Ok girls. We have ALL seen variations of "The Ab Challenge" pop up in our social media feeds and Pinterest from time to time. You know the one I'm talking about. Where you start with 15 situps, 5 crunches, 5 leg raises and 10 second plank, and then finish on day 30 with over 100 reps of each?? Oy. Where do I start?!
I think the thing that entices us to want to participate is the promise of more slim looking or defined abs that look like the image shown to us of a gal with a 6 pack. Nothing wrong with that goal, but I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news here. THESE EXERCISES WILL NOT GET YOU WHAT YOU WANT.
There are 4 things wrong with this set of exercises...
1) A lot of crunches and sit-ups will engage your obliques and rectus abdominals. These muscles DO NOT participate in the narrowing of your waist. In fact, the rectus muscles bulge when you do a sit up or crunch, and over gripped or worked external obliques will actually often create a lower belly pooch.
2) If your tummy is not flat and you have had babies, it could be due to an undiagnosed separation or widening of the gap between your right and left rectus abdominus. Crunches, sit-ups, and leg lifts will WORSEN the gap and can create a WIDER BULGE. Getting properly assessed and treated is key here.
3) Many women silently suffer with the occasional bladder leakage and sometimes are unaware of a very common condition called a pelvic organ prolapse. Want to make these two issues worse? DO MORE CRUNCHES. This will put an excessive amount of stress on your pelvic floor muscles and if they are not well coordinated or weak, will only WORSEN issues with bladder leaks or prolapse. All of that upper abdominal and rib cage movement bearing down on the pelvic floor is NO BUENO!
4) The TRUE ROLE of the CORE is to hold our torsos UPRIGHT and tall (and stabilize the spine). Just by standing taller and lengthening the abs, our bellies will immediately appear thinner. How's that for an immediate before and after photo? You should TOTALLY try it! High quality core exercise should involve maintaining the LENGTH of our torso. NOT collapsing it. We do enough slouching in our daily lives and sit WAY TO MUCH. Our bodies need us to work on getting back and keeping our LENGTH, not collapsing it.
So girls. Lets perhaps try and let that ab challenge die along with a gazillion other fad diets and exercise things that don't help us and only serve to make us feel less than when we arrive at day 10 or day 30 with really sore belly muscles and NO FLAT STOMACH.
Stay tuned for the 2nd part of the ab challenge blog series to learn WHAT CAN REALLY HELP TO FLATTEN OUR ABS!