by Neil Anderson

Body builders know a lot about abs.  They know about them on a level that science hasn't caught up to yet.  It's too bad that they do, because their whole spiel just seems so off.  We can get into that later.  For now, it's probably easier to say I just don't get the pursuit of muscling up, oiling up and prancing around on a stage in your underwear. To each his own, I guess. 

The thing is, bodybuilders spend an incredible amount of time getting to know their bodies.  Successful ones know every little thing about how an exercise or movement will effect them.  They become so good at knowing the effects of certain movements that often their techniques fly in the face of conventional wisdom.  Exercise scientists (mostly flabby ones) have been saying for years that certain bodybuilding techniques are flat-out wrong.  For example, the exercise scientists (mostly flabby) who taught my exercise phys classes at USU told me and my numerous classmates that there is no such thing as working the upper abs separately from the lower abs.  They said it was a myth!  Banged their fists on a pulpit (actually happened once) to emphasize the point.  Yet, bodybuilders (fit and muscled) have been working them separately and claiming it is the ONLY way to bring the top and bottom abs "out" for decades.  They have continued even after these (flabby) exercise scientists told them it was scientifically "hogwash."

What could be wrong with bodybuilders?  Can't they read?  Don't they believe in science? 

Are they THAT mired in tradition?  Have they just bought into bodybuilding so blindly that they will simply perpetuate stupid and inefficient movements as nothing more than religious dogma? 

Researchers from the University of Sao Paulo Brazil didn't think this sounded right.  Why take all your advice from a bunch guys who wouldn't be able to find their own abs without local anesthesia and a scalpel, right? So, they put bodybuilders' methods to the test.  With advanced muscle activation measuring equipment, they had male subjects perform crunches and reverse crunches.  These two movements are purported by body builders to work the upper abdominals differently from the lower.  Any guesses on what they found?

Body builders have been right all along. 

According to the findings, which were published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, muscle activity data shows "definite" differentiation.  They also supported this finding with the fact that research in human cadavers shows that the different portions of the abs are innervated by different nerves.  That is big! 

Conclusion

Don't take all your ab building advice from pulpit thumping (mostly flabby) scientists.  Exercises that involve moving the upper torso (crunches, situps) work upper portions of the abdominals more.  Exercises that involve moving the pelvis and legs toward the center of mass work the lower abdominals more.  And also, although bodybuilders and their pursuits are completely foreign to me (we can get into it later), they know stuff.  And we can learn things from them that we can use in our own pursuit of optimal health. 

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