Having studied human anatomy, nothing disgusts me more than watching one of those dumb ab machine infomercials make promises that their product will give a person a flat stomach. A lying abdominal machine will not give you a flat stomach, a seated abdominal machine will not give you a flat stomach and 1,000 crunches per day will not give you a flat stomach.
It's not my opinion. It's based on human anatomy. I'm not suggesting that crunches or intense abdominal work isn't important! It's absolutely vital for athletic performance and core strength, but make no mistake about it, traditional ab exercises will not give you a flat stomach.
I want to provide effective exercises to give you a flat stomach.
First, we need a brief anatomy lesson. I won’t make this long or boring, but stay with me on this. If you understand this information, you’ll be light years ahead of the pack and will laugh out loud when you see the next "latest and greatest" ab machine that promises to flatten your stomach.
The abdominals are composed of four major muscles: the rectus abdominis, the transversus abdominis and the internal and external oblique. Let’s take a brief look at each.
RECTUS ABDOMINIS -- This is the infamous but improperly named "six-pack." It’s actually an "eight-pack." It’s a long, thin muscle that runs vertically down the body from the breastbone and fifth, sixth and seventh ribs to the top of the pubic bone. Worked efficiently and with supportive nutrition, it can help create the much desired "ripples" that poke out detailing the "eight-pack." However, it can't create a flat stomach. The muscle fibers simply run the wrong way for that to happen.
TRANSVERUS ABDOMINIS -- The transversus muscle holds your gut tight and flat. It’s a thin sheet of muscle running along the sides of the abs, which joins connective tissue behind it. Its fibers run across the stomach, join into the rear area of the abs and wrap around the sides of the body. It attaches along the rib cage and into the back muscles. It's your body’s natural corset! When you suck your gut in, you have just used your transversus. This is the only muscle that can help create a flat midsection!
INTERNAL and EXTERNAL OBLIQUES -- The internal obliques are diagonal fibers that fan out from the pelvis and ribs to the rear of the "eight-pack." They provide a layer of support over the transversus. The external obliques, also referred to as the "love handles," are composed of fibers that run from the front of the pelvis and "eight-pack" back to the ribs.
TWO GREAT EXERCISES FOR FLATTENING THE STOMACH
By this point, you know I’m going to focus only on the transversus. Don’t forget, you have to work all four areas of the abdominals for maximum effectiveness and core stability. But my focus is only about how to get a flat midsection.
The following exercises are the most efficient for flattening. They may seem unorthodox to the novice, but highly effective. Practice these exercises three to four days per week and perform two to three sets of each.
1. ABDOMINAL VACUUM ON ALL FOURS -- Position the heel of your hands under your shoulders and the knees directly under your hips. Keep your spine in a neutral position and maintain this position throughout the contraction.
Start by exhaling all the air from your lungs. Then, relax your abdomen and let it hang like a loose sling, but don't increase the arch in your lower back. Next, pull the belly button up and in toward the spine, without motion at the rib cage or pelvis.
If your pelvis or rib cage moves, you aren't isolating the transversus. It helps to watch yourself in a mirror and have someone put a hand under the belly button. Let your belly relax onto the person's hand and then contract and pull your belly off the hand. Try to hold the contraction for at least 20 seconds. If you can't do this contraction correctly, you are either weak in your transversus abdominis or your other abdominals may be dominant.
2. ABDOMINAL VACUUM -- This is a lot like the exercise above, but you're just sitting up straight. In a seated position, exhale all the air from your lungs. After completely exhaling, pull the abdomen inward and hold for 20-30 seconds. Continue to breathe lightly through your nostrils, but make sure you are pulling your abs in as if you are attempting to make your abs and back touch. You may find this one a little easier than #1 due to the positioning.
If performed with consistency, these exercises, added to your regular abs workout, will yield outstanding results. Within three to four weeks, you'll find your abs pulling in and feeling tighter. Just remember to supplement it with a healthy nutrition, weight training and cardio program.
Glen says: Please consult your physician before starting any exercise program