Who hasn’t been chasing firm abs since their teens? For men, it’s the chiseled 6-pack. For women, it’s all about getting rid of the lower belly pooch. Sure, a toned midsection looks great, but the real reason you want strong abdominal muscles is because every movement originates from the core. But before I tell you how to strengthen this area, let me give you a little anatomy lesson.
Your abdominals are made up of three different sets of muscles: the rectus abodminis, obliques, and transverse abdominis.
Let’s start with the rectus abdomonis. These muscles flow from your ribcage to your pelvis, and these are your crunching muscles (what gives you those 6-pack abs!).
Then, we have obliques (internal and external). Whenever you do twisting motions, you’re using your obliques!
The last set of muscles is your transverse abdominis. The transverse abdomonis are your posture muscles, and they run across your body. Think of them as your built-in Spanx! Your transverse muscles are the non-crunch muscles and they keep your belly tightened inward. You can train them just about anywhere for results you’ll notice the next time you put on your tightest jeans.
Look what happens when I’m not engaging my transverse muscles (see photo on left). If I just let my muscles hang out, I get a little belly! Being in this position puts pressure on my lower back, and notice how my poor posture makes me look older and thicker! The trick is to engage your transverse muscles…even when you’re standing! Navel to spine is the idea when you engage your transverse muscles. Imagine a cord pulling through your navel toward your spine. Now you know where your transverse muscles are and how easy they are to engage anywhere, any time for an instant confidence boost!
Now let me show you two exercises to firm your abs:
1. Wine Glass Crunch
1. Lay on the ground in a crunch position, arms behind head, with shoulders on the mat. Imagine you have a wine glass on your lower tummy.
2. With your transverse muscles pulled to your spine to keep the imaginary wine glass stable, bring up your right leg (keeping it at a 90 degree angle) and then lower it – remember, the goal is to keep the wine glass stable by always keeping your transverse muscles engaged.
3. Then, bring in your left leg, and lower it.
4. If you’re really advanced, lift both legs, making sure you keep your belly button to the spine.
5. Then, bring your shoulders off the mat and complete some traditional crunches, keeping the wine glass stable. When you release your transverse, your glass will fall.
2. Crunch On Ball
An exercise ball is a great piece of equipment to work the abs.
1. Sit on the ball, and roll down so the ball is supporting your lower back and your shoulders are above your hips
2. Lift your shoulders up and do a situp. This position serves as an assisted situp for beginners and is a great way to start building your transverse muscles without strain.
3. As you get more advanced, lay further back on the ball in a tabletop position, with your torso flat like the top of a table. Using your transverse muscles, lift up, pulling your belly button to your spine during the entire movement.
4. Repeat 25 times, and you’re going to have some good lookin’ abs!