Anyone who has ever worked toward a show stopping mid-section is familiar with crunches, curl-ups and other similar movements. The idea behind curl-ups is to create tension in your abs and then lift your head and shoulders off the floor. While these are simple moves, they are often misunderstood.
The idea that you need to curl your torso up off the floor to create tension in your abs is not accurate according to Stuart McGill, Ph.D., a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, Ontario. “There is actually more load change on the abdominal muscles if you only lift the head and shoulders one inch," he says. He suggests you imagine the floor beneath your head and hands as a scale and your goal is to make it read zero. If you are doing it right, this tiny movement will feel more difficult than any traditional crunch ever could.
If you are doing your curl-ups in the traditional reps and sets fashion, you aren't getting the full benefits. Treat them like isometric exercises and hold the tension for 10 seconds each time. “The 10-second hold is a way to build endurance without getting tired,” McGill says. This is great news if you are someone prone to back pain. If you consistently exhaust your core muscles, you may actually be triggering the discomfort in your back!
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Such a pain in the neck!
You may find holding the tension in your curl-up creates discomfort in your neck. When you are doing this movement, your head is supported by your neck flexors -- the muscles that pull your head forward. The reasons this causes some trouble, according to McGill, is that some of the neck flexors connect to the jaw and not to the skull.
If you can't properly activate these muscles, the work is shifted to the sternocleidomastoid, which is a muscle that starts at your collarbone and attaches to the skull right behind your ear. All of the work is being done by the sides of your neck. McGill says he notices this as a frequent problem in people who chew too much gum. By repeatedly activating their chewing muscles, gum chewers are relaxing other muscles like the neck flexors.
Here is how you can get your neck flexors activated again:
1. Stand up with your neck straight.
2. Place your fists under your chin.
3. Set your tongue on the roof of your mouth, right behind your teeth, and push up with it as you stiffen your neck muscles.
4. Now push up with your fists as you resist with your neck muscles, resulting in no net movement in either direction. You don't have to push hard, a little pressure is all it takes.
Once these muscles are back in action, you should feel your curl-ups in your abs and not in your neck. McGill suggests doing curl-ups everyday along with the bird dog and side bridge. These exercises will help to stabilize your back, which will mean less pain in your back and neck. With a strong core, it won't matter how much gum you chew!
Do you think chewing too much gum has contributed to neck pain and strain while working your core? Tell us about it!
Source: Men's Health