My first job in fitness was in a large Y which offered many group exercise classes and for the most part, served its members well. But I now work with two physical therapists and many of our new clients come to us because they’ve been injured in group classes. Unfortunately, I’ve observed classes where students repeatedly pull on their heads and necks to initiate crunches. I’ve seen exercisers struggle to hold planks and hurt their shoulders and backs. Here are a few things to think about when it comes to training your abs.
- The space between the vocal chords can close during crunches forcing pressure down to the abdomen (causing it to stick out) or to the pelvic floor. Repeated pressure on the pelvic floor can eventually contribute to incontinence. And by the way, men do have a pelvic floor.
- According to the New York Times (“Forget About Crunches, Here’s How to Protect Your Back”, 6/28/2011) there are 1.5 million vertebral fractures diagnosed every year in the U.S. Crunches can put exercisers at risk for these spinal fractures.
- Planks on the floor can be effective if you can maintain good form. To regress a plank, elevate your upper body by putting your elbows and forearms on a weight bench or massage table with feet on the floor. If this is still too difficult, get a physical therapist or a trainer to help you with some appropriate alternatives.
Takeaway: One of the best ways to get a flat belly is to eat a balanced diet and reduce your overall body fat. And please don’t tolerate urge or stress incontinence. A good source of help (besides appropriate medical care and possibly physical therapy) is the Total Control Program - http://www.totalcontrolprogram.com/. They’ve got a DVD with some very effective exercises and information about classes as well.