I recently added this 2 exercises to my weekly routine. I’m fitting them in my programme twice a week. Let me know if you also perform them and what the results are.
Movement 1: The Myotatic Crunch
I began my analysis by looking for common attributes in exercises that hadn’t worked. The shared feature of all the dominant exercises, in particular the ﬂoor crunch, is that they used no more than half of the full range of motion (ROM) of the abdominals. If you were to imagine yourself sitting in a chair, the prescribed exercises all took you toward your knees (crunch, ﬂoor sit-up) or brought your knees toward your chest with a straight back (roman chair, reverse crunch). I decided to ignore that fetal range of motion altogether for eight weeks and focus on the stretched position achieved with full back extension.
The result was the myotatic crunch, so named because it leverages the fully stretched position and the resultant reﬂex (myotatic reﬂex or stretch reﬂex) for a stronger contraction than I had been able to achieve otherwise. It didn’t take eight weeks to see a difference. It took three.
Since this exercise is also effective for recruiting the transverse abdominis (explained next), if you have to choose one exercise, choose this one. If a BOSU ball is not available, use a small Swiss ball (45–55 centimeters in diameter) or a pile of ﬁrm cushions. Using a BOSU or Swiss ball, ensure your ass is close to the ﬂoor, usually no more than 6” off the ground.
Then follow these steps:
1. Start with arms stretched overhead as high as possible (I overlap my extended hands as if in a diving position). Keep your arms behind or next to your ears for the entire exercise.
2. Lower under control for 4 seconds until your ﬁngers touch the ﬂoor, the entire time attempting to extend your hands further away from the ball.
3. Pause at the bottom for 2 seconds, aiming for maximum elongation (picture 3).
4. Rise under control and pause in the upper, fully contracted position for 2 seconds. The arms should not pass perpendicular with the ground.
5. Repeat for a total of 10 repetitions. Once you can complete 10 repetitions, add weight to your hands. I tend to use books of different sizes. If female, I don’t suggest exceeding 10 pounds in added weight (see “Hourglass” sidebar on page 179).
Movement 2: The Cat Vomit Exercise
This exercise is dedicated to my ex-girlfriend. I want only the best for you, Angelina Jolie.
Unless you purchase a corset at the same time, doing crunches will not pull your abdomen in. The muscle ﬁbers of the six-pack (rectus abdominis) run vertically. The muscle you want to target instead is called the transverse abdominis (TVA), the deepest of the six main abdominal muscles, which is composed of ﬁbers that run horizontally like a belt. The TVA is nicknamed the “corset muscle,” and if your abs have ever ached from laughing or coughing, you’ve felt it working.
Unfortunately, laughing repeatedly in the gym will get you a straitjacket or a plate to the head, so here is the alternative:
1. Get on all fours and keep your gaze focused either directly under your head or slightly in front of you. Don’t arch your back or strain your neck.
2. Forcefully exhale from your mouth until all air is fully expelled. Your abs should be contracted from this forceful exhale. Full exhalation is necessary to contract the transverse abdominals, and you’ll use gravity to provide resistance.
3. Hold your breath and pull your belly button upward toward your spine as hard as you can for a target of 8–12 seconds.
4. Inhale fully through the nose after the 8-12 second hold.
5. Take one breath cycle of rest (exhale slowly out the mouth, inhale slowly through the nose), then repeat the above for a total of 10 repetitions.
There you have it: the myotatic crunch and the cat vomit exercise. Heave, groan, and be merry.