The Different Ab Muscles in Your Body and How to Train Them

The Different Ab Muscles in Your Body and How to Train Them

You train every part of your body, making sure to hit as many muscle groups as you can to look good and feel even better.  When looking at your abs in the mirror, you see some definition, but often look as if you want them to look better, feel stronger, and become leaner.  The first part of reaching this amazing goal with your abdominal muscles is to understand, in its entirety, what the ab muscles entail.  Listed below is a discussion on what constitutes your abdominal muscles and how to train each muscle.  Can you guess how many muscles make up your abs?

Your body has four abdominal muscles.  Each of these muscles plays a special function which mainly includes flexing and twisting the spine.  While the abs are probably the most sought after muscle group in the fitness industry, many overlook that they serve vital functions for well-being including maintaining a tall posture, bracing and protecting the internal organs, and serving as a supporter for the lower back area.  In addition, the ab muscles help stabilize and add a large portion of strength to the core.  Listed below are the description of your four abdominal muscles and some directions on how you can achieve a strong core and mid-section.

The Different Ab Muscles in Your Body and How to Train Them

  • Rectus Abdominis. This is the outermost abdominal muscle you have and is the muscle responsible for six-pack abs [1].  The rectus abdominis muscle is really in charge of causing spinal flexion in the lumbar and thoracic spine, which is why a crunch or sit-up is beneficial for this area and in many instances ideal.   To work this muscle, you can certainly work on a crunch or sit-up for starters.  To work the muscle effectively; however, you need to understand some basics.  The rectus abdominis muscle is worked during a crunch until you reach a 30 degree flexion in your spine, meaning you only need to lift your shoulders enough to cause this flexion.  For most people, this means lifting into a crunch until your shoulder blades lift off the floor.  For a sit-up, you are working the rectus abdominis, but you are also getting a workout in your hip flexors.
  • External Oblique. This muscle also has a saying that you may have referred to before, “love handles.”  The external obliques are on the outer part of the abdominal section and are responsible for spinal twisting.  While any movement which twists the trunk effectively works the external obliques, one of the most common and effective exercises is to perform a supine bicycle crunch.  The twisting action during this crunch is effective in working the exact muscles to cause the twisting and the bicycling portion helps strengthen the obliques and the rectus abdominis.
  • Internal Obliques. Similar to the external obliques, the internal obliques help with the twisting of the spine, but in different directions.  Consider the trunk twist to work the internal oblique muscles, but vary this exercise some.  Try working on a crunch with a slight twist at the end from the floor or using a stability ball to work on the internal obliques.  You can also work on yoga a pose such as triangle pose for a leaner look in the abs.
  • Transversus Abdominis. This is the deepest abdominal in the body and its sole role in the body is to maintain trunk stability [3].  Pretty simple right?  Working this muscle is hard.  In fact, working the transversus abdominis muscle is not an exercise from which you are accustomed.  You may not feel that “burning” after three sets like you would with the rectus abdominis.  To work this muscle, you will need to focus hard on sitting or standing tall during an exercise to keep a good posture.  This is a start.  You can sit or stand as tall as you can and have a friend or workout buddy push on your body from each side to help that muscle stabilize the body.  While it may seem odd to exercise in this manner, it is a good way to work the deepest and probably most important abdominal muscle in your body.

 

References

[1] http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/abdominal_muscles

[2] http://www.muscleandfitness.com/workouts/abs-exercises/anatomy-abs-six-pack-workout

[3] http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/abdominalcorestrength1/ss/AbAnatomy.htm#step5

About the Author

, Celebrity Personal Trainer and Fitness & Nutrition Expert headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ. He specializes in helping men and women achieve weight loss, muscle building, toning and other customized fitness & nutrition programs to create a Healthy Lifestyle. James offers private luxury personal training, 12-week custom workout plans, and personalized nutrition meal plans. Follow on Google+.

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