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Other Coaches Corner Articles

Coaches Corner #1 - Food After Exercise
Coaches Corner #2 - Lose Body Fat More Effectively
Coaches Corner #3 - Secret To Weight and Fat Loss
Coaches Corner #4 - Don't Hold On For a Better Workout
Coaches Corner #5 - Getting Stronger by Overload
Coaches Corner #6 - How To Tone and Firm Your Abs
Coaches Corner #7 - Staying With an Exercise Program
Coaches Corner #8 - Improving A Sport or Activity
Coaches Corner #9 - To Carb or Not To Carb

The Coaches Corner

Training Trivia Answer:

Q: Why are hand weights referred to as dumbbells

Answer: The original hand weights used consisted of bells with the clapper removed. This then made bells that did not make any sound thus making them "dumb" bells.

Training Tip #6

This tip comes in response to numerous questions I have received wondering how best to train the abdominal area to make it flatter and more defined.

What is the best way to train the abdominal muscles? To create a flatter more defined appearance?

Part I

Changes in diet and increased aerobic exercise (i.e.walking, Stairmaster etc) are the best way to reduce body-fat. You can do hundreds of sit-ups or crunches a day but if you do not simultaneously reduce the body-fat by change of diet and aerobic exercise, then you will not see a significant change in the definition in this area. You cannot "spot reduce", which is to say reduce fat in just one area to the exclusion of the rest of the body (I will cover this more extensively in a future Coaches Corner). The abdominals move the trunk in several directions; forward, to the side and rotating the body. If you keep this in mind when training your abs then you will more effectively train this area while reducing the likelihood of injuring your lower back.

  1. The group of muscles of the abs that are in the front is called the "rectus- abdominus" ("rectus" is Latin for "straight"), also known as your future six pack, and act to bring your ribs and your pubic bone (hips) toward one another. Any movement that crunches the torso will effectively work this area. However, leg lifts and movements such as flutter kicks (this is a movement performed by lying on your back with your legs extended out about six inched off the ground and then you move the legs up and down in a flutter kick movement) , etc., do not directly work this area and can actually injure the low back.

    The reason you feel these movements in the abdominal is that your abs have to contract in an attempt to stabilize the lower back. These exercises actually directly work two muscles that are called the hip-flexor muscles. (The hipflexors run from the front of the thigh through your pelvis and attach to your lower - back)

    Most people do not need to strengthen their hip-flexor but instead need to stretch these two muscles. In fact, movements that train these muscles directly can cause lower-back trauma due to the fact that these muscles attach directly to the lower vertebrae in the back and can put undue stress in this area.

  2. The muscles that run along the side of the abs are referred to as the internal & external oblique muscles ("oblique" means "having a slanted or sloping direction"), a.k.a. the "love handle" area. These muscles perform the function of rotating the torso and bending it to the side. Rotational movements such as a crunch with a twist work this area.

  3. Both the rectus- abdominus and the internal and external oblique are known as the outer layer muscle group, and these are the muscles that most people are concerned with improving in terms of appearance when they train this area. However, there is another muscle called the transverse abdominus ("transverse" means "something that lies across") that lies underneath the outer layer muscles and acts to help stabilize the low back. It is also important to train this muscle for overall conditioning of this area.

The easiest way to train this muscle is by performing a simple movement called a "pelvic tilt". This is done exactly as the name implies : lie on your back and then just gently tilt the pelvis until the low back is flat on the floor. You can also train this muscle by doing certain movements on an exercise ball. But I will leave that for another newsletter.

Part II

I recommend progressing from the more difficult exercises to the easier exercises in order to train your abdominals. The reason for this is that you will have more energy available to perform the more difficult and complex movements at the beginning of your routine and so will be able to more correctly and safely perform the movements. . Here is an effective routine that you can implement if you are already in decent shape to strengthen and tone the abs.

Reverse Crunch: You perform this exercise by putting your hands in a "V" under your hips and tilting your pelvis with your legs in the air and bent at 90 degrees so your lower back is flat on the floor. Then from this position,curl your hips up into the air so that your abs contract. Then lower yourself back down again. Then go immediately into the next exercise.

Crossover Crunch: Legs in the air and bent at the knee to 90- degrees, put your hands behind your head and raise your head up -- this is the starting position. Then from this position you rotate side to side, being sure to do the movement from your abs and not to pull on the neck. Then go immediately into the next exercise.

Crunch: Legs in the air bent at knees to 90 degrees with your hands behind the head, lift your shoulders off of the floor. Again be careful not to pull on the head and to use the abs to do the movement.

Back Extensions: This exercise does not train the abs but trains the lower-back muscles. It is key to balance the lower-back muscles with the abs to maintain a healthy and injury-free lower back. You perform the back extension by lying flat on the floor face down and than raising your upper-body from the hips off of the floor about 4 inches.

If you are advanced and have been exercising regularly for a year or more, you can do all three exercises without resting in the following order:

  • Reverse Crunch
  • Crossover Crunch
  • Crunch
  • Back Extensions

If you are intermediate and have been exercising regularly for several months straight then you can start with Crossover Crunches, Crunches and Back Extensions. Then add the Reverse Crunch when you get stronger.

If you are a beginner and are just starting to exercise or have been exercising regularly for less than two months, then you can start with just Crunches and Back Extensions. Then add the other two exercises in gradually as you gain more strength in the abdominal.


  1. To lose fat you need to make dietary changes and to perform aerobic exercise.
  2. Make sure the movements you are doing to train the abdominal are not actually training the hip-flexor muscles and thereby weakening the lowerback.
  3. When training the abdominals work from the harder exercises to the easier exercises.
  4. Make sure you balance your abdominal training with some exercises to strengthen the lower-back.

Training Trivia:

Q. Which would be the most effective way to condition your body for a skiing trip?

  1. Biking
  2. Swimming
  3. Nordic Trac Cross Country Ski machine
  4. Rollerblading
  5. Elliptical Trainer
  6. Wind sprints in the frozen food section at your local supermarket
  7. Rowing Machine

Click here to see the next Coaches Corner for the answer.