Before we move on to the actual exercises, it is important to understand the functions of the stomach muscles and what you will achieve from doing stomach exercises. In this article we will give basic overview of the functions of the abdominal to understand what type of exercise is needed.
The diagram shows the location of the stomach muscles. I have highlighted in red the area where the transverse abdominals are located, since they are below the muscles in the diagram.
These are the equivalent of the weight lifter’s belt, they sit under the rest of the stomach muscles and their job is twofold. Firstly they are designed to hold all our innards in place and secondly to act as the main support for our core.
Our core is responsible for our overall strength and helps protect our backs. Aesthetically these muscles create a nice flat stomach under any excess body fat you may have. The term ‘pot belly’ can be attributed to weak transverse abdominals as well as excess body fat. When they are weak all our innards are allowed to drop forwards, held in place by the outer muscles. To activate this muscle just suck your belly button inwards towards you spine. This muscle needs to be trained to function all the time, without you having to think about it. To get this to happen takes practice and you should be trying to draw your stomach in all the time. This will train the muscle to be tighter and function properly. So whether you are sitting, standing or exercising draw that tummy in.
The obliques are made up of both internal and external muscles. They cross over on each side of our bodies (highlighted blue in the diagram). The external sit on top of the internal muscles and they work in opposite diagonal directions. As well as assisting our transverse abdominals with their jobs, their main function is to aid sideways tilting and twisting of the torso.
We also use them for walking and running to move our pelvis to create floor clearance for our feet. Aesthetically they keep our sides nice and trim, obviously under any body fat we may hold in the area.
Rectus Abdominus (6 Pack)
Ah, the six pack: the gold at the end of the rainbow for so many people. It’s a muscle that joins from our sternum to the pubis bone at the front of the pelvis. It also helps with the job that the transverse muscles are asked to do. As well as this it helps us with bending forwards at the waist. It is not really used when standing for anything other than good posture, but used more when going from a lying position to a seated or semi seated position such as the crunch or sit up.
In our day- to-day lives we don’t need it to be strong on movement but strong for supporting the rest of the body and protecting the back, which takes us back to the importance of the core strength. I haven’t highlighted these muscles as they are the outer most muscle and you should be able to see them easily in the diagram (they run down the centre from chest to rude bits ).
Aesthetically this is one of the most favoured muscles as a lot of people are after the 6 pack look. Actually it should be referred to as the 8 pack as if the stomach is developed correctly there should be 8 sections. The lower 2 sections are normally overlooked due to incorrect training and where a small amount of fat will often hide them (most people shouldn’t see these anyway as you really ought to be wearing your trousers higher up than that). The terms lower and upper abs are used to describe the sections of this muscle but remember that it doesn’t mean it is two separate muscles, it is just referring to the different areas of the same muscle.
What Can and Can’t be Achieved from Stomach Exercises
When you perform any stomach muscle exercise they are all being used. Each exercise that is created will just use them in slightly different ways and ratios. Some will concentrate on the obliques more, but that does not mean that the others aren’t being used. Stomach exercises can create a flatter stomach and they can also create the 6 pack.
However stomach exercises will not reduce your body fat percentage on their own. We call this spot training and spot training is a myth. For example, if for instance you have some extra fat stored in the tummy area then stomach exercise will strengthen the muscle underneath but it won’t reduce the fat. You will have much more luck reducing the fat by completing an all over body workout on a regular basis. Everyone has a 6 pack it’s just most people have it hidden by body fat.
If you have low body fat but you belly seems to protrude then stomach exercise will probably help firm it up. being used. Each exercise that is created will just use them in slightly different ways and ratios. Some will concentrate on the obliques more, but that does not mean that the others aren’t being used. Stomach exercises can create a flatter stomach and they can also create the 6 pack. However stomach exercises will not reduce your body fat percentage on their own. We call this spot training and spot training is a myth.
For example, if for instance you have some extra fat stored in the tummy area then stomach exercise will strengthen the muscle underneath You will have much more luck reducing the fat by completing an all over body workout on a regular basis. Everyone has a 6 pack it’s just most people have it hidden by body fat. If you have low body fat but you belly seems to protrude then stomach exercise will probably help firm it up.
Read also: How to Shed Body Fat
If there is a product or a list of exercises in a magazine that comes with a title similar to ‘5 min abs’ or ‘2 weeks to get abs like this’ then bear in mind that they don’t know how much body fat you have and no one exercise or one piece of equipment can achieve this as the stomach muscles are multifunctional and so need to be trained fully in all potential movements. Basically if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. There are no short cuts, just hard work I am afraid but the work is well worth it!
So What is a Good Stomach Workout?
A good workout is now possible because you should understand more about the muscles of the stomach. A good workout is one designed to strengthen all the stomach muscles and treat them as a team working together to give you core strength and good back protection (and of course a firm tummy). A good routine will exercise the transverse abdominals, the obliques and the 6 pack (lower and upper portions).