June 18, 2009

"I see too many people who have six-pack abs and a ruined back.”

The misunderstanding about the "core" fitness and what to do about it.

32 comments:

k*thy said...

As with most things, it all depends on what your agenda is. In this case, is it looks or actual fitness?

rhhardin said...

Watch for the jogging exposé in the Journal of Bad Knees.

Bissage said...

I lack core competence so the back pain makes perfect sense, really.

Ann Althouse said...

"it all depends on what your agenda is"

No one is looking to screw up their back. This is unrelated to whether you want to improve your looks or your fitness.

nansealinks said...

neptune was better ripped than zeus.

Do whales or dolphins have bad backs or flabby abs? If so, why? If not, why not?

ironrailsironweights said...

Six-pack abs have relatively little to do with the amount of abdominal exercises one does. It all comes down to bodyfat - you can do hundreds of cruches a day, but if your bodyfat is over ~10% your six-pack won't be visible.

If you're looking at men over age 35 or 40, what you'll see are far, far too many grossly distended abdomens. Few six-packs in sight.

Peter

Harsh Pencil said...

Agreeing with iron...,

There's an expression "your abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym."

Shanna said...

I saw this yesterday, but I wish they had said the best way to do Swiss Ball crunches. Do those mess up your back?

nansealinks said...

'Dolphins at a Japanese marine park are going on a low fat diet after developing pot bellies and failing to look sharp in their aquatic performances."

but this is eight month old news.

Fred4Pres said...

I have seen plenty of people with big guts and bad backs too.

Anthony said...

I'm undecided on the whole back thing and whether it's due to some behavioral thing or not. I have the same problems as my dad did and we have grossly different lifestyles: I work out and sit in an office chair all day, he never worked out and did stand-up work all his life. And my siblings, who don't take after dad nearly as much as I do, have no problems with their backs.

Beside, "core training" is out; crossfit is where it's at!

goesh said...

- the skin stretches then sags in time with age so just keep in good shape and don't worry about rippling muscles - then there are all those tats on young people that are going to really look like shi* when they are old and wrinkled and sagging, they'll look like lepors I tell you - ewwwwwwww

k*thy said...

No, of course the agenda isn't to screw up your back. Often the agenda (or intent) to get those 6-pack abs, is for looks. People tend to want results they can see.

This information about the implications of focusing on the front and ignoring the back, is nothing new and it's part of what deep-6'd David Duval's career.

Big Mike said...

This makes a great deal of sense to me. In martial arts we are taught by our senseis to "center" ourselves. I learned how to do it, and could feel myself doing it, but until this report I didn't realize that it was tied to stabilizing the core muscles around the spine.

Now that I'm getting older and hobbling around on crappy knees, I think I need to go back to some of the exercises for the trunk and upper body so I can continue to hold off screwing up my back.

Jason (the commenter) said...

I just draw mine on like the movie stars do. No back problems, ever.

Christy said...

Is the problem ab work or is it ab work done to the neglect of the rest of the body? I've benefited from the ab work my trainer added. But at the first twinge from my back (and I do mean mildest twinge), she stopped me and worked to strengthen my back before we returned to concentrated ab training.

Moderation in all things, unexciting as moderation is. And good trainers are worth their weight in gold.

Freeman Hunt said...

k*thy, you can have six pack abs and not mess up your back, so you could have both agendas operative at the same time. It's not an either or choice.

Henry Buck said...

I think "six-pack abs" should refer to the "grossly distended abdomens" described by iron. How do you think those guys got those paunches?

jdeeripper said...

I think "six-pack abs" should refer to the "grossly distended abdomens" described by iron.

Right. You can get a six pack by avoiding the six pack.

The old guy in the video touched the girl's butt repeatedly.

knox said...

This is making me wonder what six-packs on a back would look like.

The Mother said...

Back problems are a combination of genetics and stress.

You can't do anything about the genetic component, but you can protect your back from stress.

ALL research that I have seen agrees that strong erector spinae muscles (those little guys between and around the vertebrae)are one of the best things you can do to protect your back from the stressors. The other best thing is to work ergonomically--good chairs, good posture, proper lifting techniques and back support.

Exercise is absolutely good for you. The article did not say that it wasn't. It said that you had to work more than just the abs. And you do. You need solid psoas and lat muscles, and you need those little erector spinae muscles.

I don't know which pilates classes the authors have been going to, but mine spend just as much time working the back as the abs.

And ironrails is absolutely right. You can have GREAT abs, but just a little body fat covers them up. Too little body fat isn't any healthier than too much (although we as a society are WAY on the wrong end of that scale), so working to have a six-pack is probably not the best, healthiest goal.

nansealinks said...

what do you mean you can't do anything about genetics?

nansealinks said...

apparently human mammals gain fat for sexual selection and oceanic mammals can have fat to deal with their environment.

so either forget about dolphins, or forget about sexual selection after the age of fifty. Why am I still checking my fat percentages and if i can pinch an inch anyway? Neptune was way, way, way,prematurely grey.

William said...

The muscles shorten as we age. I have had some luck doing yoga exercises to stretch the back muscles. Nonetheless back muscles were not designed to make us feel happy or free.

rhhardin said...

Natalie Tran instructs on six pack abs.

nansealinks said...

william,

i know it is too new agey for some people, but yoga involves spiritual and emotional ties in practicing.

from a yoga website and from personal experience":

Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), is fundamental not only for embodying your spine but for learning to move as an integrated whole. Bhujangasana is an essential pose for developing the strength and flexibility of the entire back, while toning the legs and buttocks, increasing circulation, and assisting in kidney function. Like many backbends, it is a "heart opener," subtly releasing held emotions within the rib cage to bring greater joy within the body.

I have finally learned this step at the edge of the swimming pool.

Howard said...

It's nice that a bit of common sense can be found in the Times now and again. Bad backs are due to two things: overwork (blue collar guys and housewives) and oversitting (homocubicalrattus).

The "core" concept is applied as a pill for sheep to swallow. The kernel of truth is lost in the endless rantings of self-appointed guru's. The core is better understood by the dantian concept of chi gong. The center of the core should not be tensed (as the article says, disc compression results) but remain the calm relaxed center to produce ergonomic mechanics. Practice of Pranayama helps increase control of the dantian.

The weanie crunches recommended are a bit extreme. Doing traditional old school style front, back and side exercises are cheap, easy and effective. The problem is that it involves hard work and independent thought.

Big Mike, get a hold of Pain Free by Pete Egoscue for simple stretches, isometrics and relaxation techniques to help get your knees back into alignment.

Chris said...

Deadlifts are great for the back and squats are great for the core.

EDH said...

What the hell is wrong with having "kegger abs"?

Big Mike said...

@Howard, the cartilage was gone in one knee -- needed to be replaced -- and is down below 40% in the other. But I can walk without pain for the first time in a long time. (Except when a storm is blowing in, then both knees ache.)

Howard said...

Big Mike:

I hear ya. Got 2 fake hips myself (resurf's) Check the Joint Replacement Institute in LA for the latest in fake knees. They now have tested out versions that will rotate some.

blake said...

The Wii Fit is all about "your core" muscles. I never knew I had a core, now it's all anyone can talk about.

Anyone wonder if they're just going to invent new things to exercise?