Tag Archives: abdominals

12 Days of Fitness 2018: Day 9 – The Best Exercise You’re Probably Not Doing

(This is part 9 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

Gym, or PE programs in schools are not what they use to be. Back then, we participated in physical activity; good old fashioned physical activity. I remember competing in the President’s Physical Fitness Challenge, performing physical tasks like sit ups, pull-ups (chin-ups), running shuttles, and of course, push-ups. The push-up is a great stand-alone exercise that many say that can’t do very well if at all so they avoid it. It’s time to reconsider that thought.

Push-Ups Get No Respect.

While other bodyweight exercises like chin-ups and dips boast devoted fans from all corners of the fitness industry, the lowly push-up is likened as the spoiled step-child of the training world. Most women can’t do them and those that can, can’t do them correctly. Men seem to have an easier time with them but they’re not immune from head shaking either. Arms flare out; core sags; partial reps are performed. Why is an exercise so simple and effective performed so inconsistently if at all with both sexes? It doesn’t get the respect it deserves.

 Understanding the Push-Up

The push-up is as much a core strengthening exercise as it is an upper body exercise. The abdominal muscles are king when it comes to spinal stability during push-ups. The rectus abdominis is the primary stabilizer for preventing hip sagging, while the obliques do most of the work to prevent lateral shifting and twisting. Push-ups of course are also about arms and chest as well as the back. Hand position plays an important role. A narrow base push-up position significantly increases stress on the elbow joint, but also involves higher muscle activation in the triceps and pecs. Internally rotated hand positions were also shown to produce greater and potentially injurious forces on the elbow joints. Depending on your goal, you’ll want to do different push-up progressions.

Common Push-Up Errors

Ask 10 people to perform a push-up and you’ll likely see 10 different presentations but including some of these most common errors:

  • T-Set Up – hands are positioned high and wide
  • Caterpillar – hips sag and back is tilted
  • Stopping short – just as the name implies, not complete reps

In all three instances, there are distinct muscle weaknesses/imbalances that need to be addressed before push-ups can be safely completed. Most “egos” don’t allow or permit those things to be addressed so you have a bunch of people performing what they think are push-ups. There are literally hundreds of exercises you can do in the gym to build a healthier, stronger body, but sometimes the basics are the best. Of course, you don’t need to stop what you’re doing and start doing push-ups but perhaps it’s time to give the much-maligned push-up a second look.

See you tomorrow for Day 10 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – Weight Loss Once and For All
Day #2 – 10 Pieces of Equipment Everyone Needs to Work Out at Home
Day #3 – Are You Afraid of Eating Fruit?
Day #4 – Healthy Foods?
Day #5 – 21 Ways to Combat Emotional Eating
Day #6 – 8 Reasons Why Your Workout is Failing You
Day #7 – The Problem With Added Sugars
Day #8Dieting Made Simple

Why Does My Back Hurt When Performing Ab Exercises?

Lower-Back-Pain1

Some lessons are just harder to learn than others. Despite all of the advice, scientific literature, and the painful lack of results, people still want to believe that ab exercises in every shape or form will make their stomachs flat, that the mythical concept of spot reduction doesn’t exist, and in the process of seeking the Holy Grail of fitness, potentially put themselves on the sidelines by injuring themselves. I’ve seen it many times where individuals are “killing” themselves working their abs when in reality, all they are doing is a lot of head bobbing and back contortions. Aside from putting warning labels on every abdominal exercise/device (we all know how well warning labels have worked in the real world), the only solution is to have a better understanding of what you’re potentially doing wrong when an exercise causes discomfort or worse, pain. But even if you have never experienced back pain while doing abdominal exercises, I believe you will find this informative.

It’s Not Supposed To Hurt

No exercise is ever meant or designed to hurt. Let me elaborate. No exercise is designed to cause physical harm through improper use and application of a particular exercise. Muscles are supposed to burn and can potentially be sore the next day, but no exercise should ever cause physical pain. It’s an important distinction to make as the basic nature of exercise is to cause physical stress, not distress. If something doesn’t feel right when performing an exercise, it’s your body’s way of alerting you something is not quite right. To continue working through it would be just careless. Learn to listen to your body and know the difference between when to push and when to stop.

The Mechanics Of Abdominal Training

Physical pain is caused by one of three things: blunt trauma (i.e. getting hit, falling, etc.); health issues (i.e. arthritis, circulatory problems, etc.); biomechanical failures (i.e. muscle pulls, tendon rupture, etc.). Most pain associated with a particular exercise can generally be associated to something biomechanical in origin. For example, in the case of abdominal exercises, any pain that is not felt in the abdominals but in other parts of the body (back, hip, neck, etc.) is not as much a result of weak abdominal muscles (although they do need the work), but the potential muscular imbalances between the opposing muscle groups; in this case, the back extensors versus the abdominals. With regards to abdominal training, depending on the muscle you’re attempting to work and isolate (rectus abdominus, obliques, transverse abdominus, etc.), it’s important to understand what the opposing action or muscle groups are to the movement. Let’s look at the basic abdominal crunch where the torso flexes (shoulders move closer to the hips). As the abdominals shorten in the front, the extension (opposing) muscles of the low back lengthen. But it doesn’t end there. Upon returning to the starting position as the abdominals now lengthen in the front, the back extensors then shorten. If there is pain sometimes felt with this exercise, could it be a weakness in the low back extension muscles? Possibly, but not always the case. Why?

The Proverbial Curve

The biggest cause of most, if not all pain associated with performing most abdominal exercise has its root in the biomechanical set up of your body. To put that more simply, how your spine and hips are aligned. Whether we’re talking about basic crunches, abdominal planks, rotations, etc. having an increased lordotic curve will have an impact on how you train and use the abdominal muscles. The lordotic curve (the curve in the small of your back) is dictated by either or both of two things: genetics and mechanics, or how you’ve conditioned it through life. It’s probably nothing you do intentionally except that when you sit it does have a negative effect on the lumbar spine and hips, thus affecting the lordotic curve. A very common cause to all of this is a condition known as anterior pelvic tilt. Imagine your hips as a bowl. With anterior pelvic tilt that bowl is tilted forward pouring out its contents. Anterior pelvic tilt is generally linked to the chronic shortening and subsequent tightening of the hip flexor muscles, much of which is the net effect of sitting. What makes this phenomenon especially uncomfortable for a lot of people and not just those performing abdominal exercises is that this set of muscles has their origin not on the front of the hip, but in the back on the front of the lower spine. Over time, those imbalances: tight hip flexors which pull on the low back; low back muscles that are chronically shortened and weakened as a result; a lengthened abdominal musculature that grows weaker and fatigued – coupled with an excessive lordotic curve and you have a recipe for low back pain when all you wanted to do was work your abs.

The Quick Fix

It’s not often that I say this but there is a quick fix to all of this.

  1. If it hurts, STOP!
  2. If you’re going to train your abs, be sure to train the entire core complex: rectus abdominus, obliques, transvers abdominus, hip flexors, back extensors, and the glutes. That’s right! The glutes are the under rated core muscle group because they control stability of the hips. Weak glutes leads to poor hip stability, possibly lending itself to a low back that grows weaker and weaker.
  3. Be mindful of the time you spend sitting. You can’t expect the body to function optimally through exercise if the other 98% of the time you’re putting it into a losing proposition. Make an effort to get up periodically; move around; stretch out; answer phone calls standing, etc.
  4. Work on getting more range of motion through the hips, not just the legs and arms that are always more popular.
  5. There are literally hundreds of way to work the abdominals. Find the ones that suit you best – not the most popular or trendy. And remember, the primary function of the abdominals is stability so if you predominately train your abs for flexion (i.e. sitting up), you’re setting yourself up for failure at some point.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Getting to The Core

working_my_apple_core_shirt-r48606aca90a44cc3a66bde47662a2178_8nhmi_512The health and fitness industry is full of buzzwords. Terms like “cardio”, “fat burning zone”, “muscle tone” and “net carbs” all proliferate the consumers’ knowledge base when it comes to understanding what they need to do for their fitness. The truth is that most of them are taken way out of context or even worse, don’t mean a damn thing – but they sure sound like you know what you’re talking about. Enter probably the biggest buzz word of all and you will quickly see how buzz words dilute real knowledge – the core.

Apple Core?

People talk about their “core” and it’s assumed they are talking about their abs. Partially true. Some will say they understand the “core” to be more than just their abs and it involves the lower back as well. Also partially true. The fact of the matter is, there is not one – nadda – anatomy text book where you will find the term or description of the word “core”. Is it just an imaginary muscle or concept? Or is it just a really cool way to describe the middle of something, such as in an apple or the center of the Earth? It’s not a new concept as the term  “core” was first coined in 1982 by Bob Gajda (1966 Mr. America) & Richard Dominquez M.D. in their book Total Body Training. In their book, Gajda and Dominquez stated, “The foundation of Total Body Training is the core, which compromises the muscles in the center of the body. These muscles stabilize the body while in upright, antigravity position or while using the arms and legs to throw or kick. These muscles maintain the body’s structure during vigorous exercises such as running, jumping, shoveling and lifting weights. These muscles also control the head, neck, ribs, spine and pelvis”

A Better Understanding

Contrary to popular misconception, the “core” is not just your abs and lower back; it’s all of your torso muscles (shoulders, glutes, abs, mid-back, lats, etc.) minus your arms and legs. So if you’re engaging in an exercise program that incorporates utilization of the upper body musculature in a closed kinetic chain fashion (both feet in contact with floor), congratulations – you’re core training. Free weight training, not just barbells and dumbbells but in any mode that allows for an endless plane of motion is more efficient at stimulating and strengthening the core than an exercise in which there is little to no support from a bench or seat. This is not to undermine the benefit of strength machines or classic exercises such as a bench press, but it should bring to light what is lost or what could be greatly accomplished by training the “core” properly. And sit-ups, crunches, and a plethora of abdominal exercises are not the answer.

To Flex Or Not To Flex

The fitness industry has made a belief, almost religion, in what it shares as the best way to achieve ripped, rock hard abs. Gyms are filled with ab machines, devices, and classes all touting the benefits of a strong “core” and a coveted six pack. And at any given moment those machines and/or classes are occupied by some who especially have no business torqueing their spines improperly. Understand that the primary function of the abdominal musculature is stabilization – providing support to the pelvis and lumbar spine; second is spinal flexion; third is rotation. All three movements are integrated, meaning that they are not solely independent of one another. To delve deeper, a strong, stable, and efficient “core” does not grow out of killing it with abdominal exercises only.  It involves an involvement of many muscles, working together to achieve optimum movement and function – lack of which is a huge contributor to injury and immobilization in so many.

Focus on building your “core” as a strong foundation of stability and mobility – not jjst intense abdominal or low back work. Abdominals blanketed by body fat is another discussion and a six pack will not…WILL NOT magically just appear even with all the gut wrenching (no pun intended) abdominal specific exercises you can squeeze out. After all, you’re only as strong as your weakest link.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

12 Days of Fitness 2011 – Day 4: Do You Suffer From Belly Fat?

4111(This is Part 4 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful fitness tips over the holiday season)

The infamous pot belly, beer gut, fat pooch, spare tire – all fun monikers of unwanted belly fat. Like many Americans unfortunately, you or someone you know probably suffers from regional fat storage issues. The body stores fat over the entire body, but it’s always the most noticeable areas where people focus yet struggle to lose.  For this discussion, I’m referring to the abdomen and whether you’re a man or woman, the solution is the same – you can’t spot reduce but instead must decrease overall body fat for a problem area to diminish. These problem areas are not only influenced by poor dietary choices, but heavily by your hormonal environment, and where you store that last bit of fat is determined by which of your hormones are most out of whack.

One Bad Mammajamma

One of the things that has been talked about quite a bit in fitness media is the relationship between belly fat and a hormone called “cortisol”, or the stress hormone. To put it simply, the higher your cortisol levels, the more belly fat you’re likely to have. By the same token, if you have a good deal of belly fat, it’s reasonable to assume that you have high levels of cortisol. Having high cortisol is detrimental for many reasons, but for this discussion, let’s focus on the fact that cortisol is keeping you well padded up front. The obvious solution would be to try and lower cortisol levels but if it were that easy no one would have proud paunches like Mr. Claus. The good news is that it is possible.

Fight Fire With Fire

To combat hormones artificially is a war I feel not many people are going to win.  That is, taking hormones to try to counteract what other hormones are trying to do naturally.  The intricacy of hormones and how they interact is a dangerous path with lots of potential side effects.  The good news however, is that there is a natural combatant to rising cortisol levels and that is growth hormone.  No, I’m not suggesting taking growth hormone. Growth hormone is produced in the pituitary gland and is responsible for growth and the best natural way to stimulate growth hormone is….EXERCISE! But of course, it isn’t that easy.

Growth hormone is released as a response to the production of lactic acid, the burning sensation in muscles that is a waste byproduct of the chemical and metabolic processes that happen during exercise. To put it to you more simply, the more intense (resistance training, short rest periods, interval training), the more lactic acid you produce, the more growth hormone you’ll produce naturally as a result. The increased growth hormone surge will help combat your high cortisol levels. Going to the gym and just going through the motions isn’t going to cut it. Sporadic or infrequent training isn’t going to do it either. Neither is fad, crash dieting to “give you a head start”. Real change requires real work done real hard.  You get out what you out in; it’s as simple as that.

See you tomorrow for Day 5 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

 

My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment – #2 The Ab Lounge

(This is a 10 part series in which I am reviewing some of the products sold as exercise equipment, fitness solutions, etc. on infomercials, magazine ads, and cable shopping networks.  Unlike most of the ads for these products, this isn’t based on a double blind, major university backed study.  It is simply my professional opinion based on my fitness experience and knowledge in the hopes that it will save you some time, aggravation and money.)

abloungerThe Ab Lounge

I confess.  At times, I enjoy doing nothing.  When it comes time for vacation or just those few (and I mean few as the father of a toddler) moments, I’m content doing absolutely nothing.  Vegging out, perhaps some reading, or just catching some zzz’s. But never, ever, would I consider not remaining active or consider exercise and lounging to exist concurrently. Let me introduce to you the Ab Lounge.

Not Your Typical Lounger

When I think of the word lounge, I think of putting my feet up, sitting back perhaps with a beverage, or just laying around doing nothing remotely physical. When you say lounge, the farthest thing from my mind is exercise. At first glance, the Ab Lounger looks like a state of the art lounge chair more for the beach, pool, deck, or campsite. Actually looks quite comfortable.  Throw some cup holders on it and we’re good to go.  But exercise on it? Are you kidding me?

Exercise and Lounging Simply Don’t Mix

Yet again, the deception and mockery of fitness to the public continues. The concept of spot reduction is a recurrent theme in all of these “poor excuses” for exercise equipment, and sad to say it doesn’t make a difference because it just doesn’t nor will it ever happen. It doesn’t matter how much you train the abs, feel the burn, or create so much soreness you can’t laugh for days, the abdominal fat will remain right there insulating your midsection.  The good news however is if you’re dedicated and successful at eating well, follow an intense cardio interval and weight training program, you just might find some success. But lounging, or “crunching more effectively” or as the TV personality says in the video “go faster in the fat burning zone” as what the Ab Lounge promises, might as well enjoy a pint of ice cream while you’re there because the result is going to be about the same. I’m waiting for the Ab Couch to come out that burns calories while you watch TV cuddled in your Snuggie.  Truth be told, for the believers of the “fat burning zone” (that magical heart rate zone where you burn fat) sitting on the couch fits right into their mentality. I challenge you to see how far that gets you.

My Advice

I try to not be so cynical when it comes to these things.  Obviously, someone put a lot of money into the development of this product and consequently I imagine made a lot of money too.  That doesn’t make it right and it makes the concept of exercise and fitness just that much more confusing to the people who would benefit from it the most.  Mom always said, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Take home message: Don’t buy into the gimmicks; buy into the mindset that fitness is a lifestyle and unless it becomes that for you, you might just as well lounge because the result is going to be the same.

So we have come to but one left on my list and I have a little proposition for you. If you can correctly guess what my number 1 Most Useless Piece of Exercise Equipment is before I post it, I will happily send you a free copy of my e-book, “How to Read Food Labels”.  No catch, just some good clean fun.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

In case you’ve missed them, here are My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment so far:

#10 The Jump Snap
#9 The Thigh Master
#8 The Ab Roller
#7 The Red Exerciser
#6 Leg Magic
#5 The Ab Circle
#4 The Bender Ball
#3 6 Second Abs

My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment – #3 6 Second Abs

(This is a 10 part series in which I am reviewing some of the products sold as exercise equipment, fitness solutions, etc. on infomercials, magazine ads, and cable shopping networks.  Unlike most of the ads for these products, this isn’t based on a double blind, major university backed study.  It is simply my professional opinion based on my fitness experience and knowledge in the hopes that it will save you some time, aggravation and money.)

images6 Second Abs

One of my favorite comedies of all time is the hilarious There’s Something About Mary. No many how many times I’ve seen it, there are lines and scenes from that movie that still make me laugh like I’m witnessing them for the first time. But as a fitness professional, one that stands out in my mind of course had something to do with exercise, and not Mary.

A Genius Idea is Born?

Ben Stiller’s character, Ted, is on his way to Florida to seek Mary and along the way picks up a hitchhiker. Unbeknownst to Ted, the hitchhiker is a serial killer with an entrepreneurial mind and in their conversation, he discusses his idea for an exercise video called “7 Minute Abs”, in retribution to the already famous ‘8 Minute Abs”.  Ted goes along with the idea but then challenges his awkward passenger by saying, “That’s good.  Unless of course somebody comes up with 6 Minute Abs.  Then you’re in trouble huh?”  The hitchhiker convulses and of course thinks that’s just ridiculous. That scene always makes me laugh not so much for the acting, but the lunacy that abs are sold on a time factor.  Case in point, 6 Second Abs. (Ted’s passenger would have truly lost his mind on this one.)

A Genius Idea is Bad?

The basic premise behind 6 Second Abs  is that the abs can be worked more efficiently when crunches are performed properly. By leaning into the “jack hammer looking” apparatus and listening for the three clicks in the positive, or concentric phase, and the three clicks in the negative, or eccentric phase, you’ll get a much more result yielding crunch than traditional abdominal exercises. OK.  Without getting overly technical and discussing tension load and time on muscles, working any muscle in the body deliberately slower is going to yield a different response on that muscle than if the repetition was performed at normal speed. Is that relevant to this exercise? Depends.  Bottom line is, there is no doubt that it could potentially lead to a stronger abdominal muscle, but that in and of itself has nothing to do with leaning up the midsection.

Just a Bad Idea

Yet again, the abdominals are the easy target to sell product to the emotion driven consumer:  I deserve a flat stomach (then get up off of the couch and do something about it); ab training should be easy (anything worth having doesn’t come easy); abs can be trained quickly (depends, but chances are they’re the least of your problems); abs can be worked efficiently in 6 seconds (you can create a burn in 6 seconds but that’s hardly considered efficient); this is the answer to my flabby belly (you’d be better off putting the device between you and the dinner table).  7 minutes, 8 minutes, 6 seconds – the time doesn’t matter.  As with any training, consistency, intensity, and proper progression are the variables that are going to lead to the greatest result.  Any thought process otherwise and you should stop before you ever begin.

My Advice

It goes without saying: abdominal devices are gimmicks. Do any of them work? To an extent, some may have very little merit. But none of them are necessary and will leave you broke, financially and emotionally.  And if Ted really wanted to be with Mary, he didn’t need to be Brett Fav…ruh or any of the other goons that were drawn to her.  He needed to be true to himself and that’s where the best abdominal training begins.

 

Stay tuned for future posts with the remaining 2.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

In case you’ve missed them, here are My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment so far:

 

#10 The Jump Snap
#9 The Thigh Master
#8 The Ab Roller
#7 The Red Exerciser
#6 Leg Magic
#5 The Ab Circle
#4 The Bender Ball

 

My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment – #4 The Bender Ball

(This is a 10 part series in which I am reviewing some of the products sold as exercise equipment, fitness solutions, etc. on infomercials, magazine ads, and cable shopping networks.  Unlike most of the ads for these products, this isn’t based on a double blind, major university backed study.  It is simply my professional opinion based on my fitness experience and knowledge in the hopes that it will save you some time, aggravation and money.)

Bender-Ball-300x300The Bender Ball

I stated in an earlier post in this series that I could do an entire series on abdominal gimmicks alone. At number four is yet another one and with only three more remaining, two of which are also abdominal gimmicks, it may make you wonder if all abdominal equipment is junk or is there any abdominal equipment ever worth buying. I will answer both of these questions before this post is finished, but first things first.

Let’s Play Ball

The Bender Ball  is the creation of a “master trainer” by the name of….? You guessed it – Bender.  The Bender Ball is a small, 9 inch ball that is placed in the lumbar curve (small of the back) to make abdominal crunches 408% more effective by increasing flexion and extension of the torso. 408%? How exactly do you quantify that? You can’t but that helps sell product. What they won’t tell you about are the legitimate studies that examined the effectiveness of the Bender Ball on abdominal muscle activation. What did those studies find?  That the Bender Ball was only slightly more effective (less than 50%) than some traditional abdominal exercises such as the basic floor crunch, bicycle crunch, or crunches performed on a foam roller.  The only slight differences (more than 50% effectiveness) were found in the varying levels of extension that could be achieved in certain individuals. The amount of extension however is the biggest concern with this small ball.

Put Your Back In To It

Most of us are born with an “S” curve in our spine.  It varies from person to person but a normal healthy spine begins at the base of the skull, bends slightly forward, bends back slightly again in the torso or thoracic region, and bends forward again in the abdominal/hip region, thus causing a concave curve in the lower back (lumbar) region. This “S” essentially functions as a spring that keeps us upright against the ever present forces of gravity.  The lumbar region is notoriously associated with low back disorders of all types, from muscle spasms to herniated discs. The reason? Among other things: not enough or too much curve, tight psoas muscles that cause an anterior hip tilt (sitting too long) and convex (flat with very little curve) low back, weak abdominals that do not balance the strength required to oppose the back muscles, etc. Any one of these scenarios can lead to an already compromised muscle imbalance, thus making normal flexion and extension difficult or painful.  Throw in a ball designed to increase extension and subsequent increased flexion and you have a spinal disaster in the making.  And all for what? A flat, chiseled midsection that could be obtained much safer and more efficiently by much more effective and cost friendly means.

My Advice

Abdominal devices are plentiful because their demand is so high. However, rational thought is thrown out the window when emotions are running high so be smart about how you train your abs and what you use if anything at all – devices are not necessary. Remember, the flat stomach look has less to do with the amount of abdominal exercises you do or how much they burn the muscles and more about what your overall approach to health and fitness is. Want a flat stomach? 1) Stop buying into overhyped, unproven methods and gimmicks 2) pay more attention to what you eat and drink 3) get moving hard and fast 4) resistance train.  Failure to do ALL of these things and a flat stomach you will never have – guaranteed. Plus, your back will remind you in due time if you don’t.

 

Stay tuned for future posts with the remaining 3.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

In case you’ve missed them, here are My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment so far:

#10 The Jump Snap
#9 The Thigh Master
#8 The Ab Roller
#7 The Red Exerciser
#6 Leg Magic
#5 The Ab Circle

My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment – #5 The Ab Circle

(This is a 10 part series in which I am reviewing some of the products sold as exercise equipment, fitness solutions, etc. on infomercials, magazine ads, and cable shopping networks.  Unlike most of the ads for these products, this isn’t based on a double blind, major university backed study.  It is simply my professional opinion based on my fitness experience and knowledge in the hopes that it will save you some time, aggravation and money.)

AB_Circle_Pro1The Ab Circle

Abdominals are what it’s all about I guess.  Forget about the decreased blood pressure, decreased risk of diabetes (among the hundreds of other diseases exercise improves the chances of not succumbing to) decreased chance of depression and anxiety, increased energy….I could go on with the real benefits to exercise.  Perhaps it’s that they’re not as glamorous as the appeal of a chiseled six pack. Unfortunately, the real problem with that line of thinking is that the ultimate cost to dealing with the multitudes of maladies that could have been prevented as a result of an active lifestyle fails largely in comparison to the small satisfaction of having a mostly unattainable bit of vanity. Case in point, I present you the Ab Circle.

Going in Circles

To me, watching infomercials is like watching a bad train wreck.  I can’t stand to watch but I can’t look away either.  As a result, I either laugh hysterically or am so amazed that people actually fall for this junk that I get fueled to write a series such as this one. I wholeheartedly believe that it is this constant spewing of fitness junk that has the masses so confused about what real exercise is all about that whatever comes out next is going to be the answer everyone’s been waiting for. Oh boy!

The Perfect Ingredients

Let’s face it.  Nothing sells fitness more than a scantily clad man or woman strolling or working out by the beach.  Add a widget and you have yourself a top selling product.  If you’ve been following the previous posts, you should understand by now how the abdominals work, what their true function is, and the deceptive concept of spot reduction.  With the exception of a really bad commercial, the Ab Circle does nothing more than provide a ride the whole family can enjoy; or at least the average beach bum.

My advice.  Anything that is sold to make abdominal training more fun and easy is like saying you can eat healthy at a fast food restaurant.  Who are you kidding?

Stay tuned for future posts with my top 4-1.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

In case you’ve missed them, here are My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment so far:

#10 The Jump Snap
#9 The Thigh Master
#8 The Ab Roller
#7 The Red Exerciser
#6 Leg Magic

 

 

 

My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment – #7 The Red Exerciser

(This is a 10 part series in which I am reviewing some of the products sold as exercise equipment, fitness solutions, etc. on infomercials, magazine ads, and cable shopping networks.  Unlike most of the ads for these products, this isn’t based on a double blind, major university backed study.  It is simply my professional opinion based on my fitness experience and knowledge in the hopes that it will save you some time, aggravation and money.)

red-exerciserThe Red Exerciser

As I stated in a previous post, abdominals, more precisely the six pack abs, are the Holy Grail of fitness.  At least that’s what we are meant to think or believe.  And with that, the proliferation of ridiculous, misleading, yet top selling exercise gadgets that are common place on late night TV ads.  I could do an entire segment on abdominal gimmicks alone, but there are just so many comical ones out there, it would spoil all the fun.  Nevertheless, at number 7 is the very technically named ab toner called the Red Exerciser.

What’s in a Name?

This one even stumps me.  The Red Exerciser is well, red.  Hence the name I suppose. Very original. It’s really nothing more than a swivel chair (like a bar stool) with handles at the side to grab while rotating in the seat. Scratching my head here.  Someone developed this, thought it was a good idea, and sold it for upwards of $75? I must be doing something wrong.

Functionally Irrelevant

One element of any training is that the movement being trained should have some relevance to everyday life, whether an athlete or super mom.  I assume that someone sat in their swivel chair at their cubicle and said, “Hey! This could be a great exercise!” They may be laughing all the way to the bank, but it’s a shame that anyone would think this apparatus is a good idea at all.

First of all, as discussed in the previous post on the Ab Roller, the function of the abdominals is to stabilize, rotate, and flex the torso and in that order.  Yes, the Red Exerciser addresses rotation but here begins point number two. Very little functional rotation occurs while sitting; it usually happens when we’re standing.  Again, I think someone was doing a lot of swiveling in their chair at the office when they dreamt of this one.  Number three, while seated the hip flexors (the muscles in the crease of the thigh and hip) are flexed, thus pulling on the lumbar spine (the back).  A tight low back (very good probability if you spend a lot of your day in swivel chairs) coupled with the torque of a rotating torso (spine), and you have a really good concoction for some serious back, specifically disk, problems.  And finally, the Red Exerciser most likely was sold on the false promise, otherwise known as spot reducing, that it would magically reduce the “love handles”.  I regret to report that will never happen.

Twist the Night Away

With all the popularity of Dancing With the Stars, my advice if you really want to reduce the appearance of the love handles.  Go dancing and cue up some Chubby Checker’s “The Twist”. At least you’ll be standing and burning real calories.  Who knows?  You might even really have a good time

Stay tuned for future posts with numbers 6 -1.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

In case you’ve missed them, here are My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment:

 

#10 The Jump Snap

#9 The Thigh Master

#8 The Ab Roller

 

My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment – #8 The Ab Roller

(This is a 10 part series in which I am reviewing some of the products sold as exercise equipment, fitness solutions, etc. on infomercials, magazine ads, and cable shopping networks.  Unlike most of the ads for these products, this isn’t based on a double blind, major university backed study.  It is simply my professional opinion based on my fitness experience and knowledge in the hopes that it will save you some time, aggravation and money.)

Ab rollerThe Ab Roller

Before I begin, let me just say that I am not opposed to abdominal exercises.  There are many that are great for you and very effective at strengthening the abdominal wall, not reducing abdominal fat (see spot reduction vs. spot toning in previous post.). They are by far the fan favorite of anyone that begins an exercise program and whether they’re loved or hated, they are without a doubt the exercise I get asked most about.  That being said, a lot of what I’m going to tell you in this post (and future posts) about abdominal exercise is going to be very contrary to what you think you know, may have heard, or want to believe. So let’s begin.

The Abdominal Dupe

Because of the popularity of abdominal exercise, it should come as no surprise that a lot of the gimmicks sold are abdominal related.  People want (or made to think) that they want flat, chiseled, six pack abs – just like the models in the ads! Truth be told, there is a small percentage of people who have the genetic make up for effortless six pack abs, and for the rest of us there is a near flawless dedication to diet and exercise required to obtain six pack abs.  It’s not impossible, but abdominal exercise, particularly the gimmicks, is not the place to start and are likely to do more harm than good.

Abdominal 101

To really understand and appreciate how the abdominals work, knowledge of muscle function is paramount.  Without getting too involved, the abdominal muscles as a group and in order of function from primary to less important, stabilize, rotate, and flex the torso. Important to note that the least important role of the abdominals is to flex (bring the shoulders closer to the hips) and even more important to note that most popular abdominal exercises address trunk flexion, not stabilization or rotation.  So is that such a bad thing? No. But here lies the problem with over flexion of the torso.

Our bodies are these amazing machines.  Whatever happens to one side of the body, the counter movement occurs to the opposite side of the body.  In essence, the body is always working to establish balance.  In the case of abdominal “flexion” exercises, the opposing action to the other side of the body is spinal extension.  Spinal extension, if in the presence of tight spinal (lower back) muscles, typically caused by inactivity and/or prolonged sitting, unmistakably will lead to lower back discomfort or even pain. If you’ve ever done abdominal exercises such as crunches or some outrageous form of abdominal “burring” exercise, and your back hurt – bingo! Add to that the extreme neck flexion by pulling on the back of the head and you really start to wonder if your quest for a flat stomach is really worth all of the trouble.  You don’t have to answer that question because you should by now already know the answer to it.

The Final Verdict

First, I have a confession.  I had an Ab Roller when they first came out.  I used it religiously.  But that was before my education and experience taught me the reality of what I’ve brought you here. Hey, we’re all guilty of the impulse buy. The Ab Roller is nothing more than training wheels for crunches.  It guides and supports the neck and shoulders and rolls smoothly to allow a comfortable abdominal exercise.  Problem is, our abdominals don’t work that way (fixed, rolling position) and despite the burning that most work to obtain (or avoid), the illusion is that other than fatiguing a muscle that has a high affinity for repetition (it’s asked to hold your insides in all day long), it’s nothing more than a bunch of horizontal curtsy.

 

Stay tuned for future posts with numbers 7 -1.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, be better.

 

In case you’ve missed them, here are My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment:

#10 The Jump Snap
#9 The Thigh Master