Category Archives: Abdominals

What Are Your Scales Telling You Really?

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By STEVEN MILNER IIST

I’m not advocating that you should throw out your scales but you should be aware that your scales don’t tell you what you need to know most and that is “what are your body fat percentages and distribution?” It’s not just our health we seek to improve when we aim to lose weight, let’s be honest we want to look as good as we feel. In fact the two go hand in hand, often times the better you look the better you feel. By far the best way to look fitter and be healthier is to shift the focus of your efforts from losing weight to gaining muscle and lowering your overall body fat percentage.

Measuring your body fat percentage is a great way to keep track of your progress. It’s a far more accurate indicator of your fitness level than weight alone. That’s because when you’re working out regularly, your muscle mass goes up and your fat goes down, sometimes it’s an even swap and the readout on your standard scales won’t necessarily reflect that change. Knowing your body fat levels gives you a better indicator of how well your program is working. A healthy range for women is 20 to 25 percent, but for a leaner more defined look aim for around 18 to 22 percent and for men 18 to 24 percent with an athletic look coming in at around 14 to 17 percent. N.B. everyone is different and different bodies will have different appearances even if the percentage body fat is the same, this can be attributed to bodyfat distribution. If you have reached 18% body fat or lower now is the time to switch your focus to building muscle. At this point it isn’t necessary to concentrate your efforts on losing much more bodyfat indeed it can start to become unhealthy. You need a minimum amount of fat on your body in order to perform optimally and not have symptoms such as Amenorrhea, bone loss, and low energy.

Types of Measurements
There are a number of ways to get your body fat percentage measured. Some of the more common include; hydrostatic weighing, bio-impedance scales, and skin fold callipers.

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Hydrostatic weighing
Hydrostatic weighing is the most accurate way to gauge body fat percentage. Unfortunately, it’s not the most practical—it involves being dunked under water in a gigantic water tank, while exhaling entirely.

Skin fold calliper
Skin fold callipers can also be accurate, but there’s a catch—you have to be measured by the same skilled person like myself, every time. This eliminates measuring differences from person to person. If you are working with a trainer who has been trained to use skin fold callipers, they should measure you once a month with callipers to get the most accurate assessments.

If you don’t have a trainer to help you out, however, your best bet is to use a bio-impedance scale. To get the most accurate measurement on a scale, always do it at the same time of day and make sure you are hydrated properly. The most common issues that will throw the scale off are varying levels of hydration, ladies if it’s that time of the month (don’t measure yourself during menstruation), or if you have food in your stomach.

Clothing indicators
Finally, my favourite tool: A pair of jeans. They don’t lie. Use a pair of jeans that you can’t button and try them on every 3-4 weeks to see if you are making progress. Whether the scale is budging or not doesn’t matter if your jeans are buttoning.

Muscular Male Torso Isolated on White

Ways to Lower Your Body Fat
There are two ways to lower your body fat: Lose fat (obviously), and build muscle. Extra muscle will rev up your metabolism to help burn off some of the fat. Plus, it’ll make you look leaner overall.

The best way to decrease your body fat percentage is to use a full body strength training program two to three times a week, using heavier weights with lower reps. This will stimulate your body to build lean body mass while burning fat. For the best fat-torching results, add in one to two days of interval-training cardio on top of your lifting routine.

And, of course, you cannot train with a bad diet so you’ll need to dial in your food by fueling your body highly nutritious protein, fruits, and veggies throughout the day.

Check out some of my other articles on diet and training or for more intense training tips visit my sibling site manicworkouts.com

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Core muscles, how much do you really know?

English: Abdominal muscles on a woman's belly.

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Edited bySteven Milner IIST

Core exercises stabilize the spine
The best core exercises may surprise you. It’s not enough to just do ab crunches and sit ups. To build a strong core you need to exercise a variety of muscles from your hips to your shoulders. Most people think of the core as a nice six-pack, or strong, toned abs, but the truth is that the abdominal muscles are a very small part of the core. The abs have very limited and specific action, and what experts refer to as the “core” actually consists of many different muscles that stabilize the spine and pelvis, and run the entire length of the torso. When these muscles contract, they stabilize the spine, pelvis and shoulder girdle and create a solid base of support. When this happens, we are able to generate powerful movements of the extremities.
The core muscles also make it possible to stand upright and move on two feet. These muscles help control movements, transfer energy, shift body weight and move in any direction. A strong core distributes the stresses of weight-bearing and protects the back. Core conditioning exercise programs need to target all these muscle groups to be effective.

What Are the Core Muscles?
Different experts include different muscles in this list, but in general the muscles of the core run the length of the trunk and torso. The following list includes the most commonly identified core muscles as well as the lesser known groups.
Rectus Abdominis – located along the front of the abdomen, this is the most well-known abdominal muscle and is often referred to as the “six-pack” due to it’s appearance in fit and thin individuals.
Erector Spinae– This group of three muscles runs along your neck to your lower back.
Multifidus – located under the erector spinae along the vertebral column, these muscles extend and rotate the spine.
External Obliques – located on the side and front of the abdomen.
Internal Obliques – located under the external obliques, running in the opposite direction.
Transverse Abdominis (TVA) – located under the obliques, it is the deepest of the abdominal muscles (muscles of your waist) and wraps around your spine for protection and stability.
Hip Flexors – located in front of the pelvis and upper thigh. The muscles that make up the hip flexors include: psoas major, illiacus, rectus femoris, pectineus, sartorius
Gluteus medius and minimus – located at the side of the hip
Gluteus maximus
hamstring group, piriformis – located in the back of the hip and upper thigh leg.
Hip adductors – located at medial thigh.

Benefits of Good Core Strength
A Strong Core Reduces Back Pain
Abdominals get all the credit for protecting the back and being the foundation of strength, but they are only a small part of what makes up the core. In fact, it is weak and unbalanced core muscles that are linked to low back pain. Weak core muscles result in a loss of the appropriate lumbar curve and a swayback posture. Stronger, balanced core muscles help maintain appropriate posture and reduce strain on the spine.

  • A Strong Core Improves Athletic Performance
    Because the muscles of the trunk and torso stabilize the spine from the pelvis to the neck and shoulder, they allow the transfer of power to the arms and legs. All powerful movements originate from the centre of the body out, and never from the limbs alone. Before any powerful, rapid muscle contractions can occur in the extremities, the spine must be solid and stable and the more stable the core, the most powerful the extremities can contract.
  • A Strong Core Improves Postural Imbalances
    Training the muscles of the core helps correct postural imbalances that can lead to injuries. The biggest benefit of core training is to develop functional fitness; the type of fitness that is essential to daily living and regular activities.
    Exercises that Build Core Strength

    Core strengthening exercises are most effective when the torso works as a solid unit and both front and back muscles contract at the same time, multi joint movements are performed and stabilization of the spine is monitored. Abdominal bracing is a basic technique used during core exercise training. To correctly brace, you should attempt to pull your navel back in toward your spine. This action primarily recruits transverse abdominus. You should be able to breathe evenly while bracing and no hold your breath.
    There are many exercises that will strengthen the core. A large number of core strengthening exercises can be done at home with no equipment while some require the use of equipment and gadgets.

    What Are the Best Core Exercises?
    Core exercises are most effective when they engage many muscles throughout the torso that cross several joints and work together to coordinate stability. Core muscles need to work as a unit, contract at the same time, across joints in order to stabilize the spine. Some of the best core exercises are simple bodyweight exercises, including the following.
    Dragon Flag Advanced Core Exercise. Credited to martial arts master, Bruce Lee. the Dragon Flag, is arguably one of the more advanced bodyweight exercises you can do.
    The Quick Core Workout
    If you want a simple, effect core workout, this routine doesn’t take much time or equipment but covers all the basic core muscles.
    Plank Exercise: Start Position | Finish Position
    Side Plank Exercise: Start Position | Finish Position
    The Basic Push Up
    V-sits
    Push Ups
    Squats
    Back Bridge
    Hip Lift
    Oblique Twist
    Plank on a Balance Ball
    Lunge with Twist
    Supermans

  • Equipment for a Better Core
    Other exercises that develop core strength include the use of equipment such as a stability ball, medicine balls, kettlebells, wobble boards, Yoga and Pilate’s. Some products to consider:
    Balance Products such as the Bosu Ball, balance boards, wobble boards and others

    Medicine Balls 
    Kettlebells 
    Stability Balls 
    Knee Raise 
    Dumbbells

    Source
    Hodges PW, Richardson CA. Contraction of the abdominal muscles associated with movement of the lower limb. Physical Therapy, February 1997
    Hodges PW, Richardson CA. Relationship between limb movement speed and associated contraction of the trunk muscles. Ergonomics. November, 1997

Core Workout Exercises Are Misunderstood All Over The World.


by STEVEN MILNER IIST VTCT 28/11/11

 

Core workout exercises are misunderstood all over the world.
Many people think that core workout exercisesonly help in developing six-pack abs. However, outward appearances are a small part of the effectiveness of core and balance workouts. The core actually consists of many different muscles that stabilize the spine and pelvis, running through the entire length of the torso, front and back. A strong base founded on effective balance and strong core musculature prepares you for powerful and explosive movement during exercise.

Core exercises improve your balance and stability.
Core workouts are easily compromised by the idea that the rest of your workout will cover most of your core requirements, it won’t. The core is known as the power house of the system as this is where most of our movement is generated. A strong core also protects the lower back from unnecessary injury and allows a person to work efficiently and safely. It also improves balance and stability as most core exercises are based on balance engaging the core.

Core exercises can help tone your abs.
Typically core exercises tone the mid section as they basically provide a workout that isolates these groups of muscles. Core workouts tighten the packs of muscles in the abdominal area and visually give an appearance of overall weight loss. And these exercises can be done everyday unlike other weight training exercises. You can choose from 2- 3 different exercises and you will require about 5 minutes of your time to get fit and strong in the mid section. Strong core muscles make it easier to do most physical activities: The limbs are intricately connected to the core complex and movements are very much dependant on core fitness. A strong core can help you work faster, harder and longer.

Exercise Technique.
If you can, execute the workout in front on a mirror to allow you to make corrections to your posture. The most important factor is to activate the abdominal muscle during execution .This can be done by coughing once and holding the contraction that happens when you cough. Square the hips and shoulders to engage the PC muscles of the pelvic floor.

Core exercises don’t require specialized equipment or a gym membership.
We can do core and balance workouts in the comfort of our own homes at almost any time of the day, and it doesn’t need to to take up too much time. You won’t need lots of fancy equipment to work on strengthening the core either, for some however, performing core workouts at the gym sets the right mood. If you’re a beginner you should take care to workout under the guidance of the professional trainer, especially if you want to try some of the more advanced techniques early on in your exercise regime. Some core workouts require alignment and balance that can only be achieved with sustained effort and repetition.

Let’s look at three core strength exercises you can do at home.

Super man: Lie face down on the floor with your arms stretched full out in front with your thumbs just touching. Raise the right arm and left leg off the floor until you feel a stretch, hold for 3 seconds and relax. Alternate with the other arm and leg and repeat for 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions. When it starts to get easier try HARDER you’ll know what I mean.

Plank: Lie face down, with forearms and toes on the floor slowly start to take the strain and raise your pelvis from the floor and straighten your torso. Set your eyes on the floor. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Relax to the start position and then repeat 5 times

Supine bridge: Lie flat on your back on a mat or the floor with eyes set on the ceiling. Position your feet flat on the floor at about hip width and somewhere beneath your knees and hands just outside your ankles and alongside of your body. Now push your hips up till you have a straight line right from your knees to shoulders. Maintain a straight line posture as long as you can feel the muscle tension.

If it’s a flat tummy you most desire then check out my post on the Transverse Abdominals

Working the Transverse Abdominals

transverse abdominalsWorking the Transverse Abdominals

by STEVEN MILNER IIST VTCT Qualified

Ladies, ever wonder why you never seem to get that flat stomach when you’re relaxed?  No matter how effectively you work your abs typically you will be working them in just one direction, up and down, or, more properly along the length of the rectus abdominus. But what about the abdominals that go from side to side? Can we exercise those?  Well, yes you can, the transverse abdominals (TA) flatten the tummy from side to side, so read on because I’ve got some information to share with you about working your Transverse Abdominals.
The TA complex belong to a group of core muscles that lie below the rectus abdominus and are often neglected in standard ab routines. Typically most abdominal exercises target the vertical rectus abdominus largely ignoring the horizontal transverse abdominals. Even crunches, the staple of most abdominal workouts, do nothing for the transverse abdominals. This group of muscles connect to both the lower back and the rectus abdominus to form a powerful support for the entire abdomen. Any routine aimed at flattening the stomach should include the transverse abdominals as a focus. Using the following exercises, you can target your transverse abdominals and really make progress towards that flat tummy.

Transverse Abdominal Crunch
Lie face up on a mat and plant your feet flat on the floor about shoulder width apart, maintain contact between the mat and the small of your back. With the fingers of both hands find the tips of your hip bones on either side of your tummy. Move your fingers inwards slightly towards your centre line just off the hip bone, don’t worry your hip bones are easy to find even if you’re carrying a lot of fat. Now this is an easy exercise to master once you know how to “feel” the transverse muscle working, here’s how, press down slightly with your fingers and cough! You will feel the transverse abdominal wall tighten and jump beneath your fingers. To use the exercise, first cough to initiate the contraction and then hold for a count of ten and relax, repeat for sets.

Pelvic Tilts
Lie on your back on a flat surface, such as a mat or a bench. Roll a towel to cushion the small of your back. Bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor. Raise your pelvis off the floor,  hold momentarily, and lower under control. Repeat for sets. Maintaining a controlled movement is crucial to this exercise, use your abdominal muscles not your body’s momentum to do the work. Be sure to keep your upper body on the floor throughout to target the transverse complex.

Crunchless Crunch
This exercise is fairly simple but can be difficult to master. In a nutshell we’re going to try to pull our belly button in towards our spine, this involves muscles which you may not be accustomed to working, it can take time to make the mind muscle connection. Start by either lying on your stomach or supporting yourself on hands and knees. You might want to try both ways and see which helps you feel the exercise better. Relax your body as much as possible; use only the lower abdominals to try to move your belly button toward your spine. Hold for ten seconds. If holding for ten seconds feels easy, hold for a longer period. You should aim to hold the contraction until you either cannot feel it anymore, or you feel other muscles working harder than the transverse abdominus. When you feel this, release the contraction and relax.

Scissor Kicks
Again start by lying on a mat or bench, place your hands under your backside and try to keep the small of your back pressed down. Start by slowly raising one leg to a height of about ten inches, then slowly lower it back to the floor, as your lower one leg, raise the other. Repeat this movement for reps and sets. Keep disciplined, focus, don’t let momentum rob you. Your upper body should remain on the floor through the entire move.

Transverse abdominals aren’t show muscles but if you want a flatter tummy vitalising these muscles will take you a lot closer to your goals. Exercises like these are key to any tummy flattening plan, and they are especially good for pregnant and postnatal women.

I wrote this post originally for my bodybuilding blog but it applies equally well to both men and women who want to feel better in their clothes and themselves.