The Perfect Abs Guide: What Science Has Already Showed About This Exercise - Estadão

The Perfect Abs Guide: What Science Has Already Showed About This Exercise – Estadão

Rio – Those who used to go to the gym a few years ago remember it well. In search of “tanquinho belly”, sit-ups are exercises most practiced. “In the ’90s, there were even tournaments in the gyms, we used to do more than 200 sit-ups a day,” personal trainer Evelyn Sequeira recalls. Marcelo Almeida, Professor of Physical Education at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (Uerj), has a similar memory. “I was teaching a group class on abs and buttocks,” he recalls. “It was just a half hour sit-in.”

However, this culture seems to have gone out of fashion. The exercise sets are now short. Change according to hearing experts stadiumdue to advances in understanding the biomechanics of the spine, how muscle is formed, and the contribution of diet to building muscle.

Abdominal exercises in a gym in the Jardins area of ​​São Paulo. take photo: Taba Benedicto / Estadao

“It’s not that it’s outdated, it’s still being done,” explains Mauricio dos Santos, a physiologist at the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFSP) Mauricio dos Santos. “But as the studies progressed, it became clear that this massive amount of exercise had very little effect, and worse, it caused injuries. What happened was an improvement in movement analysis.”

Sit-ups began to be popular in the 1940s, when the United States Army began applying the exercise to training its soldiers. As part of their training, recruits were required to complete as many sit-ups as possible in two minutes.

It was not just a way to develop physical strength and build muscle, but above all, to measure that strength. Since physical education professionals usually inspire military training, it didn’t take long for the exercises to gain popularity in schools, gyms, and, later, gyms.

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“The military used the sit-up test as a measure of physical aptitude and it eventually became a standard not only in the military but also in schools,” says physiology expert Claudio Gil, director of research and education at Climinex. “Also, in the ’80s and ’90s, the norm in gyms was local gyms, and those classes had a lot of abs.”

spinal stabilization

Americans Henry and Florence Kendall, the main foundations of physical therapy, were also pioneers in determining that the main function of the abdominal muscles is not to generate movement, but to stabilize the spine.

Along with the muscles of the buttocks, hips, and lower back, they will be responsible for aligning the body, standing, and protecting the internal organs. Decades later, these muscles are collectively called the nucleus. And it turns out that this entire part of the body (made up of 29 muscles) has to be strengthened.

Sit-ups started popping up in the 1940s, and exercise sets are now short.
Sit-ups started popping up in the 1940s, and exercise sets are now short.

take photo: Taba Benedicto / Estadao

“There was also another misconception that if we did a lot of sitting exercises, we would burn belly fat, the so-called beer belly,” Almeida recalls. “But studies were also showing that fat loss was total, not local, and sit-ups were far from the best cardio exercise for burning calories.”

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There was also another misconception that if we did a lot of sitting exercises, we would burn belly fat, the so-called beer belly.”

Marcelo Almeida, professor of physical education course at YERJ

Character Evelyn Siqueira explains that with the development of studies on the physiology of the human body, it has been realized that there is no need for many repetitions to get a good result. “The abdominal muscle is like any other muscle, if we want to make it stronger, we have to train with a gradual load.”

Finally, in 2015, a professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada, Stuart McGill, an expert in biomechanics, released the book back mechanicCollecting his conclusions after more than 30 years of research on back pain, he quickly became the major reference for the problem. One important conclusion of the book is that most people with chronic lower back injuries were accustomed to doing long sets of sitting exercises.

In the book, McGill explains that when a person bends and strains the spine to dislodge something heavy, it tends to negatively affect the intervertebral discs. That’s why, for example, those who work out while carrying weights tend to have back pain into middle age. The only way to avoid the problem, according to McGill, is to strengthen all the muscles in the center of the body – the core – in order to protect the spine and share the effort with the larger muscles, such as those in the legs.

A biomechanics expert has shown that traditional sit-ups violate these principles. When lifting the entire upper body from a lying position, it is not possible to strengthen the core of the body or transfer part of the effort to the legs. Moreover, the exercise is by nature repetitive.

Currently, cardio works with a short series of progressive weight abdominal muscles and also with isometric and static exercises, such as planks. Lower spine and gluteal exercises are also important.

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For those who want a “six-pack,” experts say, it is essential to focus not only on proper training, but also on losing food and fat. They warn that this is not easy.

“What makes the abdominal muscles appear more specific is the amount of fat in the muscle; for this, an adequate diet and a high daily caloric expenditure are necessary,” says Mauricio dos Santos. “It is very challenging and requires a lot of discipline. You almost have to become a fitness athlete.”

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