Fortify your abs from the inside out with these atypical anti-movement exercises.
There is an astounding lack of education regarding the true purpose of the muscles in your midsection, and in the interest of achieving that ever-coveted six-pack via countless crunches and twists, standard workout programming has inadvertently marginalized some vital training techniques that can drastically reshape your waistline from the inside out — “anti-”exercises. Instead of initiating movement, these moves resist it, tapping into the deeper musculature of your midriff, giving you a sixer you never imagined and a soreness you will never forget. Add them into your routine and enjoy greater strength, fewer injuries and a tighter, smaller waist — for real.
Traditional ab training focuses on flexion movements such as crunches. However, your abdominal musculature is actually more complex than the simple six-pack. Multiple overlapping abdominal layers work in concert to help you twist, bend and stabilize in every direction and make physical activity possible. But your abs also have another function — resisting unwanted or excessive movement. This “anti-”movement occurs when your core musculature is contracted to hold your body in a singular plane, direction or motion, stabilizing your spine and pelvis to maintain a neutral position while being acted upon by outside forces.
Training your core using anti-movements is important from a performance standpoint because it improves your ability to transfer energy and force between your upper and lower body by remaining stiff and stable. This translates to greater explosiveness, improved efficiency, faster reaction times and increased speed. Additionally, anti-training helps prevent imbalance injuries, which happen when you’re able to create more force than you can resist. And since you engage your transverse abdominis — also known as the “corset” muscle — in nearly all anti-exercises, you incrementally shrink your waistline over time.
THERE ARE FOUR BASIC ANTI-ACTIONS TO KNOW:
ANTI-FLEXION The act of resisting spinal flexion (folding forward)
A rounded back during lifting is the source of many a herniated disk, and in order to prevent a chronic back injury, you need to be able to resist excessive trunk flexion. If this musculature — particularly the erector spinae — is weak, you may suffer during daily activities such as picking weeds or bending over to pet your dog and will be more susceptible to injury even during passive activities such as sitting for extended periods of time.
Back extensions and deadlifts engage a ton of muscles in your posterior chain — inside and out — and require proper skeletal alignment for optimal muscular engagement and lumbar protection. Training in anti-flexion primarily targets the more susceptible spinal erectors while also hitting your deeper transverse abdominis for spinal stabilization.
The act of resisting spinal extension (bending backward)
Can you do a perfect push-up with a board straight spine? Most people cannot, and this is because of an overextension of your spine, or a sway back. Anti-extension moves do require a contraction of your rectus abdominis, but its contribution is minimal, forcing the transverse abdominis to do the majority of the heavy lifting. Because of this 360-degree strengthening action, you’ll get stronger at handling overhead loads such as with a snatch or an overhead squat while also helping streamline your freestyle stroke in the pool and tossing your kids around without pain or strain.
Training your core in anti-extension with moves such as the crawling plank and banded dead bug will fortify this position, ultimately protecting your spine while improving your training results.
The act of resisting spinal/trunk rotation (twisting side to side)
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July - August 2019