Friday, September 14, 2012

Want A Stronger Core?

Thus began an article from a publication from Harvard Med School - what do they mean?
Sit-ups once ruled as the way to tighter abs and slimmer waistline, while "planks" were merely flooring. Now planks — exercises in which you assume a position and hold it — are the gold standard for working your core, while classic sit-ups and crunches have fallen out of favor. Why the shift?
One reason is that sit-ups are hard on your back—literally, by pushing your curved spine against the floor, and also by working your hip flexors, the muscles that run from the thighs to the lumbar vertebrae in the lower back. When too strong or overly tight, hip flexors tug on these vertebrae, which can be a source of lower back discomfort.
Second, planks recruit a better balance of muscles on the front, sides, and back of the body than sit-ups, which target just a few muscles. Remember, your core goes far beyond your abdominal muscles.
Finally, activities of daily living, as well as sports and recreational activities, call on your muscles to work together, not in isolation. Sit-ups or crunches strengthen just a few muscle groups. Through dynamic patterns of movement, a good core workout helps strengthen the entire set of core muscles—the muscles you rely on for daily activities as well as sports and recreational activities.

This stuff is all true, so hats off to those that are catching up with what should have been obvious for a long time.  I still do situps in CrossFit WODs, but think of them as a metabolic conditioning tool vice a method for achieving core strength.

I've been working on an article for the CrossFit Journal for many, many months, which uses simple models to describe how the structures of the torso combine to contribute to the best midline stability; hoping to finish this week.  The BLUF:  the design compromises inherent in the human design are significant challenges to maintaining a stable torso under a load.  Being able to maintain a stable torso under a load requires skill and practice, but it applies to many, many human movements.

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