ball as a " gimmick." This has caused a flood of emails to pour into my office as consumers and fitness enthusiasts have become more confused than ever.
It’s no wonder: Trainer A says, “The ball is the best thing since sliced bread” and trainer B says “the ball is and always was a gimmick.” I believe the ball is a very valuable training tool and that the truth is somewhere in the middle, so I’d like to help put things back into proper perspective.
Swiss balls are powerful, portable, inexpensive and versatile training tools
I use swiss balls nearly every day in my own workouts and in workouts for my clients. The versatility of the swiss ball is simply unmatched as proven by the fact that I can use a swiss ball to help a 65 year old sedentary woman overcome muscle weakness and improve balance or use the same ball to help a professional boxer build stamina and add power to his punches. I can also show you how to use the swiss ball to develop "six pack abs" as well as train literally every muscle in your entire body.
New Research Reveals That The Swiss Ball Can Make
To give you a research-proven example of just how effective a swiss ball can be, let’s focus on one of the most basic and well-known of all abdominal exercises: The Crunch
As most people know, the crunch is a modified (partial) sit up that involves raising the head, neck and shoulder blades up off the floor. Many personal trainers believe that the crunch is highly overrated and overused. I won’t argue, as I agree there’s a lot of truth to that. However, the crunch can be greatly improved with one simple change: Do your crunches on a swiss ball.
Electromyography (EMG) studies have demonstrated that the swiss ball crunch (unstable surface) effectively recruits more muscle fibers than the floor crunch (stable surface). This leads to greater strength, stability and muscle development in your core region.
In 2000, a study by Vera-Garcia and colleagues showed a significant increase in muscle activity in the core area while performing a crunch on the swiss ball, as compared to a floor crunch. The swiss ball improved the level of muscular activity as well as the co-recruitment of spinal stabilizers. The researchers said:
“Performing the c.url over the gym ball with the feet on the floor doubled activity in the rectus abdominis muscle, and activity in the external oblique muscle increased approximately fourfold.”
Although research results have been mixed in the past, the studies showing no increase in abdominal muscle activity using a swiss ball may have been due to the exercise technique used on the ball, including velocity and body placement on the ball. Earlier this year, Dr. Eric Sternlicht and colleagues at UCLA designed a study to test this hypothesis and they measured for differences in muscle activity while using different positions on the ball.
The EMG analysis confirmed their hypothesis and demonstrated that body position on the swiss ball could decrease or increase the amount of muscular activation. When the ball was positioned with the upper back high on the ball (just below scapulae), the muscular activity was less than a floor crunch. But by strategically positioning the ball so it was firmly placed at the lower lumbar region, there was a 66%, 93% and 104% increase in upper abdominal, lower abdominal and external oblique activity, respectively.
More Proof That Form Is Everything And Little Things Make A Big Difference
For years I have preached about proper form on all abdominal and core exercises and I have taught my clients “little tweaks” and “tricks” in technique that look minor, but which can lead to huge improvements in results. This new research is proof. It also reveals how the ball is a versatile tool for exercise progression: The high on back position is easier, while the ball lower on the back is more difficult, accommodating for different strength and fitness levels. Further progression can be added by using resistance (dumbbell or weight plate held on chest or at arms length from chest).
Swiss balls are only one of many training tools, but in my opinion, when used properly, they are one of the best of the bunch. I created an entire core training system that uses the ball for many of the exercises, I put all my clients on swiss balls and I highly recommend that you use the ball as well. Just remember, the swiss ball is only a tool – it’s not the “end all be all” of core training and it can’t work miracles. It will also not burn fat off your stomach – you need a caloric deficit to achieve body fat reduction.
Use the ball as one part of a balanced training program that includes other tools such as free weights, cables and your own body weight. Forget the potentially dangerous ”circus act” swiss ball stunts, use good exercise form, purchase only quality, high-strength exercise balls, use them in a clear area, clean them often, check them for leaks and I promise you will have a fantastic versatile training aid that will last you for years and never go out of style. Fitness fads will always come and go, but the swiss ball is still a winner.
Coach David Grisaffi,
David Grisaffi majored in physical education and is a certified high performance exercise kinesiologist with the CHEK institute. David holds a total of 6 certifications, he is a high school wrestling and baseball coach as well as an independent trainer and strength coach, known especially for his work with professional boxers and golfers. David is the author of Firm And Flatten Your Abs, an online best seller which teaches you how to lose body fat and develop "six pack abs’ while improving strength, function and athletic power at the same time. You can contact David or learn more about his programs at www.FlattenYourAbs.net
Why You Shouldn’t Train Abs To Failure
And The 3 Keys to Smarter Ab Training
By David Grisaffi,
Author, Firm And Flatten Your Abs
Smart trainees know that progression is the name of the game in fitness and strength training. However, as you continually test your limits of accomplishment, whether that’s reaching a new level of leanness, increasing your muscle mass or obtaining a new strength maximum, you often fall prey to the belief that you must push yourself to the point of complete “failure.” This is the point where you reach a level of fatigue and exhaustion that causes your muscles to literally give out (“fail”) and you can’t complete another rep. Coach David Grisaffi,
To get your copy of the new 2nd edition of Flatten your abs, with 7 levels of exercises and nearly 50 abdominal and core exercises, visit
Training with progression and intensity is important, but unless you’d like to trade a nice set of abs for a bad lower back, I’d strongly urge you to re-evaluate the concept of training to failure, especially when it comes to core and abdominal workouts and especially if you’re not a bodybuilder.
Why do so many people believe in failure training?
Training to “failure” became popular in part, because of bodybuilding culture and bodybuilding gurus such as Mike Mentzer and Arthur Jones, and then the information filtered into the mainstream fitness world. Athletes, who tend to be as competitive with themselves as they are with their opponents, also sometimes push themselves as far as they possibly can in their quest for sporting excellence.
This approach may be misguided and possibly even dangerous.
There may be a small place for taking some sets to the point of failure in low volume bodybuilding programs. But even bodybuilders who train to failure too often may be gaining less benefit than they think, while increasing their chances of overtraining or even injury.
I believe strongly that the added stress of training to failure or total fatigue can cause more problems than it’s worth and the potential benefit is not worth the risk. I have rehabilitated many back pain patients because of their stubborn beliefs in “pushing it to the limit.”
Stimulate, Don’t Annihilate
Exercise places a stress on muscles, joint structures and the entire body. Exercising to failure places extreme stress on the muscles, body and the nervous system. There is positive training stress and negative training stress. Properly applied, training stress is “stimulation” which prompts an adaptation in the muscle – strength, stamina, size, or power. Improperly applied, training stress is damage beyond the point of necessarily stimulation. Even some of the top bodybuilders understood this, as former Mr. Olympia Lee Haney used to say, “Stimulate, don’t annihilate.”
Out of all the muscles and movements in particular, it is very important to stimulate your core and abdominals and not “annihilate” them. Be very careful not to over-train or over-stress your abs and core and this means, do not train your abs to failure.
One of the biggest problems with training the core and abs to failure is that the more fatigued you become, the more your form begins to break down. When your form breaks down, that is when injuries are most likely to occur. This is true for any exercise, but it may be truer for abs and core than any other type of exercise due to the susceptibility of the lower back.
Research by Dr. Laurence Morehouse of University of California at Los Angles found that when doing abdominal exercises, especially sit-ups, you over-work your hip flexor muscles – the psoas and the iliacus. When the exercises are performed quickly (form breaks) or all the way to failure (form breaks), the hip flexor’s pull on the lower back is increased.
When performing your core exercises, always be conscious about form, especially as you begin to get tired toward the end of a set. You should terminate your set at or before the point where you notice that your form breaks in the slightest, and that is usually a couple of repetitions before reaching muscular failure.
Progression Can Occur Without Failure
If you believe that stopping short of failure will hold back your progress, think again. Progress is a function of progression and progression can take place without failure. You can continue to improve your workouts and thereby your physique and performance by increasing repetitions and or resistance or even density… without ever training to failure.
Don’t Teach Your Nervous System “Bad Habits”
One point about proper form that few people realize is that if you train to the point of failure, which leads to a breakdown in form, this can lead to the development of poor motor engrams. Your nervous system can develop “bad habits” so to speak, as your body tends to automatically revert to what you practice the most. If the last repetitions of every set are usually done with poor form, then repeating that motor pattern is much more likely to occur in the future, leading to additional muscle and joint damage.
I design core conditioning programs in a specific way so you train smarter and avoid temptations that lead to poor form and potential injury. And that leads us to…
The 3 Keys To Smarter Ab Training
First, I recommend that exercises are performed in a certain order
By placing the more neurologically demanding and form intensive exercises first in a carefully planned sequence, I help my clients avoid a situation where fatigue and form breakdown would be as damaging. If you attempt the opposite, you increase the chance of over fatiguing the segmental stabilizers of the spine and you produce poor motor engrams.
More details on exercise sequencing are beyond the scope of this article, but you can learn more in my Firm and Flatten Your Abs program and in my Six Weeks to Six Pack abs report (visit www.FlattenYourAbs.net for more information).
Second, I constantly emphasize form and control
Nowhere is strict form more important for your safety and results than in core and abdominal training. The simple advice of slowing down the tempo and focusing on form will increase results and help keep you out of the doctor’s office.
There are times when you may want to perform core exercises at a higher rate of speed with more velocity or explosiveness. This is often the case with athletic, sports-specific training. But speed and form are not mutually exclusive and the same rules about fatigue and failure still apply to explosive training.
I train elite boxers and when they first show up at my studio, they are often set in their old ways of failure, fatigue and overtraining. I’ve seen it over and over again: A new client’s routine consists of “workout till you drop” and then 1000 flat board sit-ups. I simply ask: “How is your lower back”? The answer usually is, “It’s sore” at best, or “It’s injured” at worst. Even if they’re simply experiencing unnecessary soreness, that gets in the way of sport-specific training and their progress is slowed all around or grinds to a halt.
Third, you must get clear about the desired outcome of your training
Many strength trainers and bodybuilders are convinced that the outcome of a workout should be “burn,” fatigue and failure. If you think that aching muscles is the desired outcome, then why even go to the gym? Come over to my garage and I’ll whack you a few times with my sledgehammer then sit you up on my barbecue grill. You’ll “ache” and “burn” alright!
Joking aside, you must get clarity about your real training objectives – they’re NOT pain, fatigue and failure. If you begin with the right end in mind, you’ll set about reaching that end more intelligently.
Your training objective is to strengthen your core region for support, stabilization and protection of your spine and body organs, and your ultimate outcomes are to be healthier, perform better and look better (perhaps in that order of priority!)
These objectives are best accomplished by performing your exercises with strict, controlled form, and by using movement patterns such as flexion, extension and rotation. However, any one of those movement patterns taken to extremes can eventually cause damage to joint structures, which can put you on the sidelines and only take you further away from your true objectives.
Train hard, but also train smart
Progression and intensity are often confused with the need to train to failure. From this day forward, I suggest you re-evaluate the scientific facts as well as your mindset towards your training. Get clear about your true objective and train to succeed, not to “fail.”
About The Author
David Grisaffi majored in physical education and is a certified high performance exercise kinesiologist with the prestigious CHEK institute. David holds a total of 6 certifications, he is a high school wrestling and baseball coach as well as an independent trainer and strength coach, known especially for his work with professional boxers and golfers. David is the author of Firm And Flatten Your Abs an online best seller which teaches you how to lose body fat and develop "six pack abs’ while improving strength, function and athletic power at the same time. You can contact David or learn more about his programs at http://flattenyourabs.atozfitness.com
|How to transform your entire life though exercise
By David Grisaffi
As I strolled down the foggy Tacoma waterfront with Jim, a long-time personal training client of mine, we began to chat about how important exercise has been to him and how much exercise has transformed his entire life – not just his body and his health, but also his career, relationships, self esteem, attitude and everything else.
You see, before coming to me for help, Jim was 60 pounds over weight, he had dangerously high cholesterol and was having breathing problems that were seriously affecting his quality of life.
Jim recalled to me how he used to sit at his desk at work all morning long, unfocused and unproductive, dreaming of nothing but lunch break, and then all afternoon, thinking of nothing but the 5:00 bell and then a big dinner! He did his job well, but not up to his own standards. He knew he could do better.
He knew he could do better physically too. When we began slowly with a simple walking program, Jim blossomed quickly. His enthusiasm skyrocketed and he went almost over night from a couch potato to an "exercise machine" and as a result, his whole life changed.
That is what I call "Exercise Enhancement." Jim didn’t just want a better body, he wanted a better life… and with just a little guidance from me, adding exercise was the single catalyst that sparked a whole-life transformation.
Jim was probably a lot like you. He had the number one excuse for not starting an exercise program… "I don’t have time." I told him, "There are lots of people who have s full time job, have to get children to school or practice and still have time to exercise – I’m one of them! You just have to make it a priority, put it on your schedule and make it happen." I continued, "You find time to watch wheel of fortune don’t you?" So get on your treadmill (we bought one for him) and walk while you watch!"
As we continued to saunter down the waterfront, it was your typical wet, drizzly, cloudy North-Pacific day, but that day was as bright as ever for Jim. Looking back on all the changes that had happened in his life, we started talking about why more people don’t exercise and why everybody who doesn’t needs to start today!
Weight loss is number one on most people’s lists! You have to do some form of exercise to lose body fat. It’s a no brainer. Reduce your calorie intake a little bit in combination with the exercise, and POOF! Say goodbye to body fat.
Fitness is number two on most people’s list. Jim mentioned how he was having serious trouble breathing and he knew he had to do something about it. For some people the moment of realization happens when they have to climb several flights of stairs for the first time in months or years, and they find themselves gasping for air when they finally make it to the top.
Remember something. Fitness is not achieved through dieting. Fitness is achieved by exercising and moving your body. Being physically fit extends your life, reduces heart disease and cancer, increases your brain function and the list of benefits could go on for pages!
The idea of doing something you know will make you feel better is a challenge to some. Some seem intimidated by it, while others thrive on the challenge. If you find yourself procrastinating, or if you are intimidated by the whole exercise thing. Remember that success and achievement are like a big boulder. Overcome the inertia and set that thing rolling and very soon it’s so hard to stop. Accept the challenge, yourself thrive on getting in better shape by setting goals and achieving them. Trust me, if Jim and dozens of my clients can do it, then so can you.
The psychological improvements that can happen to you by starting even the simplest exercise program are still astonishing to me. I watch my clients lose some weight, and immediately I see their self esteem shoot up and I observe them start to feel good about their bodies for the first time ever. I notice them coming into the gym in tank tops confidently, smiling, when they used to stay covered up in baggy clothing. Soon, they begin to blossom mentally and emotionally. Yes, even spiritually. Exercise is good for the soul!
So I say, lets get to work, shall we? Don’t you want to feel better physically as well as emotionally? Imagine putting on any swimsuit you want – even a skimpy one -and going out to a crowded beach or pool and feeling better about your body than you ever have before. Not only can it happen, it will happen, but only if you get moving!
I’m not sure if you’ve ever felt depressed before. Most of us have, but I’m almost certain that your mood has felt a little "down" at times. Did you know how dramatically your mood can improve after an exercises session? Before the workout you may find your "down" mood causing you to think, ‘I don’t feel like exercising.’ But if you get moving in spite of that, you can feel like a new person afterwards.
As my mentor Paul Chek says, "Exercise should be your drug of choice!" But it’s not just the physical benefits – the endorphins and "good mood" chemicals you stirred up – it’s also the fact that you took action, and every time you take action, your self esteem rises and so does your mood right along with it. Emotion follows motion. Remember that.
Even better, exercises reduces stress! Who doesn’t feel at least a little stressed these days? The exact same thing is true about exercise for reducing stress as it is for changing your mood. So I say again – get moving! Get to work and see how it changes not just the way you look, but the way you feel – and see how fast it happens!
Now you’re in tune with how exercise can be a beneficial addition to your lifestyle, so let’s get you started with some specific guidelines!
David Grisaffi’s Guidelines for "Exercise Enhancement":
" Get out there and do it – right now – even if you don’t feel like it. Overcome inertia and get that ball rolling now!
" When you "don’t feel like exercising," remind yourself that exercise is what will make you feel better!
" Do not think of exercise as painful ordeal like the dentist, think of it as relaxation and de-stressing time.
" Not sure how to start? Try combining 20 minutes of strength training two or three times per week with three one hour sessions of unstress-full aerobics like walking and you are on your way!
" Set goals and write them down. I make all my clients sign an exercise contract and tell them to post a copy wherever they will see it often and get motivated by it, like in the car, on the refrigerator, on the mirror etc.
There’s one last thing I want to share with you and warn you about. I call it, "The Fearless HUMP!" This is the bump in the road that everyone hits at some stage in their journey and most people find difficult to pass. It’s when you find a little excuse to waiver from your routine and you turn it into something bigger than it really is. If you’re not careful, that’s when the "boulder" may start rolling in the opposite direction. What do you do? There’s no trick to it – tough it out, be fearless and get over the hump! You must be consistent to make exercise a habit and stick with it!
Get going! Find an environment that nurtures your goals. Find a workout partner near your age, ability and motivational level. If you like to workout on your own, great! Just find whatever special surroundings that will help in your quest for better health. Most important, remember that exercise is a life long journey that will not just improve your health and your body, it will have a ripple effect and enhance every single part of your life… that’s the "Exercise enhancement principle!"
About The Author
David Grisaffi majored in physical education and holds six certifications including high performance exercise kinesiologist with the prestigious CHEK institute. David is a high school wrestling and baseball coach as well as an independent trainer and strength coach, known especially for his work with professional boxers and golfers. David is the author of, Firm And Flatten Your Abs an online best seller which teaches you how to lose body fat and develop "six pack abs’ while improving strength, function and athletic power at the same time. You can contact David or learn more about his programs at http://flattenyourabs.atozfitness.com