Your Free Fitness Consultation

Given my developing financial situation, I’ve spent plenty of time over the past several weeks contemplating the finer points of pretty much everything one can do for free around here. For example, since wrapping up my final exams, I’ve begun writing for an external audience through a trendy internet-based phenomenon known as blogging. Perhaps some of you have heard of it. Another relatively weighty (pun absolutely intended) portion of my current lifestyle, as those who know me personally might’ve guessed, has been the eponymous Jacrobat Gym Workout. Today, I’ve decided to blend these two worthy pastimes (I mean, why not?) into a frothy and delicious ramble about my personal strategies for building abominable abdominals!

Most powerlifters (them folks that grunt or scream while they bench and then totter off too exhausted to rack their weights, leaving you to peel maybe two hundred pounds from the bar before you can even lift the damn thing) will encourage you to work in those crunches after heavy lifting exercises like bench presses and deadlifts. Their rationale is simple: if you want to toss really heavy weights around, you’ll need your abdominals at full capacity to stabilize your torso and thus protect your spinal cord. Such logic is irrefutable.

That said, there are a select few of us out there who enjoy lifting weights but don’t really want to end up looking like a top-heavy Taxidermy For Dummies project. Y’see, when I chose to follow these powerlifters’ advice, my one rep maximums (not to mention pecs, lats, delts, and traps) ballooned rapidly – but by the time I hit the mats, both glycogen and motivation were dropping into the danger zone. So I’d bust out a couple weak sets o’ crunches and head for the hills.

After a few weeks of such treatment, my core began to atrophy. So although I looked bigger, I really wasn’t making much progress. Turns out that ripped abdominals at 80% capacity stabilize just as effectively as paltry ones at 100%. And the former provides additional benefits when climbing mountains, hanging out at the beach, or shredding cheese.

So since a few weeks ago I’ve wedged an intense abdominal routine between my warmup (usually ten minutes with the rowing machine on maximum resistance, aiming for about 2.4 kilometers in that time) and my heavy lifting. The results have been phenomenal. My endurance during bench-presses and front squats has decreased significantly, but my overall athleticism has jumped two notches (and my vertical leap about three inches), even given the extremely short time span involved.

The message to take home? The muscleheads hanging out at the gym probably know their stuff, but you’ve got to carefully consider the relationship between their goals and lifestyles and your own. The same thing goes for those trendy plans celebrities follow to reshape their bodies at terminal velocity. Such workouts are very difficult to sustain for long periods unless you base your whole life around them. Is that eight-pack really worth leaving behind the things one loves? If so… well, have fun with that.

Oh! Almost forgot – these are a few of my favorite core exercises.  Mixing them into a routine including more common motions like the standard crunch and the side bridge will really increase your workout’s effectiveness.

Elbows and Knees

Hang from an overhead bar with your palms facing toward you and pull yourself up halfway, so that your forearms are perpendicular to the floor and form a right angle with your upper arms.  Then bend your knees and raise your legs – without curling your torso – until the knees touch your elbows.  Lower your legs slowly so that your body doesn’t swing.  This move is also great for building upper-body endurance.

Bicycle Kick

Lie on your back with your legs suspended off the ground, slightly bent, and your head and shoulders curled forward, also off the ground.  Support your head with your hands so your elbows are splayed outward to either side, and make sure you’re holding yourself in this position with your abdominals rather than your neck.  Slowly crunch forward and to the right with your upper body while drawing your right knee towards your head until your left wrist and right knee touch.  Meanwhile, kick the left leg out straight.  Then slowly alternate, kicking out the right leg while touching your left knee and right wrist.

Wood Chop

Stand with legs apart and hold a medicine ball straight out in front of you.  Without turning your hips or bending your arms (thus ensuring that all the rotation work comes from the core) slowly rotate up and to the right.  Then bring the ball back down through the starting point and towards your lower left, still keeping your feet and hips facing precisely the original direction.  After performing several repetitions, try the same motion going from upper left to lower right.

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~ by Jack on November 5, 2007.

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