All You Need To Know About Them
Core, six-pack, eight-pack, biscuits… these are the different names that the Abdominal group of muscles are referred to. Such is the popularity of the Abdominal muscles (Abs) that only arms seems to be able to stand with the Abs in this popularity contest of muscles! So, let’s understand the anatomy of the abdominal muscles and the common mistakes we make…
The Four Ab Muscles:
(I) The Rectus Abdominis (Straight muscle): The most famous of them all… the word ‘six pack’ and ‘eight pack’ are associated with this muscle. It starts low on the anterior part of the hip bone, and runs vertically upwards towards the ribs and the base of your chest bone. It’s a paired muscle – meaning, just like the biceps, there are two Rectus Abdominis muscles – one on the left and one on the right. They bend the spine. [Hence, crunches as an exercise.]
(II) External Oblique: These diagonal muscles, start from the ribs running downwards and inwards towards the side edge of the hip bone and the groin. These rotate the trunk in the opposite direction – when the right external oblique contracts, the trunk rotates towards the left, and vice versa. [Hence the twisting crunch, and the side bend exercises.]
(III) Internal Obliques: These diagonal muscles, hich sits beneath the external oblique, but run opposite to it. The muscles start from the side of the hips, running diagonally upwards and inwards to connect with the ribs. This muscle also rotates the trunk but in the same direction as they are – when the Left Internal Oblique contracts, the trunk rotates towards the left side. [The twisting crunch applies here too.]
(IV) Transversus Abdominis: This is the deepest of all the ab muscles and sits directly over the internal organs. It runs horizontally from the sides of the body towards the center, like a very wide weightlifting belt. In fact, this muscle is referred to as the natural weightlifting belt of the body. It creates compression to stabilize the body. [Planks help strengthen this muscle]
The following are some of the common mistakes we make while training Ab muscles:
(I) Training Daily: Just like other muscles, Abs needs time to recover and grow after the workout called microtrauma or breakdown at cellular level. Training daily keeps breaking them down without giving them time to grow. Ideally train your Abs twice (or max, thrice) weekly. Anything more, takes away their ability to recover and grow.
(II) Training With High Number of Reps: Some actors claim to train their abs with a ridiculously high number of reps, thrice a day!!! This overtraining leaves the Ab muscles with perennial fatigue. Training them about 6-8 reps to failure, for a couple of sets, is more than enough a stimulus for them to grow.
(III) Training Only On The Floor: The angles increase the difficulty levels. Training Abs constantly on a flat angle becomes too easy after the first few sessions to cause any growth stimulus. So, for Forward Crunches, keep increasing the decline angle as you progress, finally leading to inverted crunches, where you hang inverted and do crunches. For reverse crunches, keep increasing the incline angle till you finally reach a point where you hang on a pull-up bar and do the crunches.
(IV) Doing Leg Raises: Leg raises are essentially flexions at the hip, done by the hip flexor muscles. The Abs have no role to play. The Rectus Abdominis muscle does spine/trunk flexion, which is taking your leg from 90 degrees onwards towards your head – that’s Reverse Crunches. Do this to see the abs grow!
(V) High Body Fat Percentage: The Abs won’t show if they are covered under a layer of fat! The crunches don’t make you lose fat – they only help you grow the muscles. Without good nutrition, the Abs would just hide under the fat just as you would under a thick blanket in a cold winter’s night!
(VI) Just Doing Crunches, Side Bends And Planks: The Abdominal group of muscles come together to stabilize the body under heavy loads; that’s their most important function. If you look at a skeleton you would not find a single bone in the abdominal region, and the abdominal muscles – all 4 of them – do just that! They act like a bone when the body is subjected to heavy loads. So, bring out your Squats, the Deadlifts and the standing overhead presses, and see those beauties grow into beasts!
Senior Faculty (Exercise Science)
K11 Academy of Fitness Sciences
Fitness Icon Kaizzad Capadia