It doesn’t matter whether you have visible abs or not, the strength of your core is not something that can be assessed by how they look in a mirror. In this video, I’m going to show you 5 specific things you can look for that will act as red flags to alert you to an ab weakness that you are going to want to correct. For instance, something as simple as getting off the floor from your back (the right way!) can be challenging if you don’t have strong enough abs. Let’s dive in.
One of the first things you will want to look for is whether you feel your hip flexors fatigue before your abs do when you do any ab exercises. For instance, the ab scissor is one of the classic ab exercises that people of all levels of strength and ability will perform. It involves laying on your back and crossing your legs back and forth over each other for time. When the abs are weak however, the person doing this ab movement will unfortunately feel it in their legs and hip flexors leading to them having to stop because they can’t hold their legs up. Not good.
Instead, you want to make sure the abs are properly engaged by curling your shoulders off the ground before starting the scissor. This will act to engage the abs and stabilize the spine so that the hip flexors can work as assistance muscles and not the primary movers. Having strong abs will only make this easier in the long run.
Next, if you get low back pain during any ab exercises you need to stop and assess your strength. This should not happen. The reason it does however, goes back to the overactivity of the hip flexors. When the psoas pulls unopposed or in a highly imbalanced way, it will act to tug down and forward on the lumbar vertebrae because of its attachment to them. This has the effect of creating enormous amounts of stress and force on the low back which can lead to unnecessary pain.
To fix this you want to assess how you are hooking your feet during certain ab exercises like the sit-up and make sure you instead place the heels over something and pull back. This will engage the hamstrings and help to minimize the overactivity of the hip flexors. Also, by thinking about peeling your back off the floor one vertebra at a time and placing it back down the same way (as if you are rolling paint on the wall) will greatly assist in getting rid of the pain.
Bracing during the big lifts (bench, squats, and deadlifts) is something that is necessary to the proper performance of these exercises. That said, it is something that should be happening automatically almost as a background action. If you find that by consciously trying to brace you don’t just improve the efficiency and bar path of the movement but feel as if you could add significant weight to the bar, then your abs aren’t inherently strong enough to begin with and it is something you are going to want to work on.
The ability to activate the transverse abdominis muscle is crucial as well. This muscle runs horizontally around the waist (much like a weight belt does). When you lack the ability or control to contract it you wind up getting lower abs that tend to protrude despite the fact that they could even be ripped and defined. Learning how to activate this muscle is critical to having strong abs.
Finally, control in all three planes of motion is also crucial. I show you three tests that you can do to identify your ab strength in each. To boot, I show you how the simple act of getting off the floor the right way depends on having good core and ab strength. See if you can do it yourself and share it with your friends to see how they do.
For a step by step workout and nutrition plan to not only get your abs showing year round but make sure they are strong enough to do anything you want to do with them, be sure to click the link below and get the ATHLEAN-X Training System. See how training like an athlete can get you looking and feeling like one in no time with me coaching you every step of the way.
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