The abdominals are a complex network of muscle groups located in the frontal lower section of the torso. These muscles constitute one of the most important muscle groups with respect to aesthetic, athletic and overall health development. Abdominals are one of the most used and visible muscles in the body and thus their development is not only incredibly aesthetically sought after, but is essential for athletic improvement due to it’s ability to transverse movement of the entire upper torso. There are a tremendous number of misconceptions regarding the abdominal muscle group and this article is going to not only address those misconceptions but show you: how to strengthen and develop your abdominals for more power and endurance, which are best exercises, and how to achieve your goals. Click ‘Read More’ to continue…
The abdominal muscle group is comprised of four muscles: rectus abdominis, external oblique, internal oblique, and transverse abdominis. These muscles form a shell around the vital organs from the bottom of the rib cage to the lower torso. These muscles not only protect the torso but are also used to: keep the posture, counterbalance the lower back muscles, flex the torso forward and sideways, rotate the torso, and compress the abdomen forward. All of these muscles must be trained evenly in order to prevent any muscular imbalances or weak points.
Rectus abominis is the traditional ‘six pack’ muscle that is showing when the torso has low body fat. This muscle is the forefront of the abdominal muscle group and run from the bottom of the rib cage to the pelvic bone. They are responsible for the forward flexing and movement of the torso, helping hold abdominal pressure for stabilization of the torso during exertion and protection of the vital organs.
External oblique muscle group is visible along the sides of the rectus abdominis muscles and run diagonally down from lower eight ribs, attaching to the top half of your hip and rectus abdominis. The external obliques, along with the internal obliques, are responsible for the rotational torque of the upper torso whereby allowing the torso to twist at the waist, and stabilize the body laterally thus allow you to straighten your torso upright when it’s bent to the side.
Internal obliques lie underneath the external obliques and run diagonally in the opposite direction. The internal obliques work with the externals to help rotate the trunk. The internal obliques will also compress the abdomen when both sides contract and thus help stabilize the internal organs, preserve abdominal pressure during exertion and provide counter rotation and balance in conjunction with the external obliques.
Transverse Abdominis muscles are the inner most abdominal muscles that outline the abdominal cavity. Unlike the previous muscle groups, these muscles are not responsible for torso movement but are used to manipulate the abdomen itself. These muscles are responsible for sucking in your stomach thus the vacuum effect that allows the diaphragm and abdominal cavity to contract inwards. These muscle groups are extremely important for not only aesthetically developing a flatter abdomen but to stabilize the torso core during exertion and balance the other abdominal muscles.
Key Abdominal Concepts
These are the concepts that every physically active person must know and will clear up any misconceptions up that you may have.
- Everyone has ‘abs’- Aesthetic ‘abs’ are abdominal muscles that are visible with low body fat. Everyone has abs and therefore in order to create a more visually appealing physique, body fat must be reduced through total exercise and diet.
- You Cannot Spot Reduce- Cranking out thousands of crunches will not spot reduce fat from that one area of your body. Exercising in any shape or form will use calories thus contributing to achieve your overall goal; on the contrary, spot reduction is a common myth.
- Why develop abs- Development of abs will allow these muscles to help reduce chance of injury, stabilize your core, keep your stomach flat, reduce risk of hernia, increase power and allow them to show through your skin more prominently (with combination of lowered body fat)
These are total abdominal exercises that when done routinely will allow you to achieve all of the benefits of a stronger core and abdomen.
Planks- Get your body into the push up position but instead of resting on your hands get on your elbows and forearms. Keep your back completely straight and stay on your toes. Control your breathing and keep this position for the specified time. Try to get as close to the time as possible and do not rest more than 15 seconds.
- Hold plank position for 1 minute for 4 sets. No more than 15 seconds rest in between.
Crunches- This is a classic abdominal workout that is commonly incorrectly done. Lie down on your back with your knees upright and feet on the ground. Place your hands at the sides of your head or across your chest. Control your breathing and exhale as you bring the upper part of your torso up. Come up to where the bottom of your shoulder blades are off the ground, no higher and no lower. Feel free to implement a weight (plate) being held across your chest for higher resistance. Get as close to the rep range as you can while performing the crunches slowly and controlled.
- 4 sets of 50 with 15 seconds rest.
- 4 sets of 25 with 15 seconds rest.
Reverse Crunches- Lie down while keeping your upper torso completely flat, use your abdominal muscles to bring your legs up bending at the knees.
- 4 sets 25 with 15 second rest.
Hanging Ab Raises- This requires hanging from a bar using arm straps or using your own grip (more advanced). While hanging, control your breathing, keep your body as stable and motionless as possible while raising your knees up as high as you can go in a slow controlled motion. After some abdominal development, alternate between this movement and raising your legs out in front of you with your legs completely straight. To provide even more advanced development, place a small dumbbell between your ankles and hold it by squeezing your legs together or crossing them at the ankles around the dumbbell.
- 4 sets of 25 with 20 seconds rest.
As with all workouts there are infinite combinations and organization of repetitions and exercises for your chosen athletic goal. This is a basic strength and volume outline that can be modified and/or combined with other SwoleScience workouts or exercises.
– Papa Swole
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