TEN MINUTES TO A SIX-PACK
Eight ways training your abs improves your life
Plus, eight reasons why training your core makes life better.
THE DREAM OF WASHBOARD ABS
is probably the ultimate reason why you suffer through long planks and endless sit-ups. But along the way to that six-pack, you’ll see even bigger benefits. Here are eight great reasons to stay motivated on ab day.
1/ Own Your Sport
Core training makes you a better athlete in just about any strength or speed sport, says Stuart McGill, Ph.D., a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo. That’s because a strong core lets you transfer more power to your limbs so that you can punch harder, smash a drive farther, and kick a ball with more force.
2/ Boost Balance
“A strong core keeps your torso in a more stable position whenever you move, whether you’re playing sports or just doing chores,” says sports medicine specialist J. Christopher Mendler, M.D. That helps you avoid injury and makes your movements more efficient. Try this to test your balance: stand on one leg with your arms extended. If you last 60 seconds, you pass.
3/ Beat Back Pain
A core-training programme can both prevent and control lower-back pain, Canadian research suggests. If you’ve had back trouble, you’ll be better off doing core exercises that keep you still (like side planks) than moves where you fully flex your spine (like sit-ups). Side planks, bird dogs, and curl-ups are also great alternatives. For more spine-saving info, check out menshealth.com/fitness/exercises-toprevent-back-pain.
4/ Stand Taller
Core training, specifically Pilates, can help you stand up straight. Men who took three hour-long Pilates sessions a week for eight weeks saw significant improvement on a postural stability test, a study in Isokinetics and Exercise Science found.
5/ Nail a Personal Best
A neglected core is like thin plywood; a strong core is more like a row of beams, giving you a solid platform from which you can lift more weight. “Keeping your core engaged throughout a squat or bench press will increase your power to lift, as well as keep your lower back safe,” says Liza Edebor, who trains Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta. Begin each of your heavy strength workouts with 10 minutes of dedicated core training. (See “Finish Your 6-Pack in Just 10 Minutes” on the opposite page.)
6/ Move Like a Ninja
Doing a combo of core exercises and instability exercises, such as TRX and single-leg moves, can help you become more agile. A study in the journal Kinesiology found that men who did these workouts performed better on the hexagon agility test than those who did traditional bodybuilding moves. Try a variation: using thick tape, mark a hexagon on the floor with 60cm sides and about 120-degree angles. Place a 30cm tape strip in the middle as the starting position. Hit a timer. From the start, double-leg hop to each side of the hexagon and back to the centre in a clockwise direction, equaling 12 jumps. Repeat, this time going counterclockwise. You should be able to finish both directions in an equal amount of time. If you can’t, then train your weak direction.
7/ Control Inflammation
To assess the effect of core-intensive training on inflammation, scientists reviewed eight studies and found that such training could reduce inflammation markers by as much as 25 percent – close to the result you’d see from meds like statins. That may enhance recovery, wellbeing and general health.
8/ Live Longer
A six-pack can keep you from going six feet under – at least anytime soon. That’s what Mayo Clinic researchers concluded when they looked at 11 studies on waist circumference. Men with waists of 43 inches or larger had a 52 percent greater risk of premature death than guys whose waists were 35 inches or smaller. Each 2-inch increase in waist size was associated with a 7 percent bump in death risk.