The obsession with 6 pack abs is a relatively new phenomena that got everybody and their monkeys doing ridiculous amounts of sit ups in vain.
Why it's stupid, stupid, stupid (especially for women with diastasis recti or anyone with excess belly fat tissue).
1. you can't spot train fat tissue (especially visceral belly fat) off any specific area.
2. traditional crunches/sit ups have the opposite effect one would hope for as they make the belly seem even bigger than it is if one is carrying excess body fat there. This is because it grows "washboard abs" underneath a layer(s) of fat giving an even greater "spare tire" appearance.
There are already abs under there. No need to do sit ups. Do smart nutrition instead.
3. We all have defined "abs." If you want to see them, get the nutrition in order and they will appear. Abs are made in the kitchen.
And even more important….
4. Training only the "6 pack" abs throws your whole core and posture out of balance resulting in back pain, head ache, knee pain, neck strain, etc. This is why the training programs and the custom programs for private clients focus on core stability through various planes not just one tiny set of mirror muscles…
This is not medical advice but a helpful suggestion for women with diastasis recti:
Focus on transverse abdomini exercises (your corset muscles that pull everything in). Also known as the "natural spanx" muscles.
Cat Vomits, Russian Twists, Planks, Woodchops, Pallof Presses are great exercises to strengthen the corset muscles while giving the appearance of a slimmer waist (if that's what you want).
STOP DOING SIT UPS FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY.
And one last thing…
Every exercise you do should include an engaged and tightened core.
Squats, deadlifts, kettlebell swings should all include the emptying of air from your stomach with your belly button being pulled tightly into your spine as if you were about to be punched.
Tightening the corset (transverse abdomini) and nourishing your body in a healthy, strategic way to kick start the shedding of adipose tissue will get you a tighter tummy and solid core strength faster than sit ups.
How to Bring Up Weaker Body Parts
A lot of times when I work with physique athletes (or anyone interested in developing a more lean, muscular physical aesthetic) they'll want to bring up certain "lagging" body parts.
QUICK DISCLAIMER: This isn't about body shaming or saying how anyone should look. If you're happy, I'm happy for you. This is only about women wanting to create more muscular symmetry on their body that they choose to develop.
We all have areas of strength and weakness regarding muscular aesthetic due to genetics and points of muscle belly insertion predetermined by your ancestors.
For example, I have to throw the kitchen sink at my delts and biceps but can get my calves to respond by training them once a week.
As many of you know, I have my athletes train in cycles that build one upon the other to induce the most lean tissue growth and fat loss without frying out the central nervous system or worse.... end up actually muscle wasting (I see this a lot in many faddish training/exercise programs).
When bringing up a lagging area like quads, for example, I will often have them focus a little more on that area for one training cycle.
So, on their strongest body parts, we'll bring sets/reps down to maintenance level while turning up the volume on their quads.
Then, the next training cycle we bring the volume back down so the quads can recover, repair, grow, and respond well to future stimulus.
Another great option for body part specialization is to add volume to push/pull exercises vs. specific body parts.
An example-- for someone like me --who has stubborn upper body areas...
I would increase my upper body push exercises for a cycle vs. having a dedicated "chest" or "shoulder" cycle.
Using this upper body "push cycle" example again, I urge you to increase volume by including these movement families in this way:
- Horizontal Push Bilateral (ex. flat bench press)
- Vertical Push Bilateral (ex. incline bench press)
- Horizontal Push Unilateral (ex. 1 arm DB floor Press)
- Vertical Push Unilateral (ex. 1 arm seated DB shoulder press)
This will help maintain (or create) greater symmetry for injury prevention and also prevent one arm from being noticeably bigger/stronger than the other.
Don't forget to include Pull and/or corrective exercises (like scapular wall slides, Bretzel mobilizations, or Yoga-plexes) in between the pushes. Or, if you're focusing on a "pull" cycle, include "push" and corrective exercises inbetween.
And now, I must jump off my soap box and into the weekend.
Have a great one, Sisters of Strength!
Got questions? Hit me up in the private, closed group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/nofailsistersofstrength/
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