Your Waist Line, and Your Abdominal Muscles
Updated: May 1, 2022
Your abdominal muscles are the key to keeping you strong and healthy with the added benefit of a small waistline and flat belly.
Let’s start first by becoming familiar with the abdominal muscles, listed from the most superficial to the deepest.
Rectus Abdominis: This muscle is also known as the six-pack muscle, as this is the most superficial of the abdominal muscles and gives you that washboard look you often see in fitness models. The function of the rectus abdominis is to flex and stabilize the spine.
External Obliques: These muscles are located on both sides of the rectus abdominis and play an important role in flexing the spine, rotating the torso, and sideways bending.
Internal Obliques: These muscles lie just below the external obliques and act in a similar manner in terms of function.
Transverse Abdominis: This muscle is the deepest of the abdominal group and helps with breathing, but more importantly it activates the core and stabilizes the pelvis and low back during most movements.
So why train the abdominal muscles?
In this day and age many people struggle to obtain and maintain a flat stomach and six-pack abs for various reasons: unhealthy diets, poor lifestyle choices and general misinformation. Endless crunches and sit-ups followed by hours of cardio will usually do the trick, correct? Wrong! Not only will this leave you prone to injury (as many people compensate by using their neck and back), but in order to have visible abs you need to be below a certain body fat percentage, which can be achieved and maintained by healthy diet, exercise and lifestyle choices. Another benefit to having a strong and defined core is that it creates a more functional, strong, and resilient body that will help fight off any back pain and injury.
How can I find my abdominal muscles?
Start with the “vacuum pose.” Tighten up your abs and pull your belly button in… this helps you locate your transverse abdominis muscle. The transverse abdominis is the deepest of your abdominal muscles and lies beneath your rectus abdominis (so called six packs). Just as your gluteal muscles, hamstrings, and erector spinae play a pivotal role in developing and maintaining a strong and healthy back, your transverse abdominis acts in a similar manner. Imagine wearing an incredibly tight belt around your waist. In fact, you may have even seen someone wear a lifting belt at the gym. Just as this lifting belt helps stabilize and protect your lower back, your TVA does the same thing. The TVA helps keep your cervical spine (neck) in a neutral position while also preventing your lumbar spine (lower back) from going into excessive flexion or extension. It also tightens your waistline and gives is a slimmer look.
Below is a list of three exercises that’ll help you begin your journey towards a stronger TVA. In addition, you can always contact me for specific workouts customized for you.
1.Pelvic Tilts: This is a relatively easy exercise, yet very effective. Laying on your back with your feet flat and your knees bent, posteriorly rotate your pelvis. Think about pulling your belly button towards your back while flattening your lower back. Hold this position for five seconds and then relax. Repeat 20 times.
2. Plank: Though these are an effective exercise, they are easily butchered when not done properly. Before performing this exercise, think about rotating your pelvis and drawing your belly button towards your back (pelvic tilts). Maintain this pelvic position and get set into a traditional plank with your forearms and feet shoulder-width apart. Hold this position for 15-20 seconds while creating as much body tension as possible. Keep a strong, neutral and stable spine. Repeat 10x..
Note: I prefer to have my clients perform a plank for 15-20 seconds rather than a prolonged period of 1-2 minutes due to one’s ability to easily compensate using their shoulders and lower back. A short plank with a lot of tension through the TVA and glutes is more beneficial than a long plank with most of the weight distributed through the shoulders.
3. Bird Dog: While in a quadruped position (on your hands and knees) with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders, get in the proper pelvic position with your TVA engaged. From there, raise your opposite arm and leg straight out while maintaining tension a neutral spine. Hold this position for two seconds and then repeat on the opposite side. Repeat 10-15 times on each side.