Show off your abs! Or: Where the hell is my sixpack?

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Source: Jacob Lund/shutterstock.com

No muscle group is so highly coveted in the world of fitness like abs. This beautiful, perfect sixpack, which makes your body to a real jaw-dropper on every beach. Everybody wants to have it. Some of us don’t even need to train: Their sixpack shows off without ever having seen a gym from the inside, while others do a perceived thousand crunches every day and still dream of a slight sign-off of some abs. But why? So, let’s have a closer look on this muscle group.

The characteristics of abdominal muscles

To make our abs move, several muscles are acting in concert. The rectus abdominis muscle is the star of the middle. He consists of four double compartments, which are separated through transverse tendons. This muscle is responsible for the amazing appearance of a perfect sixpack, which actually is an eightpack. What else do we have? The oblique abdominal muscles, consisting of inner and outer muscles, which help the main muscle in everything it does. And, last but not least, the transverse adominal muscles, which also is the one sculpting our waist. So, we have superficial abs muscles which shape our body, and some deep abs muscles to stabilize and release our spine in whatever we do and to hold our backbone and pelvis in a healthy posture. Like every muscle group the abs have an important antagonist, which should be trained as well: the back.

Anything more important to know? Yes! Perhaps you already know that your body consists of two kinds of muscles fibres. Some parts of your body have a higher amount of fast-twitch fibres. They can contract rapidly and generate lots of strength, but they get tired after a short length of time (legs, chest, triceps). Those are the phasic muscles. The second kind of fibres are the slow-twitch fibres. They generate less strength, but suffer fatigue very slow (abs, deeper back muscles, neck muscles). Those are the tonic or skeletal muscles. You are asking yourself why this is important to know? Well, it influences the way we can work on our abs. We can train them longer than any other muscle group. They regenerate faster. And: We can work on them not only with doing Situps, Jackknives, Crunches and co., but also with Squats, Pushups and Planks… This is the reason, why some of us may have the perfect sixpack without training it specifically. Your core muscles are active in every single movement – so whatever you do, if you play football, go for runs, do windsurfing: you always train your core. Which leads us to the next question. When having a sixpack seems to be so easy – where the hell is mine?

Where the hell is my sixpack?

Well, perhaps it soothes you to know, that you already have one. You don’t believe me? It’s the truth! We all have our sixpack, at least a pot belly… But to make it an eye catcher, we have to remove the lard above. It’s no use to do your daily 500 crunches if your body fat is too high. Abs are made in the kitchen! Have in mind that your sixpack shows off with a body fat percentage of less than 15% if you are a man and less than 20% if you are a woman. You can do as many situps as you want – it won’t work if you don’t include endurance training in your workout routine. Specific abs training won’t get your pulse up, it won’t make you sweat. And every squat, every pushup, every jump and run you include in your training session will make you sweat. Those complex exercises don’t only train your abs, they train big parts of your muscular system and burn up lots of energy. Make your abs burn, yes. But make your fat melt, too!

Train your abs, but train them the right way!

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Source: pixabay

From now on set the right focus on your abs training, please. Even if core muscles regenerate much faster, they follow the same basic rules in growing like every other muscle, too. That means, they don’t grow during the workout, but in the time between two workouts. Do your workout, focus on a nice stretching afterwards and then rest. If you are afraid of suffering on sore muscles due to the hard training, learn what you can do to avoid it here. Abs need regular stimulus to grow, but variety is important. So, challenge your core with a lot of different exercises. You think Crunches are for beginners, Situps for advanced? Flutter kicks are girly stuff? Well, then you are wrong. Every of those exercises challenge your core differently. Crunches for example have a much higher influence on the upper part of your rectus abdominis muscle. If you sense them as too easy, you can still make them more exhausting with extending your arms or holding a weight! Situps by contrast need the full range of your rectus abdominis muscle, which means that your hip flexor takes over in the last part of  the movement. The more momentum you give to your movements, the less effective are those exercises. This is the reason why form should overcome time and be your focus while training your core!

Golden rules for healthy abs training:

– The more you avoid momentum the more effective your workout is. By doing like this you are reducing the risk of injury or back pain due to a wrong strain. While working on your abs in a laying position, make sure that you press your lower back to the ground. Otherwise your lumbar spine will be pulled in a hollow back, which leads to a strong overuse of its passive structures. If you notice you can’t hold your back against the mat anymore, don’t hesitate to give some extra support with your hands under your butt!

– Tense your core in every moment of exercising, not only while doing abdominal training. This way you can feel your abs work during squats, pushups and jumps as well.

– Focus on the right breathing technique: The exhale always comes with the contraction, the inhale with the relaxation. This will release your abdomen and your pelvic base, which is especially important for women.

Enjoy your training and stay healthy!

 

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