One of the most common questions that we get asked here at the LifeShape Fitness Center is “How do I get rid of the excess adipose tissue [fat] around my mid-section so I can see my abs?” The “six-pack” is one of the most sought after physical features in our modern society. Since the dawn of modern times, there have been a plethora of pills, powders, and potions on the market, as well as strange mechanical contraptions, that promise to hold the secret to unlocking and exposing these muscles. Their success rate has been proven to be minimal at best.
While there has been research proving that the presence and extrusion of the “six-pack” abdominal muscles is somewhat linked to genetics, it is more important to focus on the role that those muscles, and their often forgotten counterparts, play in our overall biomechanics. The function of these muscles holds a much greater importance than their external appearance.
The “core” is much more than the coveted “six-pack”. It also includes the obliques and muscles of the lower back. Together, this muscle system is known as the Transverse Abdominus (TVA). Think of the TVA as a powerful band of muscles that wraps around the central trunk area of the body from front to back and extends from the top of the pelvic girdle to just below the rib cage. The TVA is important for posture, stability, and support of all the other muscles system above and below it.
Strengthening the entire TVA is much more important than focusing solely on the abdominal muscles that comprise “six-pack”. Exercising your core forwards, backwards, and side-to-side is essential to ensuring that the TVA is strong, stable, and solid. A weak TVA can lead to injuries of the associated muscle systems; while a strong TVA can help you become physically powerful throughout your entire body and reach your fitness goals. A strong TVA is not only important when lifting or performing resistance training exercises, but endurance activities like running and cycling also require a strong core to ensure that the upper body is stabilized as the lower body exerts force.
Before performing any exercise (e.g., a squat or overhead press), it is very important to activate the core. In order to do this, you should begin by tightening the muscles behind your bellybutton. Another way to visualize this is to try and pull your bellybutton inwards towards your anterior abdominal muscles before beginning an exercise. Also be sure that your obliques are activated to allow for lateral stability. It is important to be sure that your pelvis is in proper alignment to effectively activate the TVA, and a slight upward tilt of the pelvis usually helps to achieve this in most people.
Exercises like crunches, planks, leg-lifts, oblique twists, and back extensions are just a few ways to ensure that the entire TVA is being equally strengthened. If the TVA is unequally strengthened, your core can become unbalanced which can have negative consequences to your posture and overall biomechanics. There are a number of other types of exercises that can also strengthen core rather than just lying on the floor and doing crunches (e.g., yoga, stand-up paddle boarding, etc.).
Be sure to stop by the LifeShape Fitness Center and speak with one of the experienced personal trainers with any further questions you may have regarding strengthening your entire core.
Read Andy’s full bio, by visiting the LifeShape team on www.lifeshape.net: http://www.lifeshape.net/lifeshape_team.html
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