OK I've some questions on strengthening those muscles that we use all the time. Like abs & back muscles that keep us upright when sitting or walking and such.
Basically my motivation here is twofold. Most importantly, I have the understanding that strong back & abdominal muscles lessen the chance of back injury during physical activities like grappling, moving heavy objects etc. and I'd like to strengthen these muscles to reduce my chance of injury. I have never had a back injury and I don't want to start now.
I'd also like to get myself a nice six-pack and muscle definition all around so the girlies can sit there and run their hands on me and marvel at my incredible physique. I know muscle definition is more a component of body fat and less a component of muscle size, although that's important also. Right now I'm at about 11% bodyfat and that was before I started lifting so I was already in pretty good form even prior to working out. I figure I'll work on strength first and later on if I want to cut my body fat I'll work on that. I'll see how I fill out as I continue my workouts (I've been lifting for about a month now).
So as for the exercises...
I worked on my abs yesterday I was using the crunch machine at the gym. My trainer guy said to do 3 sets of as many as I could each set. I did 3 sets of 100 because I got bored I stopped. I was getting a pretty good "burn" by the end of sets 2 and 3 but I could have gone on. To me, doing sets of 100 or more doesn't jive with working on any other muscle where you're talking sets of not more than 15 no matter what your goals. Is there a better way?
I also work on the "rotary torso" machine where you sit on the seat and lift a certain amount of weight and you're holding this pad against your chest and twisting. I did three sets of 10 with a fair amount of weight, I think like 7 or 8 plates, whatever that amounts to. This works the obliques.
For back, I do the normal stuff...rows, pull downs, assisted chinups and so forth. For the lower back I use the machine where you fit your ankles in and lay on your belly. My legs are parrallel to the ground and I bend at the waist so I'm at a right angle then I lift myself up so my body is straight like superman. I do three sets of 12. I guess if I wanted to make it more difficult, I could hold a weight to my chest.
My trainer guy says that because I use my abs and back all the time for walking, holding my body upright, etc. that you need to do super high reps, but I dunno if this is accurate or not. What do you people say?
As long as we're talking about working muscles I use all the time, my calf workout is similar. I get on the machine with my heels hanging off the bar and a weight pressing on my shoulders and I do calf raises with about 100 lbs. on my shoulders and bust out 3 sets of 20 as quickly as I can.
So am I following proper "lifting theory" with these sets of super high reps, or would I be better served with more resistance and lower reps? As it is, particularly on the crunches, sets of 100 seems more like an aerobic workout than strength training.
Does this question make sense? Do I need to clarify anything?
If anyone else is interested in this, I found a good online document for all aspects of weight training. It's the misc.fitness.weights FAQ.
Read it at www.trygve.com/mfw_faq.html.
They have a good section on ab workouts and also link to an "ab training" FAQ at www.dstc.edu.au/TU/staff/timbomb/ab/
That second link also has some information on working the erector muscles in your back, which was the second part of my question. They seem to agree with Ed here. They start by saying, "Use weight for resistance. 100 reps of any exercise is a waste of time."
OK So I will read through the "abdominal" FAQ above and modify my ab routine.
At 11% bf you should be close to seeing abs or be able to see them already. I'm not talking about bodybuilder contest abs but you should be able to see them. Make sure you are watching your sodium and drinking enough water so you aren't retaining any. I usually get a gallon or a gallon and a half every day.
As far as your back, the king of all exercises would be the deadlift. Make sure you are doing them powerlifting style. These will also cause your traps and forearms to blow up.
If you can do hundreds of reps then usually you are working the hip flexors in your legs or the psoas(sp?) instead of your abs.
As for your trainer's advice on the need to do 100's of reps...I would disagree. Traditional ab exercises like crunches do not stress the same muscles as would be under tension when you walk or sit upright. It follows that those exercises are thus not very good to address and prevent injuries.
First, I would abandon the machines and use a "swiss ball" or "gym ball." These are the large rubber balls roughly 2.5 to 4 feet in diameter. I would also use a pole or broomstick.
I would divide the exercises into flexion and non-flexion exercises. Flexion basically means you change the angle--in this case between your upper body and your lower body as you sit up.
For flexion exercises, I would use the swiss ball to alter the range of motion you perform. For example, a traditional crunch on the ground, you start with your torso in-line with your legs. This is the unstressed position and lest call it 180 degrees. The stressed position--where your abs are under tension from muscular contraction--is when your
body reaches 150 degrees. 90 degrees would be sitting straight-up so 150 degrees mean you curl/crunch 30 degrees. Going beyond 30 degrees makes it difficult to use your abs and not your hip flexors.
Doing crunches on the swiss ball, you can make your start position 190 to 210 degrees (i.e., your pelvis is higher than both your knees and head). So, when you curl/crunch, 180 degrees--the position you would be in while standing or sitting upright--would be a position with your abs under tension. Curl/crunch up, pause, lower, and repeat.
You can make similar changes to side-ups by laying on your side with your arm over the ball (armpit touching ball) and "side-uping" until your legs and torso are a straight line. Lower and repeat.
For your back, you can reverse the position of the swiss ball crunches (so your butt is sticking straight up). Then, shift forwards or backwards so either your legs touch the ground or your elbows and wrists touch the ground. Then contract your lower back / glutes to raise your legs (if your elbows are on the ground) or your torso (if your toes are on the ground). Again, you are using the swiss ball to create the situation where your abs or back are under tension when your legs are in-line with your torso.
I will put the non-flexion exercises in a separate post tomorrow (its 11:30pm).
Sorry for the delay...
Here are the non flexion exericises.
All fours TVA. Basically, you kneel down on your hands and knees as if your were giving your child a pony ride. Place the broomstick in the middle of your back so your tailbone, upper back, and back of your head touch the pole. "Suck in your gut" and compress your abdomen area into the center of your body. Hold for 3 to 20 seconds as a rep.
Once you are "too cool for school" and can do 5-6 sets of 20 reps and 20 second compressions, you can try it from a position where your toes touch the ground (like the pushup position) and your forearms rest against the ground. Your weight is balanced between your toes and from your wrists to elbows of each hand.
The 3 points of contact with the broomstick should always remain...even during contraction. Pay special care not to thrust your neck/head forward as this promotes poor posture. Also, breathe while you draw your abdomen in. As soon as you break form, stop the exercise (dont do bad reps--this is a posture exercise).
"Ballet" back press. Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground and knees pointed towards the sky. Place your elbows on the ground beside you. Place one hand (either hand) on your tummy (where you compressed in the earlier exercise) and the other hand at the small of your back. Press your back into the floor without "popping your abs out" (using one hand to check if you are). Make sure you keep constant pressure against the hand that is at the small of your back or the rep is over.
You should also try this with your hand to your sides and press your back flat against the floor. Either variation should have the same timing and set/rep count as the TVA above.
Finally, there are almost 2 dozen variations of the "pelvic tilt" exercises but the feel of those is very complex to describe. Look for the new "Legendary Abs" edition by Jerry Robinson/Health for Life (may be the "gold edition) or most ab books from Paul Chek. These will have explanations of the pelvic tilts.
Hope this helps (and hope I am caught up),
if you wanna work on your upper stomach i found that laying on the floor with a dumbbell in each hand lifting it over your head parrel with your chest works pretty good for the solar plexus,, start with bout 10 lbs wieghts do bout 4 or 5 sets of 20 with em gives it one great work out anout having the wieghts parrel to your side and doing not really crunches but not situps taking your back to about a 45 degree angle to the floor works the mid to lower stomach pretty good too
Also found that holdinf dumbells like your are going to do a curl then keep arms straight and meeting them above you head will work the back muscles pretty damn good ,,, or take the dumbells and holw the out to the side palms forward and bring then to parrel with your sides but letting them touch seems to work alot of the muscles used in the back really good