Six-pack abs are often the trademark of a fit body. While having built abs is attractive, they’re also essential to having a strong core which help create better posture, improve back function and lessen muscle injuries...overall increasing your total fitness. So whether you’re aiming for a 6-pack, washboard abs, or just want to tone up your midsection for all the other benefits, we’re here to help.
There’s a reason our abs are deemed the core of our body. While they are in the center, connecting our top and bottom parts, they also provide pivotal functions including:
- Correcting posture so our body is in alignment
- Strengthening our lower back
- Providing balance and stability
- Transferring energy from the upper and lower body
So how are these all important abs made up? There are 4 different muscles that make up what is known as your abs.
Rectus Abdominis (RA)
This is what people mean when they use the term “six pack.” Made up of 8 distinct muscle bellies, its runs vertically down the midsection from the chest to the pelvis.
Commonly known as "side abs". There are two types, the external and internal. External obliques are on both sides of the RA and are the largest of the ab muscles.
Internal Obliques are located directly below the RA and sit inside your hip bones. They help control movement and twisting and turning.
This is the deepest of your ab muscles. It’s located underneath your RA and obliques. It is critical to holding your entire abdominal structure together.
Knowing what muscles make up your abs helps determine which exercises are needed to strengthen them. Below are six of the best exercises that will work your different ab muscles and get you that killer core you'll be excited to show off this summer!
You can do a plank hold (plank) anywhere without a single piece of equipment! The plank hold works your deep ab muscles as well as the ones closer to the surface. To plank: place your elbows underneath your shoulders and your wrists inline with your elbows. Make sure to brace your core by pulling your belly button to your spine. Hold this position for a minute, two minutes, or three minutes at a time. Set a timer and work your way up to your goal.
Similar to the plank, but on your side so you’re working those obliques. Start by lying down on your side with your feet together and one forearm under your shoulder. Tighten your core and raise your hips up. Hold this position for your desired time and then repeat on the other side. Be warned, these are not as easy as they sound but will get you the obliques of your dreams!
You might feel like a flailing bug as you first start this exercise, hence the name. But this is an awesome exercise, especially if you experience lower back pain. To get in dead bug position, lie on your back with it pressed flat against the floor. With one leg bent, extend your opposite arm and leg out and then reach your hand to your toe, then extend them both back to the starting position. Do a set on one side and then repeat on the other side.
The Bird Dog exercise is a great way to stabilize your core and especially your spine! Remember, the core also involves the rear obliques and lower back, so don't neglect them if you want a well rounder physique. When doing this exercise, you'll want to make sure your spine is nice and neutral while you're kneeling on the floor with both of your knees underneath your hips while your hands are directly underneath your shoulders. Then, take your opposite arm and leg and raise them straight out while bracing your core and keeping your body as lengthy and stable as possible. This is another one that also helps reduce back pain while strengthening your core.
Lying Down Leg Raises
Are you trying to target that pouch we all get in our lower abdominal area? Then this is the exercise for you. Place your hands palm down cradling the hips, lift your head and tuck your chin in towards your chest, and raise your legs up 45 degrees and then slowly bring them down roughly 6 inches above the ground. Make sure you're moving at a slower pace to really get those lower abdominals engaged. And ensure there isn't a gap between your lower back and the floor.
Performing mountain climbers is a great way to strength train your core muscles which include your hips, back, and abdominals! This workout begins in a push up position, keeping your hands directly underneath your shoulders and your legs are straight under you. You want to take one knee and drive it in towards your chest, bring it right back behind you and repeat with the other leg. Once you get a feel for it, you can make it more explosive by moving a little quicker with each knee to make it more challenging!
Remember that these exercises will only bring you awesome abs if you pair them with a healthy diet. You can’t plank your way to sexy abs while ignoring this vital part - remember, fitness and a healthy diet go hand-in-hand. Visit your local Edge for free and we can show you the right ab exercises to engage your core and also help put a nutrition plan together that fits your needs and goals. Together, we can help you get a killer set of abs!