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The Abdominal Exercise Myths – 3B “Crunch-FREE Exercises for Rock Hard Abs & a Solid Steel Spine!” September 20, 2009

Posted by fitmontclair in Abdominal Training, Fat Loss, Group Exercise, Health & Exercise, Injury Prevention, Nutrition, Organic Food & Farming, Women's Health.

Hi All,

I hope you are enjoying the great weather this weekend! I want to thank everyone who faxed in their opposition to HR 2749 & S 510 and if you haven’t PLEASE DO SO NOW!!!! (Read the previous 3 posts on how important an issue this is!!)

Saving local farms and preserving non-GMO foods is critical to the function & appearance of the abdominal wall. Food with chemicals, additives, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and colorings disrupt abdominal function. This leads to swelling, bloating, and abdominal distention – NO amount of exercise, even correct exercises can fix or reduce this condition! – There will be more on this later including scientific references, pictures & diagrams. Here are 2 medical text books that will help you understand the TRUE effect of nutrition on the body (I will have many more coming up in Part 4):

[Click on the title of the books to view or download the entire book for FREE!]

Symptoms of Visceral Disease – A Study of The Vegetative Nervous System and It’s Relationship to Clinical Medicine – Francis M. Pottenger, Sr. M.D.

The Abdominal and Pelvic Brain with Automatic Visceral Ganglia – Byron Robinson M.D.

So now on to Crunch-FREE exercises (finally!):

First, I must state again that this information is for EDUCATIONAL purposes and NOT to be considered any form of: medical treatment, physical therapy, exercise instruction, or personal training!

I strongly believe ANY exercise given without an assessment of your: health history, injury history, posture, movements, coordination, balance, strength, and flexibility is unprofessional, reckless, stupid and dangerous!!! –  The really scary part is this happens daily in commercial gyms across the country!

Many of the doctors, therapists, trainers & coaches I study under believe that if you can not explain anatomically, physiologically & neurologically  the effect every exercise and stretch will have on a client’s body, you ARE NOT justified in prescribing its use in an exercise program because you don’t know how it will affect them and any conditions they may have!!” I REALLY wish that ALL trainers would hold themselves to this standard (There would be A LOT LESS INJURIES IN THE GYM!!!). The first rule of the Hippocratic Oath states “Do NO harm” – It would be great if all trainers & coaches had to take this oath!

Exercise is physical medicineWould you have surgery without an examination?, would you take someone else’s prescription medication?, would you do your own dentistry? – I HOPE THE ANSWER IS “NO” FOR ALL OF THESE!!  You need to have an assessment to determine the correct & SAFEST exercises for you! Remember the quote by world famous Orthopedist James Cyriax, M.D. “The treatment can only be as good as the examination”

For those of you who doubt exercise is a form of medicine, what do you think people did before drugs & surgery, what is physical therapy? Answer these simple questions: Does exercise prevent disease?, Does exercise make you feel better?, Does exercise help you heal & recover from injuries? The answer to all 3 is YES!!!  So, exercise is a form of physical medicine – don’t self-medicate and don’t take someone else’s prescription!

So before we start picking some great exercises lets review the TRUE function of the abdominal wall : It is to PREVENT unwanted spinal flexion, extension & rotationNOT to do crunches & sit-ups, which can be damaging to the neck, shoulders, spine, and low back (go back and read part 3A for the details and references)

Here are some video clips demonstrating where rotation should and should NOT occur in the spine and how rotational exercises and crunches can lead to spinal disc injuries  (NOTE: the video uses a pig spine – NOT a human spine):

We must also separate the idea of exercises from movement. We all need to be able flex/extend/rotate our spine with just body weight for normal healthy movement. We all do NOT need to do heavy loaded exercises in these positions, for many it leads to back pain & injury. Ex. We should all be able to bend forward and tie our shoes without PAIN! (IF YOU CAN’T – YOU DO NOT BELONG IN THE GYM AND NEED TO SEE A DR. ASAP – PAIN DOES NOT BELONG IN THE GYM, PERIOD!!!)

We all do NOT need to do heavy, weighted crunch-type exercises – Maybe if you are a competitive athlete or have a manual labor job that requires those motions under load – but it would all depend on your situation and the health of your spine.

We already saw in Part 1 that it is a myth that you can spot reduce the abs, there are several other myths about the abs you must be aware of before you engage in an exercise program. You CANNOT train the abs directly everyday, they are a muscle just like the arms, legs, back etc and need time to rest & recover. Muscles only get stronger during recovery NOT the exercise! Training the abs everyday is overtraining; overtraining always leads to fatigue and injury!! (What do we injure, the abs? NO – the lower back & neck!!)

The last myth is about the number of repetitions to do, you only need on average 8 -12 reps for the abs to build strength. Performing high numbers of reps (unless training for a specific task , engaging in sports endurance training, or rehabilitating an injury ) is a WASTE OF TIME & TOTALLY USELESS – ONE LAST TIME “YOU CANNOT SPOT REDUCE THE ABDOMEN BY DOING HIGH REP EXERCISE!!!!!

Muscle biopsy shows the outermost abdominal muscle tissue is a type II strength fiber NOT an endurance fiber . Do not believe the asinine idea of  high reps for “Tone” – THERE ARE NO TONING EXERCISES!!!! All good exercises done properly, in good form, with the right number of reps, appropriate load and full range of motion give muscle tone .

Tone” is a word used to sell products & services in the fitness industry and is TOTAL B.S! When a muscle contracts under a heavy load there is a slight residual contraction that we call ” increased tonus” that remains in the muscle. When body fat is low, you can see the firm muscle i.e muscle tone . If you have high body fat, you can’t see the muscle tone! (but it is there)  Sumo wrestlers are among the strongest athletes in the word with incredible muscle tone BUT you can’t see the “tone” because it is buried under hundreds of pounds of fat! Remember what we said in Part 1 – Fat cannot become muscle, fat sits over muscle – the best way to lower body fat ? GOOD NUTRITION !! (Don’t believe all the other B.S. about aerobic exercise for losing fat!!!)

World famous Olympic Strength Coach & trainer, Charles Poliquin gives this analogy for high rep training “is like using your arm for a fly swatter and hitting an imaginary fly 300 times- you are hot, sweaty and your arm hurts, BUT you are no stronger and haven’t gained any muscle or lost any body fat!!!   To learn more about Coach Poliquin click here: Charles Poliquin

I can’t wait to share coach Poliquin’s views on aerobics & Spinning with you later – but you will probably need a sedative or tranquilizer and something to breathe into to prevent hyperventilating! (can you say “useless!”)

[NOTE: I finally wrote the post with coach Poliquin’s Spinning interview: CLICK HERE FOR IT AND MORE!]

When picking abdominal exercises we need to think – “Stability before mobility” because after a lifetime of poor exercise choices i.e. crunches, sit-ups, and low back hyperextensions we often have too much mobility in the wrong places such as the lumbar spine which then increases the likelihood of low back pain & injuryWe should also be taught in exercise that “Simple does NOT mean EASY!!” We need stability exercises first to protect the spine and the exercises need to be simple so you can do them correctly, in good form without: injury, complex equipment, or detailed coaching (the coaching is necessary in the beginning but my not be available every workout).

[Note: When dealing with basic movement patterns and the joints of the body we need to think “Mobility BEFORE Stability” for we  all were born being able to move first, we learned stability later…. However the mobility must be a natural, non-excessive range of motion that is pain free – Yoga, and advanced stretching for sports like gymnastics is NOT NORMAL – it is hyper-mobility and causes MANY joint injuries(There are more orthopedic surgeries on young, female gymnasts than any other group in the country. Their age, hormone levels, and extreme training result in excessive joint laxity)].

I wonder what will break 1st – Her neck or her back?


For those of you that doubt Yoga can be dangerous and leads to joint hyper mobility & serious injuries, click here to read the NY Times article: “How Yoga can wreck your body”  It has interviews with a Master Yogi and renowned orthopedists which shows Yoga (as performed outside of India) can cause major body traumas, many of which require medical attention and surgery!

Here are some video links to some basic stability exercises for the abs that require NO crunches! Just remember these rules: 1) you MUST be 100% pain free in the gym because pain is inhibitory and shuts muscles down making you weak and open to injury;  2) if it hurts – DON’T DO IT! ;  3) If you can’t lift it, DON’T lift it!!

(Click on the name of the exercise and a Youtube video link will start, make sure you have the sound on your computer turned up and the speakers on.)

Examples of some basic stability exercises for the abdominals:

The plank

Side  Plank

Back extension

Push ups

Lower Abdominal Series

Here are some more ADVANCED strength exercises for the abs:

Overhead Squat

Overhead Press

Ab Wheel

Reverse Crunch

Leg Scissors

Hanging Leg  Raise

Land Mine



For those of you who live too far to train with me or attend one of my workshops, here is a link to some of the resources I use & consult when designing abdominal & core training programs – Abdominal Training Resources

Up next – The Abdominal Exercise Myths – Part 4 You can’t make chicken salad from chicken $#IT! – The role of nutrition in abdominal function”

Until Next Time – Stay Healthy, Stay Strong, STAY AWAY from the crunch machine!

REMEMBER:  MY 4 week “Skiing from the Inside / Out !” pre-season conditioning & injury prevention class begins on Tuesday Oct. 20th at The Adult School of Montclair – click here for info & to register:

Skiing from the Inside / Out ! – with Gordon Waddell, PES,CSCS,CES


P.S  If you would be interested in attending a “hands-on” Abdominal training workshop with me, e-mail me or post a comment and if we get enough people I will do it “live” for all of you – just let me know!

Follow all of the “Abdominal Myths Series”- Just click the links below:

The Abdominal Exercise Myths or “I do 200 crunches a day and I’m still fat, and now my neck hurts?” – Part 1

The Abdominal Exercise Myths – Part 2 or “What do you mean I stand funny and have a big @$S !”

The “Abdominal Myths – Part 3A ” What do you mean ‘The crunch machine’ at the gym is useless and causing my back pain?”

The Abdominal Exercise Myths – 3B “Crunch-FREE Exercises for Rock Hard Abs & a Solid Steel Spine!”

The Abdominal Exercise Myths-Part 4A “You can’t make chicken salad from chicken s#it!” – The role of nutrition in abdominal function

The Abdominal Exercise Myths 4B- ” So what the hell can I eat?? – Tips for fast, effective label reading & shopping!”

The Abdominal Myths 4C- Why Soy is NOT a health food! or “The DANGERS OF SOY and why my SON has BREASTS!!!!”

The Abdominal Myths 4D – The Problem with Pasteurized dairy, food allergies & addictions OR Why we need RAW Dairy in N.J.



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