Feel the Burn

As we have mentioned, having strong abs will significantly help you get rid of lower back pain. Try this: Sit in a chair. Hold your abs tight. Now let them go. Did you note a difference in your posture? You see, your abs are what keep your pelvis in a neutral position. When they are weak, your pelvis has a tendency to tilt forward, increasing the inward curve of your lumbar spine. This, of course, will throw the rest of your spine out of whack as well. All you have to do to see what we're talking about is check out the exaggerated curve of someone with a sizeable beer belly. Contrast that, say, with the posture of an athlete like an Olympic gymnast and you can begin to see the relationship between strong abs, good posture, and improved athletic performance.

Perhaps because there's so much discussion and even obsession with our bulging waistlines, there's a lot of misinformation surrounding the abs that we'd like to clear up.

Here are a few of the most common midsection myths:

1. If I work my abs, I'll get rid of my love handles. This is the one we hear most often. However, the bottom line is that you can do 5,000 sit-ups a day and if you still have excess adipose tissue (a fancy medical term for fat), you'll have really strong abs to accompany your love handles. Since the muscle lies beneath the fat, if you consume more calories than you burn, these powerful muscles will function efficiently but not be revealed to the public at large. In other words, strong abs and love handles have nothing to do with each other. Want to lose the excess baggage? Eat less, and do more cardiovascular exercise.

2. I need to do 500 crunches a day to get my abs in really great shape. In fact, if you can do 500 crunches a day, you're either a Navy SEAL in training or doing something quite wrong. Done correctly, 10 to 25 repetitions for three sets is more than enough to get the job done. Why waste your time by doing so many, especially if you do them incorrectly?

3. I do my abs every day for maximum benefit. This is another line we hear a lot in the gym. While the abs can be worked more than your chest or biceps, for example, you should treat your abs as you treat any other muscles. Remember that they need rest just like any other stressed body part.

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