Abdominal exercises actually target a set of three main muscles, the rectus abdominis, the obliques and the transversus abdominis.
When you do your abdominal workout, the rectus abdominis part of the abdominal wall is the long pair of muscles and is most often referred to as the “six pack”. For productive abdominal workouts you need to know there are three tendinous intersections that divide it into the segments you can see provided your body fat is low enough.
This abdominal/ab muscle has the job of flexing and rotating the lumbar region of your spinal column. It also serves to hold the ribs in place and stabilizes the pelvis during walking. As these are the main muscles in your abdominal workout when you perform standard abdominal crunches, they are usually pretty strong in most people.
The oblique muscles are the largest of the three and run in the downwards direction from the side to the middle. If you were to take your hands and put them in your pockets, the direction your fingers point is the direction these muscle fibres run. When they act together they aid the rectus abdominis muscle with the flexing of the vertebral column. They also serve, as a pair, to rotate the trunk and perform lateral back flexion.
The transverse abdominis is the deepest muscle and runs horizontally underneath the more superficial rectus abdominis. Its job is to compress the abdominal contents and help maintain stability. It also plays a role when a woman goes into labour.
The great thing about these muscles is that whenever you perform an exercise or an everyday activity for that matter you will be working them. Those who have weak muscles are more prone to experiencing lower back pain as since they are always being called upon, if they are not strong enough to do their job your back will move out of alignment thus causing problems.
So make sure you dedicate some portion of your workout strictly to these three muscles and then also remember to contract them while performing the rest of your program for additional training.
People who have the goal of enhancing their mid-section are often looking for a new stomach exercise to perform. They keep searching for the latest and greatest workout that will give them the definition they are hoping for. Unfortunately the best stomach exercise to perform isn’t a stomach exercise at all.
To match the goals of having a lean and strong midsection, your best bet is to lift heavy weights in the gym for the rest of your body and then hit up the cardio equipment for some high intensity cardio training.
To start, the heavy weight lifting will help call all your core muscles into play, strengthening them and building the muscle size. Be sure that you are fully challenging yourself so that you are fatiguing within 6 to 10 reps.
Then the high intensity cardio portion of your workout will be intended to strip away any fat that is covering the midsection, revealing these strong new muscles. This point is really key here. If you want the definition, you’ve got to put in the cardio work – or be incredibly strict on your diet. Most people will choose the former and part of the latter since this is a slightly easier combination. Not too many people want to exist solely on chicken breasts, egg whites and vegetables. Keeping the cardio in the program helps you slightly expand your dietary choices.
So definitely don’t discount sit-ups from your program because they do round out a good lifting session nicely but when it comes to really noticing results in this area of the body, focus more on the other two aspects of your training as that’s where the real secret to great abs lay.
Just like the other muscle groups, your core muscles need to be worked in a fashion so that you are both challenging them and then also letting them recover in order to improve. Far too many individuals perform exercises on a daily basis hoping to achieve a strong midsection. This either signifies that they are likely on the road to overtraining or else not using correct form.
When performing your stomach program, you want to include a variety of exercises and keep changing them on a regular basis. Your abdominal muscles in particular have amazing adaptability and will learn to deal with anything you throw at them quite quickly. Once they have adapted, this means that if you no longer keep changing things around, you are going to see stagnating results. For this reason, try and change the actual exercises you are performing at least once every month, preferably every two weeks if you can remember. It doesn’t necessarily always have to be a completely different exercise but something about it must change, either the way you are laying while doing it (for instance rather than always crunching up, try crunching to the side), the resistance type you are using (try using a cable pulley rather than a weight) or the base of support you are on (move to an exercise ball rather than the floor). All of these things will shock the ab muscles and get them responding again.
Also, contrary to popular belief, doing hundreds of reps at a time is not smart either. If you are able to do this many reps, you should rather just add some weight to the exercise to make it challenging. All you are doing by performing countless reps is burning calories, and if burning calories was your sole goal, you’d be much better off on the treadmill or the squat machine (the leg muscles are larger hence will burn more fat when worked).
An effective abs workout consists of the following exercises (check out the videos just to see the correct techniques):
Unless you are looking to get a thicker waist, including a stomach muscle stretch in your workout program is a necessity.
In all workout programs, the goal is usually to become stronger. This is best accomplished by performing an exercise that overloads the particular body part, causing it to break down slightly so when rest is given, it will grow back stronger. This process, when coupled with enough fuel from food, also usually causes a growth in muscle size. This is now where your stomach muscle stretch exercise comes in.
If you neglect to perform a stomach muscle stretch after the abs have been worked, they will not have undergone any type of lengthening process. In fact – quite the opposite. They will have contracted as this is what resistance exercise does. If you do this enough times, you will start to see the abs becoming wider hence increasing the thickness of your waist. For the majority of people, women in particular, this is something that should be avoided. By taking some time lengthening the abs after they have been worked you can help reduce the chances that they will grow back thicker but still encourage an increase in strength.
Remember that when performing this lengthening exercise, only go so far as is comfortable. You should never feel sharp pain when stretching but rather a gentle pull. Also try and hold the position for as long as you can as this will help to increase the flexibility even more.
You also do not always have to wait until after a workout to do these exercises as any time you perform them you will get benefits. It could be as simple as doing them while laying on the floor watching TV at the end of the night. Definitely keep them in your routine for after the workout as this is the most important time but the more frequent you can do them the better.