All About Your Abs

Your abdominal muscles are your belly. There are a number of muscles in your mid region, and you need to know what they are to understand how to exercise them.

Rectus Abdominus – superficial
These flex the spine (bringing the rib cage closer to the pelvis) and are used in the abdominal crunching / sit up movement. However, in addition the transverse abdominus are located underneath it, and so exercising the Rectus Abdominus alone is not enough!

Transverse Abdominus – stabilising
Is the deepest abdominal muscle group. It acts as a natural weight belt, keeping your insides in and is essential for trunk stability. This is the muscle group that is important to exercise and strengthen, as it is a deep muscle group often not exercised in traditional methods. Pilates exercises focus very much on the using traverse abdominus to build ’core strength’.

Internal and External Obliques
They work to rotate the torso and stabilise the abdomen in twisting and side bend movements. Untoned obliques result in ‘love handles’.

Core strength is ideally what you should aim for.

By exercising all three groups together you can work to improve your posture and get rid of belly bulge.

How to locate your Transverse Abdominus

In a kneeling position, press your fingers below your belly and cough. One of the muscles contracting, the Transverse Abdominus, stabilises your spine because it’s the deepest of the abdominal muscles. It wraps, sort of like a corset, from the bottom of your rib cage in the front to the ribs in your back and holds the visceral organs in place.

Learning how to stabilise your Transverse Abdominus

This should be done before every exercise as it will help protect your spine, give you great posture, and assist in working your abs that little bit more. When you hear an instructor say ‘abs in’, what they actually mean is rather than sucking in your tummy, to think about and isolate your abdominal muscles, and here’s how to do it:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees slightly bent and feet on the floor, hip width apart.
  2. Press your spine to the floor so that it’s completely flat against the ground.
  3. Now curve your spine up away from the floor so there is space under your lower back.
  4. Do this several times, making the movement smaller and smaller until you have reached the mid point.
  5. Hold this position and make a triangle with your fingers. Place both thumbs on your belly button and make a triangle with your fingers pointing down to your pubic bone. This triangle should be flat, and if someone balanced a glass of water in the middle of this triangle, you shouldn’t spill a drop!
  6. Stabilise this position by imaging zipping yourself into a tight pain of jeans. The muscle contraction is both in and up, as if ‘zipping up’ from the pelvic floor.
  7. It will take time and practise to learn to stabilise these muscles, but once you’ve got the hang of it, you can do this, your waistline will thank you!