Washboard or just bored?

Many of us long after an ideal mid section.  Minimal body fat and a firm toned column of muscular perfection.  Read on to discover how it all works and what we can do to achieve results around the mid section…

The abdominal muscle group can be separated into 4 different muscles, each of which has a different movement.  It’s hard to completely isolate any one of these muscles as they tend to work together, but they can be targeted.

Rectus abdominus  Two strips of segmented muscles running down the middle of the abs commonly known as the `6 pack`.  A straight forward stomach crunch or sit up works this muscle.

Transverse abdominus  The deepest of the abdominals, worked when we simply suck the belly button in.

Internal & External obliques  The `obliques` run around the sides diagonal to each other, working together to twist the trunk or bend to the side.



A common question from people is “what   exercise is best for this bit” (followed by a    repeated patting of the belly!!).  What they are usually referring to is the body fat covering the abdominals.  Regular aerobic exercise and a well balanced diet are the best approach to reducing this body fat.


Some abdominal exercises will definitely help to flatten and tone this area.  Many people pursue stomach crunches and sit ups working the `6 pack` rectus abdominals.  This works up to a point, but only on one specific muscle and with no real effect on body fat.


Exercises using the deeper transverse abdominals are much more effective.  When sucking the belly in these are the    muscles we use, so it makes sense to train them in pursuit of a flat stomach.  A wide range of core stability, swiss ball, and BOSU exercises are effective, as are exercises like `the plank`.



With normal crunches, the rectus abdominals (particularly the upper abs) will get toned quickly.  We should try to include all areas in an ab routine for a more balanced physique.  Hit the lower abs by bringing the pelvis towards the ribs as in a  reverse crunch.  The obliques can be firmed by performing crunches with twists or side movement.



As well as a varied ab routine be sure to strengthen the opposing lower back muscles with exercises like back raises and supermans.  This is essential to improve or maintain good posture and muscle balance.  Interestingly, a large number of back problems are due to weakness in the this area.



A low body fat is a must for the catalogue six pack.  Movements involving the obliques (twists and bends) are shown to promote definition better than the other abdominals



Training the mid section is an important part of any training program.  Regular aerobic exercise reduces body fat and should  be combined with varied mid section exercises for best results.