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MRSTIGHTWAD SparkPoints: (1,172)
Fitness Minutes: (2,769)
Posts: 80
5/30/13 12:28 P

As a personal trainer, I often use weight training at a faster pace to get the heart rate up, keep it up, and strengthen. I also incorporate separate sessions of progressive overloads for strength. If you're not looking at exercise in this manner, then you are missing out on an important segment to avoid plateauing and building cardiovascular strength. I.e.- supersets, crossfit, HIIT. There are two schools of thought on crunches, and from the research I have done, combined with what I have experienced, as long as crunches are done properly, they can reduce back pain, strengthen the core and back, and yes.....get the heart rate up.

As for neutral alignment of the spine.....I have a back injury, one that occurred 9 years ago (along with 2 bulging discs in the lumbar region, and 3 in the cervical region) and my doctors wanted to do surgery on. I said no. I am at 99% funtionability due to how I train and rebuilt the area. If you don't strengthen the back muscles, you run an even higher risk of injury. This requires taking the spine out of neutral alignment. Don't get me wrong, planks are fantastic....but if you think that they are all you need to strengthen that region, you are dead wrong.

If you do leg lifts.....guess what?! That's a crunch. Same with the stability ball pass. That popular video Hip Hop Abs.....vertical crunches at a high speed.

Crunches are not bad as long as you don't overdo it. And people who are heavier need to avoid planking until they can build up enough strength in their lower back and abdominals to be able to support the weight.... they will most assuredly suffer an injury.

LEC358 SparkPoints: (11,135)
Fitness Minutes: (6,555)
Posts: 2,744
5/30/13 10:26 A

"Planks are great for strengthening the core, but part of the idea of exercise is to get the heart rate up and burn calories."

True for cardio exercise like running, dancing, biking, etc but not really applicable for strength training. Strength training is generally slow and controlled so that you can concentrate on proper form. It builds muscles which then burn more calories because muscle cells need more energy than fat cells. Weight loss is firstly accomplished through nutrition, then strength training, then cardio.

Crunches also take the spine out of a neutral position and can lead to back problems. Side planks work the whole side of the body, not just the obliques. I use them a lot to rehab my weak hamstring.

MRSTIGHTWAD SparkPoints: (1,172)
Fitness Minutes: (2,769)
Posts: 80
5/30/13 10:09 A

Planks are great for strengthening the core, but part of the idea of exercise is to get the heart rate up and burn calories.

Try doing crunches instead. Lay on your back on the floor with your knees raised. Raise your upper body off of the floor just enough to get the shoulders up, relax, then repeat. Start out doing just 10 and increase your reps as your body adjusts.

To work the obliques: this is more comfortable on a bosu ball....sit on the floor with your knees bent and recline your upper body until your torso is roughly on a 45 degree angle and keep your back straight. Using a 5 lb weight, extend your right arm out to your side holding the weight for 2-3 seconds, then shift it to the left hand, and repeat. Do this for 10 reps on each side.

Once you can easily handle 20 reps on each side (or 20 reps total for the crunches) per set, it's time to add/add more weight. Do not twist side to side as this can pinch nerves if not done with a "flat" back.

SAGEBEARER SparkPoints: (0)
Fitness Minutes: (145)
Posts: 19
5/30/13 9:59 A

Thanks everyone! I'll try planks instead. emoticon

LEC358 SparkPoints: (11,135)
Fitness Minutes: (6,555)
Posts: 2,744
5/30/13 8:11 A

I don't do any exercises that take my spine out of a neutral position (ie no sit ups, leg raises, etc). Like PP's have said, planks are great core exercises. If you can't do a full plank on your toes and elbows, start on your knees and work your way up. :)

5/30/13 7:25 A

I also agree with Deb - I haven't done a sit up in years.

WAYCAT Posts: 1,009
5/30/13 3:53 A

Totally agree with Unident - avoid sit ups at all costs. I injured my back quite badly doing sit ups a few years ago, and have never tried them again since.

Planks are great - as Unident says, they work your entire core, not just the abs, and a strong core is important for overall strength and good posture.

BEEZAUR SparkPoints: (525)
Fitness Minutes: (1,740)
Posts: 74
5/30/13 1:42 A

Most of what I do for abs is to lie on my back and raise my legs. That avoids certain pressures to the spine (other exercises strengthen the back). Even on a mat I like to put my hands under my hips to prevent uncomfortable pressure on my tailbone.

I suspect that would avoid leg/tummy interference. There might be ways to do crunches too, but that's probably asking for two things to be in the same place at the same time more than leg raises.

P.S. You might want to avoid leg raises - there are some issues with them I wasn't aware of until I checked just now. Without a fairly complete program they might be best avoided.

Edited by: BEEZAUR at: 5/30/2013 (01:50)
UNIDENT Posts: 33,498
5/30/13 1:35 A

I wouldn't do situps at all.

Situps place tremendous strain on the lower back and are generally recommended these days as an exercise to avoid.

To work the core, use the variations of the Plank exercise. This can be found in Spark's exercise demos. Your tummy will not get in the way of this (if it does on your elbows do it on your hands), and it has the added advantage of working the entire core (front, back and side), as opposed to situps, which ony work the front region.

SAGEBEARER SparkPoints: (0)
Fitness Minutes: (145)
Posts: 19
5/30/13 12:33 A

I'm 5'6" and about 385. I have a very large tummy that constantly gets in the way.

I find that I can do a sit-up if I spread my knees to allow my tummy room to move. It's the only way I'm getting up there. Otherwise, my large tummy is competing with my legs for room that isn't there.

Is it okay to spread my legs enough for my tummy to have room while doing a sit-up or is it taking away from the exercise?

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