As the temperatures start to increase and our thoughts turn towards water-based activities, what else do we think about? Abdominals! It may not be that direct of a connection rather how are we going to look in a swimsuit, bikini and/or other abdominal showing summer outfit. Most of us are familiar with the six-pack ab term and look and strive to achieve that look or at least a 4-pack. However, to truly achieve that look of cut and definitions, we must strengthen and address all the major muscles that comprise the abdominals. That is – the rectus abdominals (6-pack), internal obliques, external obliques, and transversus abdominals. Simply put, the transversus ab lies deep in the body and is critical for maintaining proper posture especially as we age. Internal and external obliques allow us to flex and rotate our spine side to side. Rectus ab flexes our spine and is probably the most revered of the group – especially when it looks like the 6-pack featured in magazines and videos. My favorite is the transversus ab because of its behind the spotlight attitude and importance. It supports the body in all that it does yet doesn’t require lots of resistance or attention, just awareness.
Now you ask “how do I get washboard abs or at least better definition”? The simple answer is to work out ALL of you abdominal muscles. Many people think that if they do 100 sit-ups it is good enough. WRONG! Granted the ability to do 100 sit-ups is fantastic but as mentioned above, there are many different abdominal muscles. The following are some simple exercises to getting better definition for your abs.
Belly Fat layer: First and foremost, you have to lose the layer of fat over the muscles. You can do abdominal exercises forever but it still won’t show up if you have the fat over them. The best way to get rid of that layer of fat is cardio. Something as simple as walking/jogging or as complex as interval training will help with the belly fat.
Transverse Abdominals: The transverse abdominal muscles lies beneath the six-pack muscles and performs a vital role. It supports your internal organs, increases abdominal pressure so you can lift more weight, and enhances the muscular definition of you abs. Some simple exercises to train your transverse abs are: “The plank” and “The stomach vacuum”. In “The plank” exercise: assume a push-up position, except keep your forearms on the floor rather than just your hands. This insures that you do not inadvertently do yoga’s “downward dog position”. Balance on your toes and draw your stomach in, flex your core as
much as possible, and hold the position for as long as you can. If you find that it is too challenging to begin, you can balance on your knees rather than your toes. Next up is the “stomach vacuum”. It is exactly what it sound like; we all do it when we take pictures. It is done by standing upright and exhaling completely. Suck in your stomach as much as possible and puff out your chest and hold the position for as long as possible.
Rectus abdominals AKA (6-pack): This you need to do sit-ups…lots of them. However a key point to keep in mind is to not use your body momentum to lift you up and then slam back onto the surface. Do slow, even, controlled movements. One thing I found that helps is to put your hands face down on your thighs while in the standard sit-up position. As you come up, keep your hands on your thighs until they touch your knees. STOP and slowly lower your torso back down. This methods helps control you movements.
Internal obliques and external obliques: I recommend two exercises for these muscles. First off, do oblique twists. Get into a standard sit-up position. Raise you torso and feet off the ground like until only your butt is touch the ground. With or without weights, rotate your torso in an even and controlled manner. Rotate until you feel the muscles in your sides start really working and then rotate to the other side. If you are holding weights, rotate until a part of the weight touches the ground like in the picture. The next workout is the “side jackknife”. To do this, lay down on your left side and keeping your right leg over your left one, place your left hand in a comfortable position and clasp your right hand behind your head. Then, bring your torso and right leg toward each other as you pull with your obliques. Squeeze and then return to the resting position. Don’t forget to do the other side as well.
Summary: This was a pretty long article so let me do a quick summary. To get better definition for your abs, just doing sit-ups is not enough. You got to lose the layer of belly fat and work out ALL of your abdominal muscles (see above) for examples. This in conjunction with health eating and health living will help you tighten up and provide definition to your midriff.
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