Sit Ups and Crunches – To Do or Not To Do ?

Regularly in social media feeds I see exercise programs posted. It concerns me that Sit Ups and Crunches are still a component on a regular basis. (And not just a few but more often in large numbers like 100 in one set)

 My other concern is the likelihood that in many instances these sit ups and crunches are being performed in a group session where observation of poor form by the PT can become an issue. This raises the potential for injury!

My advice to you is it’s time to ask your trainer to justify their inclusion.

I rarely include crunches and ever more rarely include sit ups in my programs. WHY?

My own anecdotal evidence spanning over 20 years combined with common sense which in turn is supported by many highly experienced trainers and allied professionals plus of course fairly recent  research.

Anecdotal Evidence

Firstly as a Rugby League Coach and for a period of years a Coaching Director at a local club where coaches persisted in making players do countless sit ups with no posterior chain (particularly the glutes and lower back) exercises to balance the anterior work. This resulted in several players suffering lower back problems.

Secondly as a PT and Rehab Trainer I regularly see clients with muscle imbalances caused by both postural issues and poor exercise selection in their past where the posterior chain continued to be neglected and lower back issues exacerbated by this adherence to incorrect programming of exercise regime.

Related Posture Issues

These are caused to a large degree by modern ways of life where we sit for too long. (work place/driving/computers/TV & games etc.) This puts pressure on the lower back and surrounding muscles and joints. Obviously there can be a whole range of muscles effected as postural problems caused by too much sitting will force the body to adopt and adapt along its entire length. For the purpose of this article I will not confuse the issue by trying to cover all these potential problem areas.

Even consideration of the area most related to sitting as in glutes, hamstrings, quads and the core as a whole unit would be a large volume of work. In a nutshell, whilst adaptions will differ between individuals, the most common from my experience will be weakened glute muscles with incorrect firing patterns (particularly glute medius), tight hamstrings, weak and overworked lumbar multifidus, tight piriformis, tight overactive tensor fasciae latae and tight hip flexors.

I would estimate that 60% to 75% of people that walk through my front door list lower back pain (with no underlying injury) as an issue. The majority of these we fix via retraining both the activation and the firing sequence of posterior chain muscles (mainly hamstrings, glutes & lumbar multifidus) combined with stretching of TFL & hip flexors (Psoas is the main target due to its origin in the lumbar spine) Only then do we progress to planks and swiss ball rollouts, still in progressive variations to work the whole core in a more functional way. This is combined with standing based core work to be truly functional.

Remember, there is no one way. Each client can have different issues (particularly postural), some quite complex that will not be a quick fix and will require work on a lot more then mentioned above. As I said these are beyond the scope of this article as is an in depth explanation of the various drills and exercises used to retrain activation and firing patterns of relevant muscles. Examples of some of these are superman, hip raises, foot to ceiling, clams done correctly, side leg with twists, pelvic tilt drills etc.

In summary, I concede there will be a sections of the population (For example your fit, healthy trained athletes) that can do crunches and sit ups without harm due to a balanced program based on their specific training goals. Having said that, I also maintain that for the majority of us there is a better way and the continuation of inclusion of these sit ups & crunches may reflect either lazy programming or lack of research/knowledge.

COMMON SENSE – FOOD FOR THOUGHT

If sitting causes so many problems why include even more sitting into an exercise program. As a trainer I need to observe, address and fix, in conjunction with a good physio if necessary, the relevant muscle imbalances plus their firing patterns to ensure no harm to my client as we progress their goals in a functional way.

Sports Specific Training-What is it?

Sport Movement

Optimal performance dependent on effective and efficient movement. Techniques to improve speed, agility, and quickness (SAQ) include functional readiness assessments, dynamic warm-up, balance and equilibrium, nervous system activation, multidirectional movement mechanics and deceleration in a scientific and practical format suitable for athlete training, teams, functional training and post injury return to action.

Sports Strength

Effective methods for improving an athlete’s ability to transfer force from the legs through the core to the upper body. By increasing an athlete’s muscle hypertrophy, strength, multi joint power, rotary power and segmental plyometrics through innovative multiplaner exercises we provide a cutting edge approach to developing a functional body that better expresses and integrates strength for life and sport, and enhances reactivity for muscle and joint durability.

Sport Balance

Game breaking plays are the result of power initiated from the perfect moment of transitional balance. Techniques designed to improve proprioception, stability, and muscular coordination will reduce the incidents of injury as well as improve joint stability required for improved power initiation. Static, dynamic, and “act and react” balance challenge concepts for legs, core and upper body, and fitness and rehabilitation.

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Simple Habits for Fat Loss

Simple Habits for Fat Loss

People who design their own fat loss programs more often then not fail. (some research indicates up to 98% of the time) This is not because fat loss is hard. It’s because most people make fat loss hard by trying to learn & do too much at once. It’s “all or nothing” at it’s worst, and this it what leads to a staggeringly high rate of failure.

Successful, lasting change only happens by introducing new habits/behaviors slowly- and only when a person is truly confident they can do them.

So first up make a list of proven habits & behaviors that will help lose fat. For example:-

1.Exercise for 30 minutes

2.Drink at least 8 cups of water

3.Eat at least 4 one-cup servings of vegetables

4.Sleep at least 8 hours (including naps & night time sleep)

5.Take fish oil & perhaps a multivitamin daily

6.During each meal, stop eating when 80% full

7.Eat 4 to 5 meals

8.Eat lean protein with each meal

9.Replace grains with greens during each meal

Next, choose one that seems easy to you & ask yourself “On a scale of 1-10, how confident am I that I can do this habit every day for the next 14 days?” If the answer is a 9 or 10, get started. BUT if your answer is less than 9, choose a different habit or make that habit easier until you’re confident you can do it. For example, instead of exercising for 30 minutes could you do 15 minutes, or maybe even less. Give yourself permission to make it easier until you’re confident of a 9/10 on the scale. Then do it.

BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF. Forget what you think you should be able to do, what can you do, right now? People need to start with one, quick, easy habit that can be done  each day. Confidence in being able to do this is what separates those who succeed from those who fail.

So in summary-You can’t do it all at once, every day. But you don’t have to.

-Begin by choosing only one new habit that you’re confident you can do for 14 days & do it. Then add another habit only after you’ve mastered the first one. If you’re feeling confident & want to try a couple of new habits at the same time that’s OK BUT only if you’re at 9/10 on the confidence scale

The Changing Face Of Fitness

The Changing Face Of Fitness

A few months back a new client approached me in my capacity as a Strength & Conditioning coach. She wanted to run in the first ever “Spartan Race” to be held in Qld. She had been going to a bootcamp for some time, had lost heaps of weight & was quite cardio fit but what she lacked was the functional strength (particularly upper body) to complete this kind of event (Obstacle Course Racing) with confidence. Obstacle Course Racing is a sport that requires a multi-faceted fitness preparation including cardio fitness to run distances ranging from 5km to 21km & now even 42km whilst along the way completing many obstacles that require various functional strength capacities.

Her situation re-inforced to me that no one type of training will give you everything you might need and that far too many “Fitness Professionals” come to believe that their particular “world” is perhaps the best or “one & only”

Some examples of this situation are:-

   1.In the industry we have the Isolationists & the Functional Trainers. Two different schools of thought. Whilst I am at heart a Functional Trainer I do also believe there is still need for isolation training in some situations.

   2.I’ve previously spoken of Metabolic Resistance Training (MRT) & it’s benefits. I get great results from this form of training but it too has it’s limitations. eg. It wont prepare you to say run a 20 km race.

   3.Bootcamps-(to some extent can be a form of MRT if heavier weights are utilized) Bootcamps are everywhere and yes, they do get great results with weight loss (but often some of this is muscle mass loss which is not a good thing)

   4.Crossfit-(probably the hardest form of MRT) Again, it definately works but is technicality differcult for the beginner with phsio’s claiming an increase in injury rates. My opinion is that they are good but not everyone’s cup of tea. Again, it does not prepare you for all things. eg. If your sport requires a fair component of running or cardio exertion over an extended period then crossfit wont give it to you.

So what is the answer? Basically the human body adapts specifically to the training regime so we need to train specifically for our choosen event or goal.

 What do you need?                                           Can AFS help you?                                                      STAY TUNED

Obstacle Course Race Training – Our Changing Face Of Fitness

Given my comments in previous blogs you may realise that here at Achievable Fitness Services we are ourselves evolving to give our clients what they need to achieve their fitness goals in an ever changing environment whilst getting MORE ENJOYMENT along the way.

Whilst maintaining our traditional services in the areas of Strength Training/ Rehab Training/ Older Adults/ Children/ Functional Fitness & Fat Loss utilising a variety of modalities like Metabolic Resistance Training (MRT) & Effective Movement Training (EMT) we now specialise in Obstacle Course Race Training (OCR Training)

WHY ?             Because:-

1. It’s Both Fun & Different. (As are the races for those who choose to do them. For those who don’t the training itself is still fun & different.)

2. It takes the best from popular options like bootcamp & crossfit plus options that should be popular like MRT & EMT & combines them all together with a bigger dollop of, yes you guessed it, FUN, then perhaps most of us would get from them individually.

3. For a standard group fitness session price you get the required specific combination of Foundation Strength Training, Cardio Training & Obstacle Training on real race like obstacles.

4. Having a well equipped , spacious studio gym with indoor / outdoor capabilities gave us the perfect platform to build onto to become a true OCR Specialist that can give the required specificity to the training for the sport.

CHECK US OUT ON FACEBOOK !

Enquire about joining our closed facebook group “AFS Obstacle Racing and Training Group” where all our race events are listed along with photo albums of training & racing etc. This will give you a feel for what we have quickly come to call our new “sport”. It IS addictive ( and GOOD for you )   WIN WIN

Performance Pyramid

Below is a brief article I was asked to write in relation to OCR Training but the Performance Pyramid applys to any & all sports/fitness regimes.

 

  TIPS FOR THE NOVICE

   Do not neglect the “Performance Pyramid”. This consists of 3 levels:-

Level 1. Foundation- develope a full range of movement throughout numerous positions to maximize functionality including flexibility & stability.

Level 2. Movement Efficiency- via measurable strength & power.

Level 3. Performing a Sports Specific activity.

All too many people, both experienced & novice, in their enthusiasm to “perform” (Level 3) attempt too differcult a movement pattern BEFORE building a “foundation” (Level 1) – Result – Injury & performing below expectation or not even competing!

eg. To climb a rope or swing across monkey bars we need to hold AND control bodyweight via good core strength, shoulder stability, arm & grip strength in several different planes of movement during one motion. By all means come & try these obstacles asap but first attempts should be in a controlled range of movement & then progressively build upon that.

Some good basic foundation exercises you should be doing as part of your prep for an Obstacle Race are Chin Ups (Assisted initially), Farmers Walks, One Arm Overhead Kettlebell Carry & Finger Carries with plate weights to name but a few.