Anti-Ab Exercises for Winter Sports and Activities
Posted Jan 11 2013 6:45pm
Skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, snowball fights, ice skating, shoveling, ice climbing, mountaineering and whatever those fools are doing in the picture above are all dangerous and yet fun activities for winter. Too many people don't satisfactorily prepare for these activities and consequently sustain injury. A properly working and stable core is vital for success in these endeavors. In fact, anti-rotational and anti-flexion sports specific exercises will inoculate you against injury and help you excel.
Before we talk about what works, lets take a look at what doesn't: the crunch and it's many variants. It is the most popular exercise in the gym but does little to improve winter sporting activities (or rid fat around your waist!). Crunches don't address the primary function of our core musculature, spinal stability. Yes, our abs work to flex (round) the lower back but more importantly they serve to protect our backs. If all you do for your abs are crunches you may be setting yourself up for injury (if you don't already have one). Solely working the anterior ab muscles (called the rectus abdominus) will create imbalance and probably dysfunction. Singling out one ab muscle is like just exercising the left side of your body. Can you say "lopsided"? The 29 muscles that make up the core go in all directions and need to be taxed with speed, strength, reaction forces and endurance. The crunch doesn't do that. The challenge is to create a well rounded core routine that strengthens the superficial "six pack" muscles and the deeper and often neglected stabilizing muscles of the core. The only time you use your core while lying down is to get up from a fall or during sex. Granted, we all fall during winter, but a well rounded stable midsection will prevent some spills.
Side Note: The 100 crunches you may perform, do little to burn the fat around your waist. In addition to creating an imbalance, it may hypertrophy (make larger) the muscles in your ab region. Which will "push" out the subcutaneous fat and give the appearance of a larger belly. You can't spot reduce fat but you can spot increase muscle!
The most neglected and yet important ab exercises are isometric, anti-flexion and anti-rotational patterns. If your winter sport includes standing, and most do, then you need to integrate these exercises into your routine. Anti-ab training is fantastic for your core because not only do they work to "flatten" your stomach, they prehabilitate and protect your spine during virtually all movement.
Anti-rotational, anti-flexion exercises are the ignored step child of all core exercises yet some of the most important. During sporting activities our spine is under a lot of constant forces and needs muscular help to ameliorate them. Let's take snowshoeing and ice skating as an example; they are a series of torso flexions, rotations and extensions. During these activities the core must decelerate, accelerate and isometrically stabilize the torso or we would fall and cause injury. I have found standing anti-ab training works wonderfully to improve all sporting activities and protect against injury. Training isometric core movements re-teach the body how to protect itself during all gross motor motions. It also gives you a stronger base of support from which to excel. Here are some winter sport anti-rotational, anti-flexion exercises (video depicts a great trainer from Norway- Martin Norum)