What comes to your mind when you hear the word “abs”? Do you think of your 6-pack? You know the ones that are under the earth right now.
Ours abdominal muscles are more important than you think. Most people focus on training their abs to look thinner or sexier. But, do you realize the importance of your abs in everyday activities?
Your abs are attached to your spine (back) and pelvis which help with balance and good posture. Weak abdominal and back muscles can contribute towards poor posture, which may lead to back pain. Did you know that back pain accounts for approximately 50 billion dollars in health care costs each year. So remember — one of the best ways to prevent back pain is to strengthen your abs.
Without abdominal strength, you will have difficulty sitting, standing and walking. Your center of gravity is located at your sacrum or roughly just below your belly button. Therefore, your abs play an important part in keeping you balanced at your center of gravity.
The rectus abdominis muscle is a paired muscle running vertically on each side of the anterior wall of the human abdomen. In the abdomens of people with low body fat, these bellies can be viewed externally and are commonly referred to as a “four, six, or eight pack” depending on how many are visible although six the most common.
The rectus abdominis is an important postural muscle. It is responsible for flexing the lumbar spine, required when doing a “crunch” sit up. The rib cage is brought up to where the pelvis is when the pelvis is fixed, or the pelvis can be brought towards the rib cage (posterior pelvic tilt) when the rib cage is fixed, such as in a leg-hip raise. The two can also be brought together simultaneously when neither is fixed in space.
Function – The rectus abdominis assists with breathing and plays an important role in respiration when forcefully exhaling, as seen after exercise as well as in conditions where exhalation is difficult such as emphysema. It also helps in keeping the internal organs intact and in creating intra-abdominal pressure, such as when lifting heavy weights, during forceful defecation or parturition (childbirth).
The external oblique muscle of the abdomen, also known as external abdominal oblique muscle, is the largest and the most superficial (outermost) of the three flat muscles of the lateral anterior abdomen.
The external oblique is situated on the lateral and anterior parts of the abdomen. It is broad, thin, and irregularly quadrilateral, its muscular portion occupying the side, its aponeurosis the anterior wall of the abdomen. In most humans (especially females), the oblique is not visible, due to subcutaneous fat deposits and the small size of the muscle.
Function – The external oblique pulls the chest downwards and compresses the abdominal cavity, which increases the intra-abdominal pressure as in a valsalva maneuver. It also has limited actions in both flexion and rotation of the vertebral column. One side of the obliques contracting can create lateral flexion.
The transversus abdominis muscle is a muscle layer of the anterior and lateral (front and side) abdominal wall which is deep to (layered below) the internal oblique muscle. It is thought by most fitness instructors to be a significant component of the core.
The transverse abdominis, so called for the direction of its fibers, is the inner-most of the flat muscles of the abdomen that is immediately beneath the internal oblique muscle.
Function – The transversus abdominis helps to compress the ribs and viscera, providing thoracic and pelvic stability. The transversus abdominis also helps a pregnant woman to deliver her child.
A stable spine helps, the nervous system recruit the muscles in the extremities efficiently, so that functional movements can be properly performed. The transversus abdominis and the segmental stabilizers (e.g. the multifidi) of the spine are designed to work together.
Exercise your Abs
Now that you know the importance of your abs, be sure to integrate abdominal strengthening into your regular strength training. Abs should be trained like any other muscle – 8 to 12 repetitions, 3 times per week.
You can also strengthen your abs by sitting on your exercise ball, you can practice some balance exercises and strengthen your abs simply by rolling your hips forward, backward and side to side. Make sure to pull your stomach inward during these motions.
Remember the abs! They are more important that you think!