This is what usually goes through our mind when it starts to get tough, when it becomes a struggle.
The full extent of what your body can do can be excruciating when exercising. It’s so much easier to forgo dropping right into the squat when landing after the jump of a burpee. It’s so much easier to only kick back my legs only 70% instead of 100% when completing that burpee.
Why would I do a pushup all the way down until my nose almost touches the ground when I can do more if I only lower myself 80% of the way.
Why would I bring my knees up to my waist when doing high knees when I can do the same by only bringing them up 3/4 of the way.
Why would you? I’m going to let you know why. Because it’s harder. And because it’s harder it benefits you even if you do less (you’ll do less in the same amount of time because it requires more work).
You would think that doing more is better because that is how we think. Doing more must be better. But by compromising the principle of the exercise by not executing full range of motion you are not developing strength throughout the full range of the motion. You are strengthening only the part of the muscle used during the load you are applying. You are not developing strength in your muscles that would support you when you are in those positions you are avoiding.
And sometimes this is when injuries happen. When you lower that knee to pick something up and you go to get up, when you have to move quickly from an awkward position and you push forward. You wish the injury didn’t happen. You wish at that point that you were stronger.
Developing strength throughout the whole range of motion is as simple as exercising throughout the whole range of motion. That’s it. It’s harder and it can suck but it’s worth it. You’ll be strong no matter what position your body is in. Prevent injury, be strong no matter when, no matter what the situation.
When your brain is telling you to give it only 80%, tell it to go away.
You are worth more, you are worth going all the way, 100%. Don’t give any less.
It’s a myth that you need an hour or more to work out. Depending on what your goals are you may not need much more than 30 minutes. And, if you are strapped for time, you could even get a good workout in in under 15 minutes.
It seems that each year free time becomes less and less. So many commitments and trying to find free time to get in that hour workout becomes even harder. Don’t let that discourage you stop you from working out.
Not every workout has to be the same. It’s perfectly fine to modify your routine and reduce the amount of time if this allows you to keep exercising.
Let’s look at some things we can do if we are limited for time, limited for space, or both.
Burpees: Everyone hates them but burpees are almost the perfect workout. Through a pushup in there and you have a cardio and resistance training exercise all in one. Some things to remember when doing your burpees: Most people start the burpee from the standing position. Burpees should be started from the squatting position and you need to squat as low as you can. Now while in that squat position, explode into the jump as much as you can. This will aid in building your leg muscles and also help you to become strong in the whole range of motion from the squat all the way up. Extend your legs quickly behind you into a plank position. Again, it’s utilizing your full range of motion. Don’t shortcut the pushup either. It’s just as important. You can do burpees as part of a highly intense interval training routine. You can burpee for 20 seconds then take 10 seconds off for 4 minutes. That’s it! Great cardio workout and also a good resistance workout
Wall squats: Want to kill the legs? Do you do squats and want to switch it up? Wall squats work your leg muscles by doing an isometric contraction where there is no movement. Find a wall, put your back against the wall and lower yourself to a position like you are sitting in a chair with your feet under your knees. Now stay there. If your legs are shaking you are stopping too early. Stay in that position as long as you can stand it until you just drop to the floor. Rest for 30 seconds or 1 minute. Repeat and repeat and repeat…
Half pushup: Start from the laying position and raise yourself up about 3″ off of the floor. Or, you can raise yourself up 1″ off of the floor. The position should be comfortable in the sense that your joints don’t hurt. Keep in this static position for as long as you can, until you drop to the floor. Rest for about 30 seconds or a minute and try again, and repeat, repeat, repeat…
That’s it. All these things can be done in 5 to 10 minutes. And don’t try to talk yourself out of it by convincing yourself that you will need to warm up first, or you need to stretch afterward and you don’t have time for it. Carrying out these exercises will help you stay on track for your goals, will help you keep your current fitness level and will ultimately help you stay healthy.
I hope you try this and I hope this works for you.
You might not be a Titan condemned to hold up the heavens for eternity but who doesn’t want bigger shoulders anyway?
That is the topic of today’s post. Keeping it simple, I am going to give you the formula to help you get there. I’m not saying it will be easy, hard work will definitely be involved but it will be simple in what you need to do.
Let’s look at shoulders. Broken into 3 muscle groups, the anterior deltoid (front of the body) the lateral deltoid (the side of the body) and the posterior deltoid (the rear of the body). I have excluded the muscles of the rotator cuff as that is a large topic in itself.
Most of us, and I do mean most, have over developed anterior deltoids. This is largely due to the lives we live. Our arms are out in front of us mostly; using a keyboard, working on things with hands in front, and also carrying heavy items. This tends to over work the anterior deltoids leading to them being stronger than the other two deltoids. I’m going to include exercises that will involve all 3 deltoid groups but you may want to check with a personal trainer to see if you fall into this group and should be focusing on the lateral and posterior delts more that the anterior delts.
Let’s get to it.
Bent over dumbbell rows: This is a great exercise to work the back of the shoulder. Holding two dumbbells at your side, bend over at the waist keeping your back arched as to keep a good posture. move your elbows out so your arms are almost perpendicular to your torso. You should now be bent over almost to 90 degrees with both dumbbells touching just below your chest. Keeping a bit of a bend in your elbows, bring the dumbbells out and up so they are almost parallel to the ground. You should look like a giant letter T with a head on it. You may find your hands will want to fall back towards your waist. Don’t let them. Hold at the top for 3 seconds then bring the weight back towards under your chest but not all the way as you want to keep the resistance on your muscles. This exercise can also be done on a bench. Sitting on the end of a bench bring your chest to your knees and do the flies from there. Do you feel this at the back of your shoulders?You should. Don’t have dumbbells? Move onto the next exercise.
Resistance band Rear Delt Fly: This exercise mimics the bent over dumbbell row exercise except you are standing and working only one shoulder at a time. Attach one end of the band to a stationary object that will not move at a height that just below your shoulder. Grab the other end of the band and position yourself so your hand is just on the other side of the centre of your body. So if I’m using my right hand, my hand should just be on the left side of centre of my chest. Now mimic the same motion as the dumbbell fly exercise keeping the arm slightly bent, bringing that hand to the outside of your body so your arm is almost extended but still slightly bent.
Lateral Raise: This is kind of like the dumbbell flies in that the motion is very similar but you wont be bent over and the weights start just in front of your legs. Standing with a dumbbell in each hand, legs soft (this means you have a slight bend in the knees) the dumbbells just ahead of your centre in front of your quads, with that bend in the arms bring the dumbbells up and out so you for a big T with your arms. Resist the urge to spring into the motion using your legs to help carry the weight up. This would be cheating and you don’t want to do that, yet (we’ll talk doing negatives later). Keep the wrists soft too, almost like you are pouring out from a jug when your hands get to the top.
Resistance Band Lateral Raise: Just like the above exercise but with resistance bands. I’m a fan of resistance bands. If you have read my article you know the benefits are constant resistance where as with free weights, or even machines, there is a point in the motion of the exercise where resistance drastically falls off. If you are using bands be sure to use ones that give you the resistance you need to keep in the range of adding muscle and strength and not endurance.
Front Dumbbell Raise: Pretty much the same as the lateral raise except the dumbbells are brought up in front of you kind of like you are holding up your hands to push someone away from you. Keep knees and elbows soft and again, don’t bring the weight all the way down to the point the resistance is lessened.
Resistance Band Front Raise: Again, same as above but with resistance bands.
Dumbbell Shoulder Press: Working the anterior delts, this also works the tricpes, the muscles in the rotator cuff, the trapezius muscles. And it helps make you stronger when lifting things overhead. Using two dumbbells, sitting or standing, start with the dumbbells at your shoulders like you are ready to press something upwards. Lift the weights up above you until your arms are almost straight (keeping soft elbows). Do not lock out your arms as we want the resistance to stay on the muscles, not the joints. Bring the dumbbells down but not too low that the resistance comes off of the muscles.
Shoulder Shrugs: It’s like it sounds but with weights. Using two dumbbells at your side, be sure to keep your hands centered at your side, shrug your shoulders like you are bringing your shoulders to your ears. This exercise mainly works the trapezius muscles and in turn strong traps helps with improving posture as they pull your shoulders back and help to stabilize your neck and upper back. Also, you can use much more weight doing shrugs than you can doing raises so this helps in developing forearm and hand strength. Try not to use aids such as wraps to help hold the dumbbells if you are using heavy weight. In my opinion, it’s better to drop the weight and hold the dumbbells using the strength of your muscles. Think of it as putting your hands on your knees when doing lunges. You may be developing stronger legs but by putting your hands on your knees you have eliminated the stabilizing muscles, your core muscles, from working and your core will not be strong as it should be when doing this type of movement.
Resistance Band Shoulder Shrugs: If your resistance bands have the ability to attach a grip then you can use them for shoulder shrugs. Depending on the type of resistance band, you can stand or sit and have them under your feet to make them the right length to give you the right amount of resistance.
My explanation on how to do these exercises make sense to me but maybe not to you. Check Youtube for video’s on these exercises if you need to. Or, engage a personal trainer to show you and to ensure your form is correct. Remember, incorrect form may not manifest itself in an injury immediately. It may take months before the damage done has been felt. I’m not self promoting when I recommend to hire a personal trainer. It doesn’t have to be a long commitment. It can be short term to educate yourself on proper form and then a check up or a few. It could be money well spent preventing a future injury.
Mix it up. Use various principles to add strength and muscle. Principles such as negatives, pyramids, stacking, etc.
If your goal is to add size, and with size comes strength, DO NOT DO MORE THAN 12 REPS. If you are serious about adding size, keep reps under 6. This is why you never see power lifters doing endurance sports, or lifting lighter weights to get more reps. This does not mean use the same weight you would have when doing 12 or 15 reps and do only 6, it means using heavier weights, or more resistance.
The muscles need to be stressed to the point there are micro tears for growth to happen. Stopping at 6 when you could have done 8 will not help you achieve your goal.
Stick to 2 exercises for each muscle group doing 3 sets for each exercise sticking to the appropriate amount of reps. Do this to start. If the muscles are stressed and you notice this with the normal muscle pain than great, you are doing well. If not, add another set.
Eat. Eat as much whole foods that are plant based as you want! No worrying about how much protein you are getting as you will get what you need. Did you know the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for the average woman is under 50 grams? The world we live in has us believing we need so much more. And more isn’t always better. More protein means more work for our kidneys and it’s unnecessary and if you are getting this in the form of a supplement you are just throwing your money down the toilet, literally. If you find you are not adding weight than you probably are not eating enough whole foods and may be eating too many processed foods that won’t help contribute to building muscle tissue.
Right amount of sets, reps, eating well. Listening to your body’s feedback and reacting to it. Setup a schedule and follow it. It is that simple. I know! I used to be a big guy in the sense of muscle once weighing in at 200 lean lbs and squatting over 300lbs. I was mentored years ago by a friend who went from 150lbs to 210lbs. He knew what he was talking about and he was walking proof and I took that knowledge and applied it to myself.
Do the same for yourself and you will get results. Will you have the same results as others? Not always. We have different body types and those underlying body types will always be there at the core. But you will change your body. You are sitting at the wheel, molding the clay, shaping it the way you want.
I don’t know why but today I’m in somewhat of a philosophical mood. I was recently told that I should write a book as I’m a philosopher. I was in Okinawa Japan recently and had the charge of 5 kids to make sure they remained unscathed on their first voyage away from home, almost half way around the world. Devinda, a really smart 16 year old was in a group of 3, him and 2 boys that are 14 years old (constantly arguing who is the oldest of the 2). One day while talking about responsibility I brought up how he has his whole life in front of him and is now experiencing something that many people will never have the chance to. We talked about other things too and that is when he told me I should write a book. It kind of made me laugh. Devinda’s an awesome person. Mark my words, I know one day a lot of people will know the name Devinda Epaarachchi.
I had to laugh when I heard that though. I don’t look at myself that way, having words of wisdom, I’m just some guy who tries to help when and where I can. And I can’t see writing a book. Who would read that?!
So what am I going to write about today? Today’s subject is goals. You have to have them. You do! And they don’t have to be lofty goals either, just goals no matter how small.
A goal can be running 10k in a race. A goal can be running a marathon race. Those are somewhat big goals, right? To many yes, but to others no. A goal can be something a basic as focusing on a body part that you feel needs improvement. Maybe you want bigger shoulders, or larger legs? Take that and make it a goal.
Let’s look at larger shoulders as a goal. What does that mean, larger shoulders? Wider, bulkier, stronger? First thing is to define the goal. Let’s define this one:
Larger shoulders: I want the 3 heads of my shoulders to be defined and larger than they are now.
That’s it. The goal has now been defined. Shoulders larger in size and also having the 3 muscles that make up the shoulder clearly defined. So now what, what is next now that I have a goal?
You have to put a plan into effect but it needs to be a good plan, something, a plan that will get you what you want. If I were to break down this goal into a plan it would probably look like this:
What exercises target the 3 heads of the shoulder, the anterior (front), the laterial (the side) and the posterior (the rear, the most neglected of the 3)?
How do I do these exercises to work these muscles?
Document current strength doing these exercises: how many reps/sets and how much weight?
Photos: What do my shoulders currently look like? Take pictures but be sure to take them in a controlled environment so when you take photos later on you can compare knowing the environment such as lighting is the same and your results can be compared realistically
Duration. What is the duration of the goal? Do I want bigger shoulders in 8 weeks? Is this a realistic time frame?
Does this help make things clear? Some of it may not be. Let’s look at duration. Do you know what is a realistic time frame to reach your goal? Now, if you want crazy big shoulders 8 weeks may not be long enough, you may need 26 weeks for your goal. If you aren’t sure, hire a personal trainer to help you out. They can provide realistic targets to your goal.
Goals, I think, are good ways to keep motivated. I find also they help to keep the energy up, they help you to get through those times where you feel you are just spinning your wheels. Goals help to add purpose to your workouts.
Goals can also help you get through those times that are tough. It may help you focus on a specific thing to help you get your mind off of other things.
I’m no philosopher. I really don’t think I have any words of wisdom. If this article helps you become what you want to become than I’m happy for you.
Do you have your goal? Is it something you really want? Are you going to do what you need to to make it happen?
I hope you will. You are awesome and I have never doubted that you have what you need to do it.
Stretching before exercising, specifically static stretching (no movement) will hinder your performance. Then why do people static stretch before working out? Good question. I see it often myself. Classics such as crossing an arm across the body to stretch the shoulder to the good ole hamstring stretch while sitting on the floor. But kidding aside if there is any stretching to be done before working out it should be only dynamic stretching.
Let’s look at static stretching. Why do we do it? Static stretching is done to become more flexible, to lengthen short muscles which in turn should help in injury prevention whereas dynamic stretching (stretching with movement such as crossing your arms back and forth) helps to lengthen muscles but more importantly warms up the muscles and tendons.
So why is this a bad thing to do before working out? Because of the strain you are putting on your muscles. With this strain you are actually decreasing muscle strength. Studies have shown that the decrease in strength can be upwards of 30%! Yikes!
To prepare for your workout, or event a proper preparation should help increase performance not negatively impact performance. It should do this by warming up the tendons and muscles thus loosening them and increasing the range of motion. Warm muscles and tendons use oxygen from the blood stream more efficiently and also use glycogen, stored fuel, more efficiently. Static stretching on the other hand can leave strained muscles weakened for up to 30 minutes because of the stress put on them.
It’s like almost anything we do. Unless we have educated ourselves on the matter we are usually doing things that we learned a long time ago by someone with good intentions but not educated in the area. I think, and I may be wrong, that a lot of things we do when it comes to working out, running, swimming, biking, or any physical activity unless at an elite level where there are professional coaches and trainers, were learned from school. Learned from the gym teacher who might have been a great football player, or might have done well in track when she or he were in school years ago but doesn’t have formal training in these areas. So they pass on what they learned years ago by someone who was great playing football, or might have done well in track….
Do you get the point? This is why I became a certified personal trainer when I received the rank of Nidan (2nd level) black belt and started running students through workouts more frequently. I felt I would be doing a disservice to our students to be doing the same thing my teacher did and that didn’t sit well with me. I wanted our students to be the best they could be, properly prepared to excel physically and mentally.
But you might be saying what’s the big deal? I still get in my workout regardless. This is correct. For some people showing up, doing the workout is all they need. But to others it’s more than that. Also, think of it in another light. Success is a great motivator. I really believe that you are your own competition. You compete against yourself every time you workout. How many burpees did you do, how quick were you when doing bag work. How we workout could determine if we workout again. If you constantly feel like you are not improving then it could get tough to find the motivation to go back and workout again. But, if you performance is increasing because of doing a lot of right things than who does not like that? Success is a great motivator and this is why I believe in keeping a journal of workouts. It shows you the growth you have made and with seeing that how can that not motivate you?
Static stretch after your workout. Dynamically stretch before your workout to warm up your muscles, tendons and to dynamically lengthen the muscles through movement.
It’s been a while since I’ve taken the time to sit down and write out a post. But, today seems to be a good time as I’m taking a break from getting outside work done around my house. And, who doesn’t like an afternoon coffee, especially a Mexican Chiapas!
When we think of strong legs, large legs we often think of the upper leg, the quads. I like to throw hamstrings in there too as they can get neglected. I think of the hamstrings as the triceps to the upper arm. Most people work biceps and neglect triceps but you need to strengthen both triceps and hamstrings to keep a well balanced body both in strength and injury prevention.
Often what gets overlooked is the calf muscles. Running from the ankle to just above the knee attaching to the lower femur the calf muscle aids in the ability of all leg movement. The calf muscles are comprised of 3 muscles:
The Soleus: this runs between the other two muscles largely seen below the diamond shape of the calf muscles to the achilles tendon.
The Gastrocnemius: These are the two muscles on either side of the Soleus, the muscles that give that diamond shape just below the knee.
These muscles are what moves the heel up when we walk, run, jump or any movement that requires the heel to come off of the ground.
So now that you have a bit of a better understanding of the calf muscles, why do we need to work them? One reason is to prevent injury. A survey of 14,000 injured runners revealed that the 2nd most common injury were calf pulls.
Strong calf muscles means stronger and more stable feet. Ankle rolls are less likely to occur. Also, if you have a pronation or supination (foot turning inward or outward) in your feet, strong calf muscles can help correct this producing a balanced, more neutral stance, thus reduced risk of injury.
More power can be realized when your calf muscles are strong. As mentioned earlier the calf muscles are what lift your heels, your feet off of the ground. Want to increase your explosiveness for any movement where you move your feet you want to strengthen your calfs.
Here are some exercises you can do to achieve the ultimate strong calf muscles, those bulging diamonds just below your knees:
Calf raises: This exercise totally isolates the calf muscles. It will add time onto your workout but if you are looking to target your calf muscles this will do it. The exercise can be done on the edge of a stair tread, a 4 x 4 square piece of wood that is long enough to support you or anything where you can stand on the balls of your feet and lower your ankles as far as they will comfortably go. The idea is to lower and lift your heels, holding at the top to get that extra contraction of a couple seconds. You can also add weight by doing one leg at a time, having a dumbbell in one hand and supporting yourself with the other. Or, you can wear a weight vest to add weight. Or, you can go to a gym and use the calf raise machine. Whatever method you use you will want to keep in mind what your goal is. If your goal is to add strength you will not want your reps to be greater than 12.
Lunge Pulses: Stand with your feet together. Step forward into a lunge with your right foot. Bend your right leg 90 degrees at the knee and extend your left leg behind you, knee bent. Be sure not to have the foot too far behind you as you will want a bend in this knee. Now, pulse up so that your left leg is straight. Bend to complete one pulse. Attempt about 15 reps then do the other side. This exercise is great for working the Soleus muscle of the 3 calf muscles.
Mountain Climbers: Position yourself like you are in the starting blocks for the 100 meter dash. Kind of a modified pushup position. Now, alternate bringing one knee to your chest and then the other. Kind of like running on the spot. Your feet should glide above the ground, not dragging along. Mountain climbers are great to strengthen the whole leg but really help in strengthening the calf muscles. You wont add much bulk or strength though as your reps will be much higher than 12 – 15.
Jump Rope: This is more of an isometric contraction of the calves since your heels remain off of the ground the whole time and the heel will never drop below ground level. Since the heels are always up the calves are always in the concentric contraction state making it an isometric contraction, contraction without movement.
If you are already doing some of these exercises then great, you are working your calves. If you feel you need stronger calves due to weak ankles, or not having a neutral foot position, then look into isolating them and using resistance training to build them. If you need help in that area hire a personal trainer for a few sessions and you will be well on your way to stronger legs overall.
Here’s a tip. This can be applied to calves or any other muscle or muscle group. If you are a person of a higher fitness level and maintain that fitness level well, take the calves, or something else and make it a project to increase its strength. Target that muscle or muscle group every 3rd day (this gives 48 hours off for maximum recovery) and do that for 4 -6 weeks. During this period keep track of your performance at the beginning and each workout. At the end of week 4 or 6, look at your performance numbers. I bet you they have jumped at least 10%. Then, look at your calves. Larger, aren’t they.
I’m a fan of a 4 to 6 week program where you target one area and work on that area diligently. Why? Because 4 – 6 weeks go by in a blink of an eye. Take a part of your body you want to increase strength/size. Do the 4 – 6 week program. Stick to it. Document it by measuring size, strength. Then, at the end do the same. I know you wont be disappointed.
My last post talked about a goal I have set for this upcoming year, 2019. I’ve committed myself to this goal be it a good idea or a bad idea but I feel it’s time. It’s time I’ve challenged myself because without challenging yourself you don’t grow, you become stagnant, and that’s not good.
And I love a challenge. Years ago I went through basic training and spent 3 years in the military. During that time I volunteered and completed the ships diver course, an intensive physical course that has a drop out rate of 60%. I went back to school in my mid twenties to get a degree in computer science, not an easy thing to do going back to school as a mature student. Took up running, running long distances but never in an official event. Started training in Karate and received my black belt in under 5 years. Went back to school sort of to become a certified personal trainer. Recently started my course on plant based nutrition from Cornell University. And now I’ve signed up for a marathon at the end of April, my first ‘official’ marathon.
I’ve been asking myself that question. It wasn’t a compulsive decision, sort of. Because of my roll at the dojo, teaching all ages and being in a somewhat of an influential position, be it that I bring this on myself or because it’s been bestowed onto me, I am a believer that if you talk the talk you need to walk the walk.
I don’t bring up my position on eating a whole foods plant based diet when I am teaching unless I’m asked for nutrition advice, or it somehow comes up otherwise for numerous reasons. But, I’ve been feeling that I’m not a good role model in this regard. I want to be that person that when someone comments that a whole foods plant based diet is incomplete, that you can’t perform at your best, that you ‘need meat’ I’ll prove them wrong. I’ll show them what can be done eating nothing but plants. But I need a point of reference.
But I’m not doing this for me. This isn’t to stroke my ego, not a fan of ribbons, this is to help people become more than they are, to become the best they can be. I can’t do that right now because for too long I’ve neglected the physical side of my training.
I’ve completed all of my physical accomplishments before following a vegan lifestyle. At this point I have no reference for comparison. But that is about to change.15 weeks of training and than time to run 26 miles fueled exclusively from plants.
It’s going to be tough, it’s going to suck. I’m not going to lie and paint this as a walk in the park. I’m heavier than I should be, too much heavier. Too much beer and potato chips have added the pounds to my frame. But I’ll do it. I have to.
I want to do something that can make a positive change in this world. I want to be leading the 5 mile run on May 4th for our next group of future black belts. I can’t influence everyone but if I can show a few people what eating only plants can do than maybe they’ll see through all the lies perpetuated by the media and society, that we can’t survive without killing animals and consuming them. I know this. More will find out. I’m going to draw a picture the size of a mountain.
Yours in health,
Check back here frequently for updates on my progress. This just might become a mini story.
Understanding how muscle contraction works can greatly help you in working the muscles you are trying to work. As an example let’s look at the bicep muscle. The bicep muscles (there are 2, hence bicep) originate at the coracoid process (part of the scapula, the shoulder blade) and has an insertion point of the radius bone in your lower arm. To work the bicep muscles we grab an appropriate weight be it a barbell or dumbbell and starting with our arm straight we then bend our arm, bringing the weight up towards our shoulder. Most muscles are worked this way. The muscles will typically cross a joint (the elbow in this example) and we work that muscle by using the joint it crosses. The same with the tricep muscles originating from the humerus (upper arm) and having an insertion point of the ulna (lower arm) crossing the elbow joint. We work the tricep muscles inversely to how we work the bicep muscles. Makes sense.
So knowing this can help in how you work the muscles as the primary movers or secondary movers or stabilizers. Our abdominal muscles are a good example of this. Our abdominal muscles are comprised of the rectus abdominis and the transversus abdominis. The rectus abdominis is what we all understand as our abs, this muscle group is what we see when we have an 8 pack (tough to get, most only achieve a 6 pack). The transversus abdominis we don’t notice that much as sits just below and beind the rectus abdominis but also behind the external and internal obliques. It sometimes is referred to as the girdle muscle as it wraps around transversely. Connected to our illiac crest (pubic area) and the cartilage of the lower ribs it does look like a girdle. With this large muscle having fibers running transversely it is a key component of the core. No joints being crossed.
The rectus abdominis originates at the pubis and inserts on the 5-7th costal cartilages (ribs), and on the xiphoid process of the sternum. No joints being crossed.
So here we have 2 muscle groups that don’t cross any joints in our body. How do we contract the muscles if they don’t cross a joint? Think of that when doing exercises such as leg raises. If the motion of raising and lowering our legs does not cause the concentric or eccentric contraction of our core muscles because those muscles are not connected to our femur (upper leg) bone then how is this an exercise for the core?
This is where it’s up to you. These abdominal muscles will play a stabilizer role in this exercise helping you to keep you core stable as you keep your back on the floor. But, you have to actively think of this, you have to focus on these core muscles engaging and stabilizing your body, your core. What also helps with this is using the isometric contraction to contract the muscles.
Isometric contraction is contracting the muscle without lengthening (eccentric contraction) or shortening (concentric contraction). How can you do this with the abs? Think of tightening your abs as if someone was going to punch you in the gut. The muscles are contracting but not lengthening or shortening. You can also do this: Suck in your abs drawing in your lower abdomen below your naval, and hold it. This is referred to as hollowing or vacuuming. You can do this, and isometric contractions anytime; sitting, standing, working, etc. Do this and hold it for 10 – 15 seconds to start, and be sure to continue to breathe. Then increase the time to 30 seconds, or a minute. Be sure to incorporate this into workouts when planking, etc.
Let’s look at some exercises we can do to strengthen these muscles:
Russian twist: Starting seated with knees together and bent, raise your feet about 6 inches off of the floor and lean back slightly. Twist from side to side keeping your core tight in that vacuum state and as you twist bring both hands over try to touch the ground.
Plank: Staring laying down on your belly lift your body up onto your elbows and toes. Keep you hips up imagining a line from your shoulders to your ankle and your hips intercepting that line. Keep the belly sucked in actively engaging the transversus abdominis. To add difficulty lift a hand up straight out ahead and to add even more difficulty do the same with a leg lifting the opposite foot off of the ground keeping the leg straight.
Crunches: If is very important to keep a neutral spine while doing crunches. This means not pulling on your head and curving the spine while crunching. Most people do this because it makes it easier and makes us feel like we are being successful. Doing more of something that can hurt us is not being successful. Keeping your spine in a neutral position put your hands by your ears and look straight up. Now, bending at the hips, contracting your abs, lift your shoulders up off the ground. Now, lower back down but don’t let your shoulders touch the ground! Keeping the load on the abs by not letting your shoulders touch the ground thus eliminating the rest is really hard but this is what will get you a strong transversus abdominis and will help prevent back injuries and will also help in giving you that flat stomach most people are looking for. Technique is key as always
Working muscles that don’t cross a joint is harder as it requires much more concentration and focus since it’s not as easy as moving a limb. YOU HAVE TO ACTIVELY ENGAGE THE MUSCLES BY ISOMETRIC CONTRACTION OR BY HOLLOWING. Not doing these things will result in putting in lots of time but not getting the results you want and need.
This post is just the beginning of building a strong core. My plan is to break it down even further in upcoming posts. But this should get you started and covers enough to give you a strong back supporting core.
And remember, if a muscle does not bridge a joint, bending a joint does not work it directly.