App Focus - Easy Abs

Last Updated: Jul 09, 2014 02:46PM MDT

Everyone knows how to do crunches or sit ups, but to properly train your core and receive all the benefits, you need to work all the muscles of your midsection, not just a few in the front. That's why we designed Easy Abs as a complete core workout.

It seems like we've all decided that a six pack is the universal sign of physical fitness. Why is that? Is it because it looks so much better than a flat stomach? Is it because it seems to be so hard to achieve? Or is it something more?

It's rare (if it ever happens) that you'll see someone with a six pack that doesn't possess good overall fitness. A six pack has come to be seen as a quick indicator of complete fitness, which is why people are so focused on this solitary muscle group. Everyone wants to achieve that overall fitness and they think a six pack is their short cut to success. While core training (not just ab training) is important, it should be part of an overall fitness plan; it shouldn't be your whole plan.

Many people try to get their six pack to pop with hundreds of crunches, but only those that focus on their entire core ever seem to accomplish this goal. Like many things to do with diet and fitness that I've written about, the six pack is another thing that people seem to lock onto which distracts them from the big picture. I designed Easy Abs to focus on the entire core to make sure you see actual success.

Don't just focus on the front, focus on your core

Crunches have their place, but as part of an overall fitness routine - they aren't magically going to help you reach your goal. You can't just crunch your way to success. That said, strengthening your core should be an important part of your fitness regiment. Your core consists of all the muscles in your trunk. Basically, cut off your arms and legs, and what is left behind is your core. It's called your core because it is the base of your fitness. A strong core supports all your movements, from barbell squats to running to carrying groceries. It is your support structure, and the stronger your support, the better your performance will be in all the activities of daily life.

You can't spot reduce body fat, but core training can still lead to weight loss

A strong core not only fixes imbalances that are causing weakness in your movements, but it's also a great way to banish back pain. I find back pain is one of the biggest de-motivators to movement. It perpetuates inactivity. Trainers say over and over again that you can't "spot reduce" body fat. While it's true you can't simply do crunches to get rid of stomach fat, I've found that core training does help people lose weight. In a previous article, I mentioned how short-but-intense workouts can result in big changes to your body weight despite the lower amount of calories burned. It works because it allows you to remain more active throughout the day. The more you move during the rest of your day, the more fat you'll lose. I find this often occurs with my clients that strengthened their cores. As those nagging aches and pains go away, they start to become more active. Even if it didn't make them move more, they at least felt so much better, which is also a worthwhile result.

Intensity Always

Short and intense is my motto with most of our apps and Easy Abs is no exception. Quick, intense workouts are not only the perfect way to squeeze fitness into a hectic schedule, but they often produce better results than longer workouts. Remember, we're trying to look at the big picture here, not just a calories burned number. A longer workout may burn more calories, but it can also leave you exhausted and demotivated the rest of your day. Doing too much can leave you feeling wrecked the rest of the day, and it can even encourage you to abandon your healthy eating plan. You'll move less, your recovery will be worse, and you'll feel less inclined to do it again. When it comes down to it, the most effective routine is one you stick with long term. I find this kind of endurance training works best for the average person. Most people don't need to improve their power and athletic performance, they just want to look better and feel better. Interval training for your core is better for burning body fat and it offers some extra benefits that appeal to most people:

Endurance, Not Bulk: I've never met anyone who said they were really trying to bulk up their stomach. Even men who want a strong core still want a lean looking midsection. All types of resistance training will build muscle mass and improve your strength and muscular endurance, but lower reps and higher weight will focus more on building up the size of the muscle while lower weights and higher reps will focus on muscular endurance. From a purely aesthetic perspective, endurance core training will create a leaner look while providing the support you need throughout your day.

Support Your Life: Probably the number one reason people exercise is to look better naked. An admiral goal and one that motivates people to greatly improve their health and longevity, but I'm a big believer that your training should support your life. Your body is designed to adapt to what you throw at it so that it can perform those activities more easily. Not many of us need to lift really heavy things and put them back down a handful of times. Most of us need to carry a moderate amount of weight for long periods of time. Maybe that moderate weight is simply our body as we move it around all day. Once again, muscular endurance will serve you better throughout your day. Whether it's keeping you strong during a sport, playing with your kids, or helping you maintain good posture at your desk, a core that can endure is going to help you more than a bulky core that tires quickly. 

Easier Recovery: Advice on how often you can or should train your core is split among trainers. Some suggest daily is fine while others believe a rest day (or two) in between is necessary. A lengthy core workout will leave your muscles needing longer recovery time, so you should limit these types of workouts to every other day. Short and intense workouts, however, are not nearly as taxing to the muscle tissue so you could perform them everyday if you wish. 

Abs Last

While a shorter core session can be performed daily, it should still be performed at the end of your workout. As I said before, your core is your fitness base and if you exhaust it before beginning your normal workout, you won't be able to perform as well. Your core stabilizes your body on big movements like squats and dead lifts, and fatiguing your midsection before you attempt these lifts could even lead to injury. It may not seem like a cool down, but that's typically when I tell people to throw in their ab work.

Something for every muscle

Your muscles (and the joints they support) work best when they are in balance with their antagonists. The antagonist muscle is the one that pulls the joint in the opposite direction. For instance, if your biceps are the agonist for an exercise (the muscles that lift the weight), then your triceps would be the antagonist (the muscles that lower it back down). When the antagonist muscles are weak compared to the agonist, it causes joint dysfunction and it limits just how strong the agonist can become.

This is where most people go wrong with their core training. They simply focus on the front and ignore their back (as well as other important muscle groups). This limits just how developed their abdominals can ever become and it can actually increase imbalances and worsen lower back pain. Easy Abs provides a balanced program that will work the rectus abdominis (the infamous six pack), erector spinae (lower back), internal and external obliques (the sides), and transversus abdominis (muscles deep in the abdomen that provide structural support). 

A level for everyone

Trainers always modify exercises to best fit their client's abilities and needs, and like with the rest of our lolo apps, we make sure to do this in Easy Abs as well. A good example of this is the plank. This is a terrific exercise for working you transversus abdominis. While it's an important exercise for bringing up a beginner's core strength, it can be a bit too simple for athletes and other fit people. The point is to train your body to stabilize itself, so more advanced versions of the plank increase the level of instability to really push you. This can be accomplished by adding equipment like a stability ball or BOSU, or by adding a little bit of movement to force improvements to your balance and coordination. 

Quick, focused training designed for you

No matter your goal, adding a focused core training routine to your fitness plan will help you reach it faster. Strengthen your fitness base with a high intensity interval workout using exercises that are perfect for your fitness level, and it will improve your overall strength in everything that you do. 

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