IT LOOKS LIKE MISINFORMATION IS GOING TO PLAGUE ANY NATIONAL ATTEMPT AT “SLIMMING” UP THE POPULATION…BOOK PUBLISHERS WILL PUSH NEW DIET AND FITNESS BOOKS…AND FOOD COMPANIES WANT PEOPLE CONSUMING THEIR PRODUCT AND NOT FINDING WAYS TO CUT BACK….ABDOMINAL FITNESS HAS PRODUCED LOWER BACK PAIN FROM THE RESULTS OF RECENT STUDIES….
From the Australian study, a fitness revolution took off with products promising washboard abs and the ‘perfect sculpted body’. Even fitness trainers, yoga instructors and sports coaches took a belief in the claims, unknowing the study was faulty. Through the trainers the public learned to suck in their bellies. You know when your personal trainer directs you to pull in your belly button during crunches on Swiss balls or to press your back against the floor during sit-ups, deeply hollowing your stomachs like a gutted watermelon, then curl up one spinal segment at a time? It’s not necessary. Did you ever feel tightness in your back during a crunch? It turns out these exercises strain muscles, albeit some muscle development is gained but not to the extent of what was believed for over a decade.
Abdominal strength is built targeting the deep inner muscles, obliques and surrounding back muscles. No one has a flat tummy and a flabby back. The lower and upper back muscles work together like pistons with the abdominals. The most common question asked of personal trainers is – “how can I get perfect abs?” A sold-on-TV product isn’t the answer nor is a fad diet where all you eat is yogurt or even worse, removing all carbs (very dangerous) from your diet.
A related article published in the The British Journal of Sports Medicine last year claimed that some of the key findings from the first Australian study of back pain may be wrong. Moreover, even if they were true for some people in pain, the results might not apply to the generally healthy and fit, whose trunk muscles weren’t weak and misfiring in the first place.
“There’s so much mythology out there about the core,” maintains Stuart McGill, a highly regarded professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Canada and a back-pain clinician who has been crusading against ab exercises that require hollowing your belly. “The idea has reached trainers and through them the public that the core means only the abs. There’s no science behind that idea.” (McGill’s website is backfitpro.com.)
Credible trainers such as McGill would rather emphasize building the muscles around the abs, not only stimulating one area. The core muscles are not the triggers for success. Do not focus on crunches, as this puts an unbearable amount of pressure on the disks in your back. Now you know why your back hurts so much during or after your on-the-floor crunches. The risks associated with cranking out 1,000 crunches per day are not worth it.
Unfortunately there are too many people doing hundreds of crunches and sucking in their bellies living with back pain. The core is not one muscle nor the idealized ‘6-pack’. It is a family of muscles working together each time you sit, stand up, breathe, and do nearly any form of exercise.