I have been teaching fitness classes for over 25 years and I don't remember a class that did not include "ab exercises." Class participants not only want them, they will demand them! I remember a time when class members would brag to each other about how many crunches they could do - sometimes in the hundreds!
We all want that flat tummy and six pack abs because it just looks good. But, having a six-pack does not always mean having a healthy functional core. If you are training your abs for looks you are most likely doing yourself and your clients more harm than good. You may be creating an imbalance that will eventually cause health problems, including low back and hip issues. Remember if you are doing exercises that flex the spine (crunches), you need to include exercises that extend the spine, as well as lateral flexion and extension. A good core program will include all of those movements.
So, what is your core? The core includes all of the abdominal muscles including the outer layer (rectus abdominus and external obliques) and inner layers (internal obliques and transverse abdominus) as well as middle and lower back muscles, the diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles.
To create a healthy and balanced core, it is imperative to begin on the inside with the inner layers. Correctly activating the inner core muscles is not only beneficial to mechanically moving your body, but is essential to overall circulatory, digestive and immune system function and health.
Any core exercise should include breath work which is a great way to find and activate the inner core muscles.
Try this simple exercise:
Prepare - Start on your hands and knees, neutral spine, wrists directly under your shoulders, knees hip width apart. Keep your gaze about 4 inches in front of your fingers.
Movement - Begin by taking a deep breath, letting your abdominal area lower toward the floor. As you exhale completely, slowly draw your navel toward your spine, then hold for up to 10 seconds. Slowly inhale and release to start position. Always maintain neutral spine position. Complete five to ten repetitions.
Going back to basics, even if you're an elite athlete or fitness professional, is always a good idea, for yourself and for your clients.