Monday, June 19, 2006

Your 6-Pack Abs

I just want to share a potpourri of personal thoughts on abdominal muscles. This muscle group is a popular target in issues such as exercise programs and weight lost programs. At times, so much is written that I feel the message has become quite muddled. Other times, minute details are stressed that the main point is lost. Here are points that I have frequently shared in the past with my patients, colleagues, and fitness clients.

  1. There are actually 4 separate muscles in the abdominals. The rectus abdominus (the 6-pack muscle) is only 1 of the 4. You don't see the other three in the mirror because they lay underneath the rectus muscles, and you're probably too fat.
  2. A complete ab workout requires rotational exercise, not just the uniplanar motions done with flexing and extending your trunk. Ex: Traditional crunches do not include rotational movement.
  3. Working out your abs DO NOT help you lose more weight anymore than exercising other similar sized muscle groups
  4. However, working out your abs CAN decrease your waist size. This is especially true if you just started working on your abs.
  5. Your waist size decreases not because you lose any actual weight, but because your abs have become stronger so your guts and intestines are literally not falling out your stomach cavity. Picture a rubber band, a corset, or a girdle wrapped around your stomach tightening, that's essentially what your improved-strength abs are doing. This work is done primarily by the transversus abdominus (1 of the other 3 ab muscles you don't hear much about).
  6. Because of the preceding point, it is actually possible for you to slim down while gaining weight. (muscle weighs more than fat)
  7. Likewise, don't be discouraged if you feel slimmer (feeling more room in the pants?) but you don't see a corresponding drop on the scale. It's not in your head, you probably really did slim down.
  8. Conversely, your gut gets bigger not just because of increase fat storage, but because common sedentary activities like sitting allows the abs muscles to become weak over time.
  9. Light cardio exercises such as walking or jogging require the abs to contract throughout the exercise, they help in maintaining muscle tone in the abs. (If you don't believe me, try jogging when your abs are sore, but please have someone take a picture of your face and send it to me afterwards.)
  10. Unequivocally, the three best abs exercises are 1) Bicycle kick 2) Captain's Chair 3) Swiss Ball Crunch
So next time someone says you're fat, you can validly reply "No I'm not, my abs are just weak".

After reading this, I hope you will go for a walk or jog tonight with a loved one. Have a conversation and tighten up those abs.

I welcome any questions or contributions from you.


Blogger Jeremiah Owyang said...

So next time someone says you're fat, you can validly reply "No I'm not, my abs are just weak".


5:44 AM  
Blogger Les Chui said...

HA! I'm glad you got a kick out of that Jeremiah. Did you know laughing is a great ab workout too?

2:37 PM  

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