The Anterior Chain
Years ago, we used to talk about back training in the gym as doing the Olympic lifts or the powerlifts. One day, someone cracked out a textbook and decided to call this kind of work “Posterior Chain.” And, that is fine. I still have strong opinions that pulling 600 pounds off the floor is a better indicator for being an elite thrower or football player than lifting one’s torso off of a Bosu ball, but it’s all “Posterior Chain” now.
I joked in an article once that we have ignored “Anterior Chain.” I still stand by it: working that great range of human movement is more than just crunches and military sit-ups. Done correctly, this family of movements can support every sport activity and even improve the pull up.
I start teaching this with the basic Inchworm. Stand up and bend over. Put your hands on the ground and walk your hands out until you come to the up push up position. Then, walk your hands back to your feet and stand tall again. That is an Inchworm and it takes less time to do it than explain it.
If you travel a lot, do an Inchworm with a push up added to get in a nice workout without any equipment. I agree with many good coaches that the push up might be the most underrated abdominal exercise. Adding the Inchworm will cut into your volume of push ups.
I love the Ab Wheel. I always have. During January, you can buy them very cheap in the bins at many of the discount clothes stores. That’s where I get mine. Get to your knees, grab the handles and roll out. I have seen a person roll out on their toes to full extension of the arms. His nose was barely off the ground. This person, not surprising, also had great abs.
If the Inchworm and Ab Wheel are not enough, add some Hanging Leg Raises from the pull up bar. I recommend that you cross your legs at the ankle and really squeeze the knees together while you try to concomitantly pull the feet apart. Get a lot of tension in the lower body. Then, without any momentum, squeeze the abs and pull the legs to the L position. Learn to control this position first. Overtime, sweep the legs upward until your legs touch the fingers.
Always do these under control, like an Olympic gymnast. Don’t strive for reps, try to use the whole front side of your body.
From there, walk over to the dip rack. Pop into the top position, then bring your legs up into the L sit again. You must squeeze your armpits and try the leg trick from the Hanging Leg Raise. Breathing is going to be like air coming out of a tire: Tsssssst. Don’t hold your breath nor breath like you are bored watching TV.
For the Ab Wheel, the Hanging Leg Raise and the Dip Rack L Sit, consider doing 3-5 sets of 2-5 reps. Focus on the tension and the quality of the movement. Avoid volume and focus on strength.
Once these four basic movements are mastered, you can begin to explore basic gymnastic moves. But, for most of us, these four will provide you the work you need for the Anterior Chain in most situations. A small warning: these movements can provide a degree of soreness that can shock you two days after you play around with them. You will learn a good lesson here: the bulk of the ab work you have been doing for years is practically worthless.