What does it take to get a stronger midline? More GHD situps? More hollow holds? L-sits? Toes to bar? Well if you’re like me and have tried all of the above and still can’t seem to hold an L-sit for more than 10 seconds, maybe it’s time to change the conversation. Maybe we don’t need more, maybe we need better. After all, more isn’t always better, better is better.
Let’s stop thinking of deficiencies in strength and start looking at deficiencies in position.
As much of modern society, you probably have weak obliques and you probably aren’t in a position where you can actually use those weak obliques, making it nearly impossible to strengthen them. And because of that, a vicious cycle of imbalance starts. Your body starts to focus on other systems to find stability, and the more those other systems develop the more underutilized the obliques become. This cycle continues until one day you realize that you can clean 300 pounds but you can’t hold an L-sit more more than 3 seconds – that’s a red flag and you’re headed for disaster.
So how do we fix it? First we need to look at what correct bracing looks like and also what it does not look like:
Pictured above is an example of poor bracing. Although the upper abs are working, that’s about it. The obliques are responsible for holding the pelvis in a neutral position, so in order to correctly utilize the strength of the abs we need to change the position.
To hold a hollow body position correctly the shoulders should be off of the floor and the weight of the body should be balanced along the spine of the low back.
Pictured above is a poor L-sit. The torso reflects the poor pelvic positioning. In this picture the pelvis has a slight anterior tilt, which means that the legs are being held up by the low back and hip flexors and not the obliques.
Here is a better example of what an L-sit should look like. In this picture the pelvis has a posterior tilt, a good indication that the obliques are doing their job.
So now that we can identify a deficiency, how do we address it? First we need to make sure that your abs are actually able to move throughout their range of motion. A good way to do this is with the global gut smash, a simple yet effective mobilization. Just find a ball that is somewhat soft, such as a slam ball and target any area between your pelvis and ribcage but avoid direct pressure into the belly button. The idea is that you are going to lay on the ball and try to relax the muscles that the ball is pushing into.
Once you free up the torso musculature we need to start to build strength. Julien Pineau of strongfit explains it best in his new video for what he calls the external oblique opener:
Following all this steps should make you much more aware of your midline in movements. Evening out your midline will make breathing and moving exponentially easier. It’s the first step in addressing hip or shoulder pain and key in moving as efficiently as you can.