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Building Strong Abs and Pecs

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Dear Dr. Levister: I am an aspiring high school baseball pitcher. I experience low back pain when I pitch. I have never been injured. My coach blames the discomfort on weak abdominal and pectoral muscles and says I should enter a rigorous weight training program. Please explain this. Paul B.

Dear Paul B: Your coach’s opinion is to be respected however he or she is not qualified to diagnose the source of your back pain. Consult with your team physician, personal doctor or health care professional for a formal diagnosis.

The abdominal/stomach and pectorals/chest are the most notable sets of muscles on the male body and let’s face it, most women love to see chiseled abs and a bulging chest. But having strong chest and abdominal muscles not only helps your appearance, it improves your overall health and athleticism. They are two of the largest muscle groups on the human body and provide most of the power the upper body generates. The chest helps to create the fanning motion used to swing a bat or throw a baseball. In fact, building a strong chest helps improve your fastball. LA Dodger pitching sensation, Kazuhisa Ishii, spends at least 15 hours a week developing his pecs and abs. The abdominal muscles come into play with most exercises and movements. But they also connect your sternum to your lower body and help the back muscles support the spinal column, otherwise known as trunk stability. Strong abdominal muscles help support your back muscles and can reduce lower back pain. For athletes or anyone who wants to lose that spare tire around the middle or beef up that bird chest, there are dozens of weight training routines that target your chest and mid section.

Exercises like the bench press, pec deck flys, incline press and crunches, the “meat and potatoes” of any abdominal workout, are good for building strong abs and pecs. Invest in a good weight training manual to help you perform these exercises correctly and safely.

Weight training alone won’t give you a strong chest or rippling abs. You have to include a cardiovascular workout that will burn fat and a nutritional program based on your eating habits and schedule. But be sure to visit your doctor or team physician before starting any new exercise routine, and consult a fitness trainer to select the right workout for you.

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