Health and Wellness
By Brad Lawrence
Jan. 24, 2008
When I mention core training, most people assume I’m talking about crunches and sit-ups. Today there are infomercials with new crunch systems, fitness magazines showing you proper sit ups and “Ab-Blasting” classes showing you every abdominal exercise known to man. The question is whether these exercises and classes improve the way you look, feel and function?
By Brad Lawrence
|FitSmart is a Fire Fighting in Canada online exclusive column by Brad Lawrence, a firefirefighter and personal trainer in Leduc, Alta. Brad can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org|
Introduction to core training
When I mention core training, most people assume I’m talking about crunches and sit-ups. Today there are infomercials with new crunch systems, fitness magazines showing you proper sit ups and “Ab-Blasting” classes showing you every abdominal exercise known to man.
The question is whether these exercises and classes improve the way you look, feel and function?
Do they reduce your chances of back pain or strengthen your core?
These approaches not only hinder your progress but potentially predispose you to injuries, most notably back pain.
The misconceptions: When training your core it’s important to remember that these muscles aren’t so different from the rest of the muscles in your body. We know that when you train legs for instance, in high volumes (high sets, high reps) you will increase the size of the muscle. Your abdominals aren’t different. If you do a million sit ups, you’re going to increase the size of the muscles. If you do heavy weighted sit ups, again you’re going to increase the size of the muscles. This means you are potentially increasing the size of your stomach and waistline. To this day I haven’t met a client who said they’d like to increase the size of his or her stomach or waistline but I’ve met dozens of clients who have done hundreds of sit ups per workout.
If you want a trim stomach, or your abs to show, building up the muscle won’t be effective if you have a reasonable layer of fat on top of them anyway. Limit your sit ups, strengthen your back and provide the most important muscles in your body (the core) with the much needed balance it deserves.
How to train the core: To learn how to work your core properly, first you need to understand the muscles involved; there are more than you think!
The core has eight major muscles on which your training will focus. These eight muscles are distributed throughout the anterior (front) and posterior (back) of your body. It’s important to realize that these muscles work together and if they’re not properly balanced you can end up with problems beneath the surface.
Over my time as a personal trainer I’ve realized that almost every client with lower-back pain has weak overall core strength. This includes weak lower abdominals and lower back. Clients without back pain and little history of it not only had much stronger abdominals but were able to activate core muscles. From this point, alleviating a client’s back pain usually came after I asked them to stop doing crunches entirely and focused on balancing the core. The problem is that most people will do nothing but sit ups and crunches for their abs when they should be doing core strength exercises. This will develop more than just one section of the core and not create an imbalance in the muscles. As an introduction to this topic, your training should be based on balance.
If you do one exercise for your abs, then do one exercise for your lower back. Remember that every movement your body makes involves your core. The more exercises that incorporate your core the better (Standing shoulder press rather than sitting etc).
Make core training a priority and your fitness level will far exceed where it is now. Stay tuned for part two, in which we’ll review core exercises that everyone should do.
Introduction to the Glycemic Index (GI)
If you’ve been paying attention to health and wellness over the past few years you’re probably well aware of the good carb/bad carb debate. Besides basic labeling of good or bad, we now have proven measurements on thousands of foods that will actually tell us how certain foods will impact our bodies.
The Glycemic Index is the impact that a carbohydrate has on blood sugar levels. Each carbohydrate is given a GI value from 0 to 100, based on how it raises your blood sugar levels after you eat. I’m sure you’re all familiar with blood glucose levels, and probably know someone trying to control them (diabetics).
When you eat a food with a high Glycemic Index, your BGL increases and now your insulin must rise as well. Insulin is the hormone in your body that triggers fat storage. So, to simplify things, the higher your BGL the more fat that has the potential to be stored. This spike is also the reason the six-meal-a-day craze has started. The goal with this philosophy is to achieve less fluctuation in your BGL.
Paying attention to the GI is one additional thing you can do to provide your body with optimal conditions for success.Remember, this system looks only at carbohydrates, as it is well known that protein and fat have very minuscule effects on BGL. Let’s take a look at which foods you should enjoy and which you should probably avoid. Here are a few examples of GI ratings for common foods.
Intermediate GI= 55-69
Oranges, apples, Whole wheat pasta, Brown basmati rice, High-fiber cereals
High GI=70 and above Carrots, peas, cornraisins, melons, grapes, white pastas, potatoes, white rice, Other cereals
There are hundreds of online databases with thousands of foods and a respective GI rating for each; all it takes is a quick search. There are numerous benefits to using low GI carbs, including lower cholesterol, decreased risk of heart disease and diabetes, weight control or weight loss, better physican endurance and a feelingof being full for longer, therefore helping you stay away from sugary snacks.
Here are some basic tips on how to get started: