How to Train Your Abdominals Effectively
The ‘abs’ are probably one of the most visually appealing muscle groups when they are built and visible. As with most muscle groups, people tend to overlook the purpose and focus more on the visual aspect, which makes sense, since most individuals start training in order to look better and gain self-confidence. However, as in most cases, knowing the muscle’s function can really help one train more efficiently.
The abdominals which include the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis and external/internal obliques have a few functions. They assist in breathing, hold organs in place, bracing, the valsalva maneuver and support the musculature of the spine. When it comes to training, the most important thing the abdominals can offer is bracing and protection for the back. In these terms, the abs are used or should be used in nearly every exercise.
Abdominal muscle imbalances can develop and occur quite often. Typically, the internal/external obliques are poorly developed compared to the rectus abdominis or the ‘6-pack’. This can lead to poor posture and overwork of the lower back muscles. This is due to the fact that people tend to do lots of crunches or leg raises in hopes of getting the 6 pack. Having a well-defined 6 pack does not mean your abs are working together in a way to protect your spine nor a strong core.
The obliques are probably the most important when it comes to bracing and protecting the spine due to their attachments and function. Together the external and internal obliques pull your ribs down and in towards your pelvis. This helps position your pelvis into posterior pelvic tilt and helps counter the common problem of anterior pelvic tilt. Paired with these functions and along with the transverse abdominis they help stabilize the pelvis and maintain strong intra-abdominal pressure while bracing.
So, we need to train the abs in a way that will integrate each abdominal muscle and get them working together. This will make your training safer, and if you are doing your job in the kitchen, your abs should look sliced and diced.
Big compound moves such as squats and deadlifts will help build the abs through bracing, by breathing properly and getting them to work together to support the hips and back. Focus on being a little more well-rounded in your ab training by using moves that force the abs to work together in order to support the spine. Here are some examples of abdominal exercises that help train the abs for their supportive role: Pallof press cable or bands, planks (rotating or on Swiss ball), side planks, bear crawls and Russian twists.