Thoughts on this comment regarding "contracting the abs." Thoughts on this comment regarding "contracting the abs."

starting strength gym
Results 1 to 8 of 8

Thread: Thoughts on this comment regarding "contracting the abs."

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Posts
    171

    Default Thoughts on this comment regarding "contracting the abs."

    • phoenix arizona seminar date
    • texas seminar date
    Andrew Vigotsky (who is unbeknownst to me but I believe he works alongside Bret Contreras) posted this comment on facebook. The usual keyboard warriors came out in full force afterwards so I was just curious to get your 2 cents on the comment since your name inevitably came up during the conversation.

    "Contracting the abdominals would result in a spinal flexion moment, partly countering of the extension moment produced by the erectors. This would result in a faster fatiguing of the erectors, a smaller net extension moment, unnecessarily larger compression forces, and possibly, less weight lifted. The rectus abdominis is an antagonist of the erector spinae; it would be, to be blunt, stupid to contract it, let alone to a large degree, in a movement that requires such a large extensor moment. The idea that the abdominals work to a large degree in movements like the squat and deadlift is not only unfounded and unsubstantiated, but is also unwarranted, as it does not make sense, biomechanically, to activate them in such a movement."

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    North Texas
    Posts
    39,316

    Default

    I seldom comment on internet comments, but I'll just ask you to think about the role of isometric contraction of abs, erectors, and everything else in a squat or pull. Not every muscle contraction results in a change in muscle belly length. I thought this was commonly-possessed understanding -- agonist/antagonist function, a balance of extension and contraction, etc. This type of thinking is typical of "physios" who only consider the isolated contractile function of individual muscles. What are your comments?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Posts
    171

    Default

    I mean my rudimentary understanding is that isometrically contracting the abs and creating IAP via valsalva not only aids in protecting the spine but also in providing stability so that you can ideally maintain the bar over the middle of the foot and generally maintain balance under heavy weights. To me it seems obvious that you can do this while maintaining your lumbar in extension. As you said, a "balance of contraction and extension." His post seems to be one of those instances where someone says something so far to the right of conventional wisdom in order to cause a stir on the internet and get attention. ie:nobody should back squat, just front squat.

    I do think however some people misinterpret the whole "bracing the abs" thing and over-do it by lifting their chest up real high while taking a breath and simultaneously pushing their hips forward and "crunching" down on their abs as if they were doing a sit up instead of just taking a big breath and utilizing the valsalva maneuver properly. I don't know why but it seems like female trainees tend to do this more often.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Vista, CA
    Posts
    1,955

    Default

    He conflates the rectus abdominis with 'the abs,' without making reference to to transverse abdominis or the interior/exterior obliques, which also play a significant role in respiration/intrabdominal pressure. Interesting.

    My swing at this one: will he now suggest that the hamstrings aren't involved in the squat? After all, the hamstrings resist the quadriceps at the knee- it's "stupid to contract it" under this logic. Contraction of the RA may indeed resist action of the SE resulting in "a faster fatiguing of the erectors" and "a smaller net extension moment," but if the increased intrabdominal pressures from the contraction contribute to greater spinal rigidity, more weight can be lifted.

    Also, the comment of "unnecessarily large compression forces" is interesting. Experimental observation of squats have, in several studies I've seen, shown that wearing belts/increasing intrabdominal pressure reduces the shrinking of the intervertebral discs caused by the axial loading in a squat.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    Perth, Australia
    Posts
    4,005

    Default

    A small experiment: Perform a heavy lift, say a squat or a deadlift and take a deep breath and squeeze your abs. Now, preform the same movement again with the same weight, except this time breath out and relax your abs. Note what happens.

    What this gentleman is saying is at odds with reality. A reality that is easily observable to anyone who has ever watched someone lift anything heavy, or tried it for themselves. I have to no more refute his "analysis" of the role of the abdominal muscles than I do of someone claiming that the people of Australia squat upside down.

    It occurs to me that this might simply be another case of someone trying to make a name for themselves via stirring up controversy by spouting utter nonsense.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    116

    Default

    I used to have a lot of back trouble from squatting, and was always confused. I knew I was able to achieve an excellent back extension and maintain it, and I didn't consider anything else.

    It was only about a year ago I realized the important of a hard, intentional bracing of the torso, and I usually cued it with ab contraction. My back extension was so wildly over-exaggerated that it was leaving my abs loose in the front.

    Bracing the torso has been a big "aha" moment for me and people I've trained who didn't understand why they felt so weak at the bottom of the squat despite maintaining good back extension.

    I also had a weird case of shimmy-hips during my ascent, and I realize the two were related. The abdominals/obliques are some of the muscles that help anchor and maintain pelvic position during a squat, and simply bracing my abs saved me time looking up retarded mobility and single leg drills to help fix some muscle imbalance I didn't have.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    North Texas
    Posts
    39,316

    Default

    Look at this again:

    The rectus abdominis is an antagonist of the erector spinae; it would be, to be blunt, stupid to contract it, let alone to a large degree, in a movement that requires such a large extensor moment. The idea that the abdominals work to a large degree in movements like the squat and deadlift is not only unfounded and unsubstantiated, but is also unwarranted, as it does not make sense, biomechanically, to activate them in such a movement.
    This is absurd, and on second thought, it's just not worthy of response. I apologize to the board.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    North Texas
    Posts
    39,316

    Default

    My meet results were all pre-internet, and unless someone has entered all the data from PLUSA's meet results pages from the 80s, they won't be available online.

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •