With sophisticated positioning,bodyweight exercises can developseeminly superhuman strength. Andeven though I don’t expect you torun out and join a gymnastics class,there are certain components of their training that can be of benefitto bodybuilders. Trunk integrity andtone are, after all, vitally important inthe gym and on-stage.
To harden soft abs, you mustprioritise trunk training. LT requirescomplete concentration as well asample strength in the upper body and pelvic region. So, either start your workout with these drills or performthem separately as another session.If you do LT at the beginning of a workout, be sure not to follow withany large compound movementsrequiring major trunk stability, suchas squats or deadlifts. The extremeforce you’ll need to generate for LT will accelerate fatigue, which can becounterproductive. Always do themost amount of quality work whilestaying as fresh as possible.
In order to generate a training effect, a muscle group must receiveadequate overload, and there areseveral ways to adjust intensity toaccomplish this. Russian researchsimplified things, identifying threedistinct training methods: thedynamic effort method, whichfocuses on intention to produce highvelocity; the maximum effort method, which focuses on grinding a heavy load for maximum tension; and therepetition method, which is whatmost bodybuilders already apply when training the midsection.
Ideally, all three methods shouldbe integrated to produce optimalconditioning, but for the purposesof this article, we will focus onmaximum effort — since LT employsdisadvantageous leverage to generateextreme force, or load. Forceacross a muscle is called tension. Anecdotal and scientific evidencepoints in the same direction: thegeneration of force is the mostessential requirement for strengthand size gain. The higher thetension, the stronger the stimulus formuscular development. Less tensionis generated during a dynamic(pseudo-isotonic) contraction thanduring a static (pseudo-isometric)one, where the muscle is fighting notto lengthen against a load too heavy to move concentrically.The load you’re handling willdetermine how quickly you can move.The faster the speed, the lower thetension and the slower the speedthe higher the tension — to a certainpoint. The higher the tension, themore you grow. Faster reps allow youto use heavier weights, but reducetension, so you’re trading size forpower and speed. This is why many Olympic lifters move mind-boggling weights explosively, but they don’t havemassive physiques like bodybuilders.
In a static contraction, the musclelength does not change during theexercise. This occurs every time youtrain, even during dynamic exercises, when the target muscle is lengthening and/or shortening. Every movementengages three types of muscles: primemovers, synergists and stabilisers. With L-sits, ab wheel pikes, anddragon flags, static contraction of therectus abdominis, the much soughtafter six-pack muscle, plays a key rolein stabilising the spine throughout,acting as the synergist. Almost every muscle-training book ignores the fact that every exerciseinvolves prime movers, synergists,and stabilisers. Normally, authorsfocus almost entirely on the moversand not the many other muscles thatassist and stabilise the different partsof the body to enable the moversto execute the chosen exercise.Sometimes the work done by thesynergists and stabilisers is far greaterthan that done by the movers, aneffect that we exploit with LT.
The obliques and the transverseabdominis, among other spinalstabilisers, are also forced to engagestatically due to the high loading demands. In addition to a well-developed six-pack, strong, tonedobliques are critical for a trim waistand improved performance. Theexternal obliques run diagonally oneither side of the ribs to the pelvis,producing lateral flexion or rotation when contracted ipsilaterally. Underheavy load they contract bilaterally to aid the rectus in spinal flexion.So even though LT doesn’t includetwisting, they are heavily recruited.Consider the transverse abdominisa thick belt running around yourmidsection, stabilising the spineunder heavy load. The stronger theobliques and transverse, the stronger your muscular corset. Greater spinalsupport allows more efficient transferof force through your trunk. Your body is intrinsically programmed to integrate synergistsand stabilisers; otherwise it would beimpossible to perform demanding movements effectively. By challenging the abs with a heavy load in thisfashion, they are effectively trainedfor their primary function —supporting the spine via synchronousstatic contraction of the anteriorkinematic chain.
If you aren’t strong enough for theseLT drills, you may feel pressure in yourlower back, and more likely than not,
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you’ll lose control and collapse to thefloor or the bench before anything gives. If in doubt, you should performthe suggested build-up exercisesbefore attempting the real deal.The body’s intrinsic safety mechanisms, called mechano-receptors, have a knack at knowing beforehand when too much isenough, and they have a tendency toshut down a contraction if the loaddetected is above a certain tensionthreshold. Nervous inhibition of thistype is a normal phenomenon, usually occurring towards the stretchedposition in a given range of motion.Many beginners experience thisshutdown threshold the first timethey fail on a limit bench pressattempt, as their pectoral stretchreceptors decide they’re shutting down to prevent muscle damage inthe prime movers. The weight crashesdown to their chest, requiring quick action from a spotter, but at least themuscle remains intact!Needless to say, having thesynergists or stabilisers hit sucha speed-limiter would not be agood occurrence when spinalintegrity is of concern. With propertraining, however, this reflex canbe desensitised, as apparent in anexperienced powerlifter grinding out a heavy lift again and again untilactual metabolic, and not nervous,failure ensues. Elevating the shutdownthreshold allows for greater overloadof the target muscle group.
Practising LT augments overallstrength in two ways: structurally and neurologically. Structurally, asecure, well-braced spine enhancesstrength in conventional exercisesby increasing stability, control andconfidence, allowing for safer andmore efficient transfer of forcethrough your trunk.Neurologically, LT teaches you how to deliberately contract synergistsand stabilisers in order to transmitadditional strength to the primemovers. In PNF (ProprioceptiveNeuromuscular Facilitation) thisphenomenon is referred to asirradiation, where use of maximalresistance promotes overflow of muscle activity.In order to perform a givenmovement, the brain sends a signalthrough a motor neuron, activating and coordinating different muscle
Always aim to do the mostamount of work while stayingas fresh as possible, in orderto maximise the contractionand minimise fatigue, as wellas the chance of injury.