Thursday, December 16, 2010

Athletic Abs: Understanding the abdominals

Read part 1 of Athletic Abs: Stop dreaming about them

We must do focused core work, not a million crunches. The abs are the showcase muscles of your body.  Because they reside in the center of your body, the abs are the first place that draws attention when you wear a bikini, midriff shirt, crop tanks, fitted tees and similar garments that are designed to flaunt this sensual area.  For many women, however, a flat, toned stomach is elusive due to genetic factors.

What? Did I just say that? Genetics are in play when it comes to our abs?

Afraid so.  Despite that, targeted bodysculpting can help you develop a great set of abs.  Once you strip away abdominal fat (with eating properly and cardio) it is rather easy to bring out the detail in this region.  With a dedicated routine, your midsection will readily take shape, achieving a toned, washboard appearance.

The abdominals are one long sheath of muscle that runs from just below your breastbone (sternum) all the way down to your pelvis.  Thus, you CANNOT separate the upper and lower abs or train one part without effecting the entire muscle.  You can, however, apply more stress to the upper or lower abs by lifting from either the chest or the pelvis, respectively.  Moreover, the sides of the midsection (obliques) are involved in various bending and twisting movements.  Consequently, abdominal exercises are classified by weather they emphasize the upper or lower abdominal regions or the obliques.

Group 1 - crunches and similar variations.  These movements put maximal stress on the upper portion of the abs.  When executing crunches, you must concentrate on pulling your chest down toward your hips.  Your lower back should never move.  If it does, you activate your hip flexor muscles at the expense of your abdominals.

Group 2 - leg raises, reverse crunches and similar variations.  These movements focus more on the lower portion of the abs.  Lower abdominals are one of the most troublesome muscle groups for women to develop.  Because of their anatomical position, they have limited range of motion, making if difficult to achieve muscular contraction.  To work lower abs most effectively, it is imperative that you concentrate on raising your pelvis toward your chest, not simply raising and lowering your legs.  This minimizes hip flexor involvement and therefore maximizes stress to the lower ab region.

Group 3 - side bends, trunk twists, and similar variations.  These movements target the internal and external obliques, the muscles that run along either side of your waist.  When properly developed, the obliques provide the finishing touches to your midsection, giving your body a polished look.

Whew! I know this is a lot of information, but stay with me for part 3 as we get ready to learn what exercises work the best for the core.

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