Get a bikini-worthy middle
Who hasn’t wished for rock hard abs, a whittled waist or a flat belly? Many aspire to be as trim and toned in the middle as people they see on TV, but don’t know the first thing about strengthening their core - aside from the outdated practice of performing hundreds of sit-ups.
To really get results it’s important to know what muscles you’re working and the best moves to work them with.
What are the abdominis muscles and where are they located?
- Rectus abdominis - This long vertical muscle covers the middle of your abdomen, running from lower ribs to pubic bone. It has right and left halves, each separated into four sections by three horizontal creases.
- Transversus abdominis - This stomach muscle runs horizontally beneath the internal oblique and rectus abdominis. It is the deepest-set of all the stomach muscles.
What do they do?
- Rectus abdominis - Aside from being responsible for six pack abs, the rectus abdominis provides stability to the torso. It is involved in forward and side bending.
- Transversus abdominis - This muscle assists in good posture, balance and stability. It holds the abdomen flat and compresses and supports abdominal organs. It’s put to work when you go to the bathroom, and even more during childbirth.
Why you should strengthen your abdominis muscles
Aside from that ripped look only well-formed rectus abdominals can give, or a flat belly thanks to toned transverse abdominals, strengthening these muscles is an important part of achieving an overall athletic body.
The transverse abdominals act as a natural girdle for your midsection, stabilizing the spine and pelvis during weight lifting movements.
Exercises that target the abdominis muscles
- Stability ball crunch - Doing crunches on an unstable ball instead of a flat surface forces your body to work harder and use more muscles including the legs and glutes. Sit with the ball under your lower and middle back, knees should be bent and feet on the floor far enough from the ball to provide balance.
- Reverse crunch - This crunch involves lifting your hips off the floor instead of your upper body. It is a slight movement that targets lower abs and obliques - so long as you don’t cheat and use momentum.
- Captain’s chair - This move involves a machine that can often be found in health club weight rooms. Lay your arms on the padded rests and grip the handles. Your back should be pressed against the pad at the back of the machine. Lift bent or straight legs by contracting abs and remember not to arch your back.
- Plank - This move is great for targeting the transverse abdominis muscles. Get in position to do a push-up with arms fully extended. Keep the body in a straight line (no drooping or butts in the air) and hold for as long as you can. Working yourself up to a full minute is a good goal. You may choose to hold yourself up on elbows and forearms to begin with.