Strong abs aren’t just a great accessory when “walking on the street in your new lafreak.” Its great when people look like “man they’re fly,” but what is really important is the strength behind the sexy.
Today WOWU is challenging you to move past the status symbol of the perfect six pack and get to the deeper issue; pun intended!
True abdominal strength requires a concentrated practice of stabilization techniques that focus on the deep abdominal layers. You can wear as many leopard print pants as you want, but these layers CANNOT and WILL NOT be properly developed by using shallow breathing, poor body mechanics, terrible posture, and improper muscle recruitment habits. It sounds a bit overwhelming but, yes, it is that serious!
Ok time to get schooled. Let’s talk anatomy. Get to know your abs, spend time with your abs, love your abs and we promise, they will love you back. The four muscles of the abdominal wall include: Mr. Rectus Abdominis (the head of this household), the twins internal and external obliques (who always keep things interesting), and of course, Mrs. Transversus Abdominis (the one who holds it all together). These muscles create a perfectly balanced powerhouse, commonly referred to as “The Core”.
Next on the agenda, breathing. It sounds silly, we know. Everyone knows how to breath, right? To tell you the truth, most people have NO CLUE how to breath. Sure, they can sustain life with the mind numbingly boring action of in out, in out, in out. But we are here to tell you, you haven’t truly lived until you deeply breath!
Take your hands and place them on your ribs. Are they expanding when you inhale and compressing when you exhale? Perhaps the short and tight rise of your chest when you inhale and the heavy clanking of your shoulders dropping back down on the exhale feels a bit more familiar. How about placing your hands on your belly and allowing it to pooch out as it fills with air on the inhale, and then pulling your bellybutton into your spine as you exhale? What type of breathing do you use on a daily basis? Do you even know? The truth is all of these breathing styles are legitimate. They can all find their place. The trick is knowing which one to use and when. It is a fact that the deeper muscles of the abdominal wall contract with the use of a forced exhalation. Combining ribcage and belly breathing together, contracting the ribs back in toward your center line as the bellybutton presses toward the spine, is crucial in executing proper abdominal conditioning. This deep breathing assists in coordinating timing and muscle synergy.
Another crucial idea behind abdominal strengthening is stabilization of the spine. All of the crunches in the world could not save you from the impending doom of lower back pain that is usually caused by the careless execution of abdominal exercises. It is critical to find your neutral spine and then lengthen slightly beyond it, preventing compression of the back. Neutral spine requires you to keep a natural pelvic alignment. The easiest way to find this position is by lying down on the floor. Do not tilt your hips forward or backward. Think of creating a table that you could rest a glass of water on. If your lower back is pressed into the floor/mat, you are not in a true neutral spine. There should be a small space between you and the floor. The main goal is to prevent a flat lower back unless you are getting ready to actively perform abdominal crunches.
In order to stabilize the spine you must position its segments in an elongated position. The abdominal wall muscle can exert its maximum force and tap into its full strength when it is stretched slightly greater than it’s resting length. Basically, do what your mother says and “STAND UP STRAIGHT!” Imagine your abs like a corset of muscles, which support the integrity of the spine and hips. This includes the abdominal muscles, hip flexors and extensors, the pelvic floor and muscles of the spine.
Ok, time for the weekly School House Rock! Put our theories to the test. Question us, challenge us, and let us know what you think. Practice lying on your back and do a sit up. A plain old sit up. Cramp your neck, pooch out your belly, and generally hate every moment of performing your abdominal exercises. Now try this: elongate your spine first. Feel like your are lengthening out to the wall behind you before you lift up, then press your ribcage down into the mat allowing that motion to start your curl. This time add a forced exhale as you curl up. Remember, bellybutton into your spine! Did you feel a change in your alignment? Did you feel a deeper contraction?
I’ll tell you what you feel. You feel “passion in your abs and you ain’t afraid to show it.” Try these new tips or perhaps revisit these techniques that you have left by the wayside for a bit. Whatever it may be, try it, and we promise, “girls will look at that body” and then you can truly say, “I WORK OUT!”