We’re having a lovely spring snow here this morning. A light dusting is in the forecast, so of course all the businesses and schools are closed until noon. I made the mistake of going to the grocery store yesterday. It is not the mere crowds that I find unappealing, more so just the fact that so many people share this unwarranted (to me) survival mentality when faced with a few inches of snow. There is a mad rush to buy milk, water, a new battery for their generator, gas masks…I guess we all need an excuse to get excited now and then.
But we’re not talking about that! Today we are talking about abdominal strength.
I first started out on my fitness journey almost 10 years ago (when I started doing Pilates like crazy). My whole obsession was about abdominal strength; I was really in the habit of using my abs all the time. I subconsciously engaged my abdominals when I did even the most mundane of things, like, for example, standing up. I focused on abdominal strength during my workouts, sometimes I would wake up and do 100 crunches to start the day. It sounds like a lot but it’s really not. Not to say I didn’t focus on cardio and full body toning, as well as isolating workouts for other parts of the body, but I really made a point to include a serious abdominal burn in each workout.
During these years I suffered from no injury. We could attribute that to youth and a young body’s remarkable ability to ameliorate, certainly. However, we could also notice a decline in abdominal pertinacity in the years following. The process was slow; I didn’t really think I was losing abdominal strength. More that in addition to it I was gaining a charming ‘softness’ in the middle. Yes, charming. But now, suffering from injury on top of injury (just two, actually) I begin to wonder.
I think back to the evolution of my workouts over the years and I began at some point to trend away from my ab routines. Full body training, focus on legs, thighs, arms, some cardio, started to replace the abdominal groove. Why? I forgot about the work it took me to gain it and literally took my abdominal strength for granted. That’s one reason. The second is that full body workouts, including cardio, barre and weight training all contribute to abdominal strength, and I decided this was enough. The moments I used to focus on abdominal strength were focused on full body weight training, cardio, or full body strengthening. These are all great but none of them focus solely on your abs.
So why this sudden obsession with abdominal strength? It’s not just about abs, but has everything to do with the core. Having an active core enables the rest of the body to function correctly.
A strong core protects the lower back (I suffer from back pain).
A strong core protects the neck during shoulder workouts.
A strong core protects the lower body from tension, tightness, and over working.
A strong core enables effective balance.
It makes sense to me; multiple moving parts without a strong center to ensure that they do not move beyond their means is a recipe for disaster. Without engaging the core to draw strength from, the body acquires assistance from parts of the body that are weak or cannot be moved in a particular way.
Let’s unpack that. In plank position, if we do not use our core, the shoulders have no support to draw from so they end up rising up and sandwiching the neck. The neck does not have enough strength to support the body, which can cause injury. Alternatively, in swan (extension) when the back is bending and stretching, if the abdominals are not engaged, the back may bend far further than it really should, also causing injury. Without the core to keep the spine in check and preventing over extension, the spine is naive and unruly, going as far as it can with nothing to keep it in check.
So concludes my thoughts and revelations about abdominals and injury!
Do you agree? Do you think core strength is important for preventing injury? Have you ever attributed an injury to decrease in abdominal strength?
Next time; the easiest and most effective ab workout for an amazing core.