Training Upper and Lower Abs
We all know that training our abs will strengthen our core and minimize back pain but should we try to isolate lower abs from upper abs? There have been numerous studies that tried to answer the same questions for years. Most studies agree that every abdominal exercise excites the muscle fibers of the entire ab wall, both upper and lower, equally. For example, a study by Clark et al (2003) tested the upper abs and lower abs from 8 healthy subjects. Using electrode placement on upper and lower abs, the results showed no significant difference between upper abs and lower abs on six different ab exercises.
On the other hand, a study by Willet et al (2001) reported small differences between lower abs and upper ab activity in their study. In the study, the curl-up and reverse curl exercises both produced similar results for the upper rectus abdominis; BUT, the reverse curl seemed to excite the lower rectus abdominis more than any other exercise. Therefore, if you want to play it safe, doing both ab crunches and reverse ab curls will ensure your entire ab wall is strong and mobile. Remember, Knowledge is Power and Happy Health!
Barbell Squats Still the King!
Squats vs. Leg Extensions? The debate continues on which exercise is best for quadriceps. A recent study has proven once again that the barbell squat is still the king when it comes to quadriceps development. A study done by Signorile et al (1994) compared the EMG activity of the quadricep muscle while the subjects performed barbell squats and knee extensions. The data showed that there was more electrical activity in the quadricep muscle during the barbell squat exercise than the leg extension exercise.
Furthermore, proper technique should be used when performing a back squat to avoid any type of injury. Regardless of weight, a shoulder-width stance with your toes slightly flared out is best for full lower body development including glutes, quads, and hams. Do not allow your knees to bow out or cave in; they should be on the same plane as your toes. You should also keep a neutral spine during the movement to prevent any lumbar injury.
In conclusion, the barbell squat should be included at least once a week if you are trying to increase leg strength. The back squat also burns many calories so it's very beneficial in a weight loss program. Remember, knowledge is power! Happy Health and Happy Lifting!
Using Periodization to Train like a Super Hero
More and more actors are training like athletes to give them that superhero body which is ideal for the big screen. Like many athletes, these actors use a workout strategy called linear periodization. They will also incorporate supersets, compound sets, and circuit training to achieve the exact look they are looking for. Many athletes utilize these types of techniques to bust through plateaus and peak and the right time whether it's for the super bowl, NBA championship, a boxing match, a bodybuilding show, or the filming of a Hollywood blockbuster.
Moreover, linear periodization relies on an old technique where the intensity increases as you get closer to your scheduled event; but, as the intensity increases, the volume of the workout will decrease. You can easily do this with your own workouts. For example, pick out a big muscle, multi-joint exercise like squats, bench press, or lat pulldowns. This month, you will choose a weight that you can handle for 15 reps. Next month increase the weight (intensity) to a weight you can lift for 10 reps. On the 3rd month, choose a weight you can lift for 5 reps. Repeat every few months with a higher intensity or until it's "showtime." With the proper diet to go along a periodized program, you should have a superhero body in no time! Remember, Knowledge is Power! Happy Health and Happy Lifting!!
Lat Pulldowns: Anterior or Posterior?
There is an ongoing debate whether we should perform lat pulldowns in front of our heads or behind our heads. Personal trainers should always consider the safety and effectiveness of an exercise before they include it in a resistance training program. A study by Signorile et al (2002) compared muscle activity in the latissimus dorsi using different hand positions and techniques. EMGs were connected to 10 subjects using 4 different hand positions: wide grip anterior, wide grip posterior, close grip, and supinated grip.
The study concluded that the wide grip anterior (front of the head) grip produced significantly greater muscle activity in the latissimus dorsi than any of the three other grips. Furthermore, there was more activity in tricep, teres major, pec major, and posterior deltoid during pulldowns in front of their heads than behind their heads. Also, most experts believe that anterior pulldowns are safer than posterior pulldowns concerning neck and shoulder joints. Therefore, it is concluded that anterior pulldowns are not only safer, but this study has proven that anterior pulldowns are also more effective in recruiting latissimus dorsi and other muscles than lat pulldowns behind the head. Happy Health!