I was asked by one of my clients this week, “Why do we always train abs at the end of the workout?”
Training abs at the end of the workout is more functional because it is a closer simulation to when you need your abs to perform in real life, that is, when your body is already tired. We all get tired in everyday life. Just because we’re tired doesn’t mean we don’t have stuff to get done like picking up toys, bending down to put dishes in the dishwasher, sitting up straight while we finish up a work project at the computer. If we don’t engage our abs while we do these things then we leave our backs susceptible to aches and pains. Training your abs to be strong when you’re already tired from the rest of your workout simulates these common real life situations so you will have the endurance to get things done with good posture through the end of the day.
Unless you’re training for sport performance, most of your ab training should consist of exercises that train your abs to keep your spine rigid. Training our abs to keep our spine rigid is most functional because the most common cause of back pain is when we allow our spine to bend or move when it shouldn’t. This happens when we lift something heavy without proper form once or lift something light without proper form repeatedly. It also happens if we lose activation of our abs and let our spine curve unnaturally for long periods of time, like sitting at a desk.
Some examples of exercises that, when done properly, train your spine to stay rigid are planks, alternating leg outs, side planks, and romanian deadlifts. Technique is super important with these exercises because doing them with improper technique not only won’t train your core, but will actually do more damage to your spine… the exact thing we’re trying to prevent by doing the exercise in the first place!