Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Getting Fit: ABS

A while back, I went on a little research binge to learn everything I could about abs. One of my goals this year is getting my stomach back in shape! They haven't *fully* recovered from having a baby.... um, 5 years ago... and I think it's about time that I quit procrastinating. I've never really been confident about my tummy so I'm more determined than ever to get the six pack I've always dreamed of!



We'll start off with a little bit about mommy bellies: 

"... Crunches only target one of several ab muscles — primarily the Rectus Abdominus (your six pack muscles) which is one of the most overstretched muscle groups during pregnancy and your obliques. These muscles easily overpower the weaker internal abdominal muscle (the Transverse Abdominus) during crunch-like exercises which can cause your abdominal wall to bulge out!

The secret to flattening your post baby mommy belly is….
work from the inside out.

In addition to cleaning up what you eat, your focus must be on rebuilding strength and control of your Transverse Abdominus – your deepest core muscle. This muscle compresses the abdominal wall, acts like a corset, draws the belly button closer to the spine and is the body’s most important core stabilizer.

Effective Post Baby Core Exercises include: 
The “drawing in” maneuver – You can lie on your back, on your side or get on all fours – contract and hold your deep core muscles as you imagine drawing your belly button in toward your spine – and hold for count of 10 as you breathe.

Here’s a Mommy Belly Makeover Video that demonstrates How To Get Started with your post baby core exercises:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zd3rGZ1ki9E

Plank variations which are most effective when you perform sets of 10-second holds with a brief rest between sets instead of holding for 30-60+ seconds at a time."


So after a ton of digging, this is pretty much what I've found across the board: the transverse abdominals are where it's at ya'll! 

Here are some great exercises for those Transverse Abdominals: 

Scissor kicks 


Midriff Makeover - interesting tips to help bring in that belly! 


Do you have swayback causing you to have a pooch? Here is a demonstration on how to do the hip flexor stretch to get rid of it


"Crunches, sit-ups, oblique twists. Surprisingly, many of these hard-core ab exercises still pop up in postpartum ab workouts. The emphasis is on getting rid of the mummy tummy, yet the approach does exactly the opposite.

Any exercise that jack-knifes the body increases intra abdominal pressure. If your midline is not strong enough to start with, these exercises can hinder or reverse the healing of diastasis recti. You’ll know if the exercise is ‘wrong’, your stomach will dome as you attempt it. Which is basically your innards playing peek-a-boo through the weakened midline (nice!).

If that’s you, your diastasis is not going to improve, and your belly is not going to get flat, while you continue to do this type of exercise. So please stop!" -source



"The fibers of this muscle run horizontally around the abdomen and works as a girdle or belt. Hence the nickname for the transversus abdominis of the "corset muscle".

The primary function of this muscle is to compress the ribs and viscera, stabilizing the pelvis and spine. The TrA will help prevent a protruding belly. Basically, it helps hold the stomach in.

While achieving achieving a flatter belly is one of the benefits of strengthening the muscle, preventing lower back injury is a greater benefit." -Source 


Some more knowledge (pretty much what everything else says) combined with a few hardcore stomach exercises: 

"While the rectus abdominis muscle responds to strengthening exercises by developing outward, the transverse abdominis muscle develops inward and in effect, as mentioned earlier, is analogous to tightening your belt or wearing a muscular girdle. It is like the Spanx of the abdominal muscles!

So, regardless of your current body fat percentage, developing the transverse abdominis muscle will aid in flattening your tummy and will ultimately help you feel better in your clothes. For those who have a lesser body fat percentage, a developed TVA muscle will create excellent definition and frame around your stomach so that you will look and feel better without looking bulky or too muscular." -Source 

The muscle fibers of the Rectus Abdominus (the six-pack abs) run VERTICALLY on your body, starting at your rib cage and attaching down on your pelvis, just like if you were looping the tenser bandage over your shoulder and between your legs.

You can work them like crazy and even develop that six-pack, but you WON'T get that completely tight waist and flat stomach you're looking for because the muscle fibers would have to run horizontally AROUND your body in order bring your waist in and tighten it up.

The solution, like I mentioned above, is to work the muscles that are designed for the job: the deep muscles of the core that are have fibers that run AROUND your waist... these are called the Transverse Abdominus and the Obliques.

And I'm going to teach you exercises that DIRECTLY target these often-ignored deep muscles to cinch up your midsection and give you that tight, wasp waist that crunches haven't given you and never will.

To actually achieve the goals of a flat stomach, a tight waist and a better six-pack, you need exercises that DON'T make your midsection look WORSE. You need exercises that properly target and train the abdominals.

One of the keys to developing the "six-pack" muscles of the abs and getting that washboard look is achieving a FULL contraction through body position...in this case, you'll be bent in half.

That body position puts your frontal abdominal wall in it's most anatomically-possible contracted state.

The other key is to use the abs to PUSH, not to pull, as regular crunches do. This pushing uses the abs differently and will actually make those little blocks of muscle pop more, giving you that washboard look, rather than the flat, undefined look that regular crunches give.

I've got a lower abdominal exercise that works like a vacuum to draw your abdominal wall up and in WHILE you're doing something that LOOKS like a leg raise (but isn't a leg raise). This combination movement FORCES your lower ab muscle fibers to tighten up and FAST.

Can you really truly isolate the lower abs? There is a lot of debate about that...when you have an exercise like this, the academic debate doesn't matter...it's the RESULTS that matter.

Remember what I said above about weighted side bends pushing out the love handles to make you look fatter? I've got an easy exercise that will target and tighten the "love handle" areas directly, making them look smaller within DAYS.

The exercise doesn't reduce the fat itself...NO ab exercise is going to do that. It works to tighten up the muscles directly UNDERNEATH the fat, which pulls it in, making it smaller in a very short period of time (and I'm not kidding when I say it's a matter of days).

I've also got some great "anti-rotational" exercises for you as well, where you actively RESIST rotation in order to work the deep muscles of the core...

To increase abdominal stability, you will be holding your breath during parts of this movement. As you start to lower yourself down, inhale. Begin holding your breath just below the halfway point of the squat as you come down to the bottom position. Continue to hold it until you're about 1/4 to 1/2 of the way back up.

If you don't want to or are unable to hold your breath, exhale through pursed lips (as though you're blowing up a balloon). Keeping the breath held towards the bottom will maximize core stability and allow your abs to function more effectively during the movement.

That being said, if you DO feel lightheaded at any point in the exercise, rack the bar and rest. Always use your best judgement here. The idea is to work yourself in a SAFE manner.

With this exercise, having the resistance in front of the body (similar to when you're doing a front squat but with even LESS skeletal support) allows you to keep a more vertical body position while putting tremendous tension on the entire abdominal area. "


I am following the bikini body guide but I love throwing in a few extra ab workouts each week. I know I'm starting off with a pretty weak core so I try to work in a little extra to help build it back up! Plus it helps to know which ones will help you to do what. I know I need to work on my core strength so I do exercises like the ones above that will help me build my transverse abdominals. And I think it's just nice to be informed. Growing up I thought crunches were the best way to get abs and I wasted sooo much time doing hundreds and hundreds of them! I wish I would have known then, what I do now. But that is the beauty of the internet, so much information at your fingertips! 

Hope you guys are having a fantastic Tuesday! I'm going to go get my six pack on! 

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