Okay guys, let’s get real about your middle. I’m willing to bet that you used to have defined abs once upon a time. Maybe back in high school? So where did it go? And if you’ve never had them – why the heck not? Genetics have a lot to do with this, but it doesn't mean that you have to accept this as your destiny. If you maintain a clean diet filled with lean proteins, lots of fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats, lower your alcohol consumption and get plenty of cardiovascular exercise, you will most likely be able to get rid of those extra inches. But how do you get those strong washboard abs you commonly see when you flip the pages of muscle magazines? Before we tell you how to get your middle looking lean and chiseled, We're going to talk more about your core muscles.
The Rectus Abdominus are the muscles that create that six-pack effect. However, these muscles are the most important muscles in your core. In fact, if you overwork your rectus abdominal muscles, you can inevitably flatten your lumbar curve (your ability to bend back or stand up straight), thus affecting your posture and leading to lower back issues. Not to mention, the rectus abdominal muscles are relatively small muscles that can only be seen if you have very little body fat in that general area. Different experts will mention different muscles, however, it is known that there are certain muscles that really help stabilize and strengthen your core. These muscles and their general functions are: Internal & External Obliques (rotate and twist your torso at the waist), Transverse Abdominus (stabilizers, support the lumbar spine) Quadratus Lumborum (laterally bend your torso at the waist), Erector Spinae (stabilize the spine), and Multifidis (deep muscle that stabilize the spine). One more area that can help strengthen and lean out your core is called the Pelvic Floor. The pelvic floor consists of all the muscles in your nether regions, also known as the perineum (area between the pubic bone and the coccyx). Unfortunately, except for the rectus abdominus, sit ups and crunches alone will not strengthen most of these abdominal muscles. You have to dig deep. By strengthening the core muscles mentioned above, you will not only have a stronger, leaner better looking core, but you will also have improved posture, more mobility and more overall strength throughout your entire body.
So how do you target all these core muscles? First thing you need to do is get off your back and give the crunches a break. Yoga can be great for strengthening your core. Here are a few yoga poses you can try at home or at the gym.
-Forearm plank and Side Plank poses are great for the obliques, quadratus lumborum and transverse abdominus. Make sure to hold the pose for at least one minute, resting, and repeating, working your way up to 5 or more reps.
-Locust pose - lie down on your stomach and lift and extend your arms out in front of you and your legs behind for 30 seconds (you’ll be balancing on your stomach while you reaching out like Superman), rest and repeat several times. This helps strengthen your erector spinae and multifidis.
-Boat pose, sitting on your butt, lean back, lift your feet off the floor and bring your knees into your chest (eventually straightening the legs so your feet are level with your head. Hint – you’ll look like a boat) and extend your arms out in front of you. This helps strengthen all the stabilizing core muscles.
Not a fan of yoga, no problem. Keeping your arms over your head or even holding a light kettle ball or weight over your head while walking, jogging, hiking, climbing the stairs and doing squats and lunges help target these deep abdominal muscles. Try doing your regular free-weight exercises on one foot, or balancing on a bosu ball. Balance is all about core strength, so when you constantly work on keeping your balance, you are working your entire core. Hold a kettle ball or weight with both hands and twist from side to side. Hold a weight or kettle ball on one hand a do lateral bends. Any time you are working out (or sitting on the couch or driving, etc) and are thinking about it, engage your pelvic floor muscles by lifting and engaging your lower belly like you would if you were trying to stop yourself from peeing. Still feeling the need for sit ups, do them on a bosu ball or balance ball. Lift your feet up and bend your knees 90 degrees while doing crunches. The key is to target your entire core, not just your six pack muscles. If you do a variety of these exercises most days of the week, we promise you will see a difference in about two weeks or so. But remember, before being able to see those amazing abdominal muscles, you have to lose the fat that is covering them.