Well, here we are on my last ab tip, ab tip11. Next week I will share a summary of all these tips with links to the prior blogs to simply your life.
Today's tip topic is....
vAriEty Is KeY
Ever heard the quote, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results"? This quote speaks to the beauty of variety. Variety in your ab routines will ensure you're building your core out in a well-rounded manner. It will prevent imbalances, which can prevent injury, and it will also help you to be equivalent. For those of you who are fitness competitors you know the importance of symmetry on stage.
As I discussed very early on into these ab tips, there are four core abs muscles. Below I will recap what the four are, where they are located, how they function AND what ab workouts will target each of these four muscles SO that you can make sure to be educated and given the proper resources to build out a solid and balanced core!
The rectus abdominis is the long, flat muscle located front and center on the torso. It extends vertically between the pubis and the 5th-7th ribs. The rectus abdominis helps to flex the spinal column, narrowing the space between the pelvis and the ribs. It is also active during side bending motions and helps stabilize the trunk during movements involving the extremities and head.
When you think of “six pack” abs, you’re really thinking of the rectus abdominis.
Rectus abdominis exercises: (Search Google or Youtube for video clips)
- Ab wheel
- Decline crunch
- Exercise ball crunch
- Jack-knife sit-up
- Reverse crunch
- Decline reverse crunch
- Hanging reverse crunch
- Vertical reverse crunch
- Decline sit-up
- Swiss ball "stir the pot"
- Hanging leg raise
- Hanging knee raises
- Medicine ball sit-up
- Boat pose/hold
- Scissor kicks
- Mountain climbers
- Bicycle crunch
- Most plank varaities
External obliques are located on each side of the rectus abdominis. The muscle fibers of the external obliques run diagonally downward and inward from the lower ribs to the pelvis, forming the letter V. You can locate them by putting your hands in your hoodie or coat pocket.
The external obliques originate at the 5th to 12th ribs. The external oblique muscles allow flexion of the spine, rotation of the torso, sideways bending and compression of the abdomen.
External Oblique Exercises: (Search Google or Youtube for video clips)
- Side plank
- Side plank dips
- Russian twist
- Side-ups to twist
- Wood choppers
- Wall balls
- Side crunches
- Side bends
- Forward lunge with rotation
- Standing side crunch
- Power hooks/jabs
- Bicycle crunch
- Hanging oblique raises
- Windshield wipers
- Single-arm farmer's carry
Irish athlete known for strong abdominals. Photo illuminates her obliques.
The internal oblique muscles are a pair of deep muscles that are just below the external oblique muscles.
Internal obliques are also involved in flexing the spinal column, sideways bending, trunk rotation and compressing the abdomen.
Because of their unique alignment, the internal and external obliques offest each other. When your trunk rotates left utilizing the internal obliques, the external obliques on the right contract.
Due to the relationship between the internal AND external obliques, working your external oblique will always work your internal oblique as well, SO for internal oblique exercises, see above, external oblique exercises.
Transverse abdominals (TVA):
Even though there are a ton of great ab exercises, many favor the upper abs and lower abs. Often the muscle that goes under served is the transerve abs, a muscle that is too deep to see on the outside.
The transverse abs help with the breathing process, assisting in exhalation and compressing the internal organs. Its main function is to activate the core musculature and stabilize the pelvis and low back prior to movement of the body. It acts as a muscular girdle by resisting flexion of the lower back. A strong TVA provides a solid foundation for any movement.
A strong and well developed TVA also equates to a tighter, slimmer waist.
Cori Lefkowith, Orange County-based personal trainer says "Isolating and working one muscle alone will not give you a six pack, but, having a strong transverse abdominis will create core stability. That stability will allow you to perform abs exercises properly, which will result in the visible definition you may be looking for."
THIS is BEST MUSCLE to work POST BABY. Helps repair Diastasis Recti (abdominal split from pregnancy)
Learning how to activate the transverse abs can be challenging, but once you get the knack of it, your abs will work more effectively.
Transverse Ab (TVA) exercises: (Search Google or Youtube for video clips)
- Bird dog
- Dead bug
- Tummy vacs
- Foot-hand bear crawl
- Forward ball roll
- Hollow body holds
- Lying pelvic tilt
- Leg slides
- Pelvic squeeze (use pillow)
- Glute bridge
Some ab exercises can work the hip flexors more than your abs! To isolate just the abdominals, feel free to minimize ab workouts that heavily work hip flexors.
i.e. the full sit-up, especially when the feet are held down, or decline sit-ups, deeply involve the hip flexors. Another example of an ab exercise that dominantly works the hip flexors is lying leg-raises. These exercises STILL work your abs, so there is NO need to remove them if you don't mind the hip flexors getting some extra attention. Hip flexors need to be strengthened too!