On the list of most coveted body parts, a set of rock hard abs ranks at the top. While a six-pack is certainly attractive, its importance goes far beyond vanity. The stronger our core, the more functional our bodies will be in our daily lives (and not just on the beach!). A solid core is important for athletics when we are younger, helpful for getting our body back after a baby, crucial for improving our ability to do everyday tasks and critical in preventing injury in the aging process.
So how do we train our core to become stronger and function properly? Simple—by training smarter, not harder. Before you hit the mat, put your student hat on for five minutes and make sure you understand the anatomy of the core. There are four main abdominal muscles and all four need to be worked on the road to rock hard abs. The rectus abdominis runs vertically, flexes the core and is the muscle we typically know as the “crunching muscle.” The external and internal obliques run diagonally on the sides of the torso. They flex the trunk forward, back and sideways, and are responsible for the rotation of our trunk. Lastly, the transverse abdominis is a deep muscle that runs horizontally around your body and often is referred to as your low abs. I call it a “human girdle” that helps to secure and protect the low back while stabilizing and tightening the low belly, which is a common “trouble spot.” Locating your transverse abdominis is as simple as placing your hand below the belly button and coughing. That coughing muscle you feel is your transverse abdominis. It may take time to remember to engage that muscle when performing core exercises, but it becomes easier with repetition.
Don’t forget your back is part of your core, too! The back is made up of 24 vertebrae with seven vertebrae in your neck (cervical spine), 12 vertebrae in your mid back (thoracic spine) and five vertebrae in your low back (lumbar spine). There are many back extensors and stabilizers that activate when you challenge your torso to work against gravity.
Now that you know the science, don’t forget that healthy nutrition is half the equation. Eating a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and unprocessed complex carbohydrates helps reduce belly bloat. It also helps your body run more efficiently, which keeps your metabolism revved.
Try combining a healthy diet with these 10 exercises, performed three times a week, and rock-hard abs and a fully functional core will be yours for the taking.
Stott Pilates Half Roll Back
How To: Start seated on the mat, tall and lengthened with knees bent. Inhale
DESCRIBE KEGEL EXERCISES.
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