Ab Training 101: Training for Performance

Here it is guys! The last article on ab training. At least for now. If you haven’t read the first two articles on ab training, I suggest you click here to catch up. In the first two articles we introduced the muscles that are involved in the construction and movement of the abdomen. Following up on that article we discussed how one can train the abs for aesthetic purposes. Training, toning, and developing the abdominals in specific ways to create that tapered, “6-pack” look. The last article will only focus on how you can train your abdominals and midsection to optimize performance.

The midsection of the body is one of the most important pieces of our anatomy. It holds the majority of our vital organs, and houses some of the largest muscle groups in the body. The spine also runs through our midsection. The spine is a very important piece of the human anatomy. Not only does it protect our spinal cord, but it keeps us from being a flimsy sack of blood, muscle, and organs. The muscles surrounding the spine play very important roles in sport and everyday activities. They brace the spine under load as well as assist in the spine in rotation, global flexion, and global extension.

It is important when training the midsection for sport, you train all ranges of motion and angles. Only training your midsection with farmer walks at your sides could lead to a weak overhead position. A weak overhead position often means an over extended lower back in pressing exercises and hanging exercises. An overextended lower back means sapped energy and power potential and an increased risk to injury. Train the midsection in both the anterior and posterior sides, as well as the lateral sides as well. Change it up! Make it weird. Carry a heavy dumbbell in one hand, and a light kettlebell in the other. Walk like that for 50ft., then switch. You want your midsection to be strong in all areas, thus being able to brace the spine and move in all areas, because in most sports very rarely does our body move in perfectly straight lines with slow, progressive increases in loads.

Some of my favorite exercises for midline performance are farmer walks, 1 armed farmer walks and carries, heavy barbell compound lifts, and occasionally rotational ab exercises. These all help in training the midsection as a whole and in sections.

Take a look at these sample workouts and see how they encompass all areas and sides of the midsection.

Midline Stability Workout 1:

5 Rounds:

100ft. Farmer Walk

100ft. 1 Arm Overhead Carry (Each Arm)

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Farmer Walks with Strongman Axles (Sub with DB’s/KB’s)
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1 Arm Overhead DB/KB Carry

This first one is a simple one I picked up from world record power lifter and weightlifting coach, Travis Mash. It is a simple workout that address both stability in upright positions in movement as well as overhead stability in movement. Perform this workout during a deload week or on a active recovery day. These carry exercises, when loaded appropriately, don’t beat you up as bad as would a deadlift or another heavy compound movement that requires a lot of midline stability and bracing.

Midline Stability Workout (Wrestling):

5 Rounds:

100ft. Zercher Walk

5 Turkish Get Ups

100ft. Front Rack Walk

5 Turkish Get Ups

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Barbell Zercher Walk
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The Turkish Get Up
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KB Front Rack Walk (Barbells and DB’s can also be used)

This is a great wrestling workout that will not only develop your midsection and ability to brace properly, but also increase endurance in shoulder stability when moving in awkward positions underload. The Zercher position for all grapplers. It forces you to hold the barbell essentially with two underhooks which any grappler knows is a staple position in grappling sports. Turkish get ups are another great exercise for learning how to support a load over head while moving. The transfer it has to wrestling is huge. Even though you might never find that exact position in a wrestling/ jiu jitsu match, you have to constantly find a way to get back to your feet if you are underneath someone with a devastating and heavy top game. Front rack walks are brutal. If you’ve never done them before, start light and start slow at first. To walk in a front rack position means you have to keep your chest up and elbows high, and not letting the weight pull your chest down and your back rounded over. In a match, when you are tired at the start of the third period, you need to be able to keep your head and your chest up and not get easily broken down. If you are a wrestler or jiu jitsu athlete who gets snapped down and put into the front head position, this is an exercise for you.

Midline Stability Workout (Bodyweight):

5 Rounds:

30 Hollow Body Rocks

30 Superman Rocks

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Hollow Body Rock
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Superman Rock

If you do not have access to any weights to do midline stability work, you can always throw this simple body weight superset at the end of your workout. The hollow body position is a very common position from gymnastics that will help with your pull up mechanics, shoulder stability/overhead position. Superman rocks help isolate the glutes and the erectors of the spine which for many athletes can go severely underdeveloped. So many people focus on training the muscles that they can see. Arms, chest, the front of the shoulders, and in most cases the rectus abdominus or what most people consider, “abs”. Superman rocks help strength the erectors and glutes which work together with the transverse abdominus to stabilize the spine.

Depending on what your goals are and what kind of athlete you are, throw these midline stability workouts in on your active recovery day or at the end of a workout once or twice a week. If you train your midsection in this fashion consistently you will find that your main lifts will improve, you won’t fall out of your wrestling stance at the start of the second period, and overall lowerback health will improve. Feel free to email me at settlagesac@gmail.com if you have questions on any aspect of ab training.

Josh

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