Whether it’s summer, fall, winter or spring, tight and toned abdominals are always in fashion! Chiseled torsos and six-pack abs grace the covers of magazines and ab workout DVDs because the majority of people desire the look and aspire to have them. Unfortunately, “picture perfect” abdominals require hard work, time and effective exercises.
The “Ab Workouts” series focuses on one essential abdominal exercise, movement cues, and modifications for a great abdominal workout. Today’s abdominal exercise is the abdominal crunch.
The abdominal crunch is an exercise that strengthens, tones and stabilizes the muscles of the core. Starting from a supine (lying face up), relaxed position, the head and shoulders flex forward and up off the floor to varying degrees of flexion. To finish, return back to the starting position. Although this exercise may seem simple, it can be challenging for even the most fit individuals, when performed correctly! Good exercise technique begins with understanding how the muscles work.
The abdominal muscles have many important functions that we rely on every minute of every day (i.e. breathing, coughing, sneezing, and maintaining upright posture). The anterior (front side) abdominal wall is made up of four muscles:
1. Rectus abdominis
- The rectus abdominis is a long, flat muscle that runs the length of the front part of the abdomen.
- The origin is located at the pubic bone and attaches to the tip of the breast bone (xyphoid process) and the cartilages of the 5th, 6th and 7th ribs.
- The rectus abdominis flexes the spinal column bringing the pelvis and rib cage closer together.
2. Internal oblique
- Above the transversus abdominis and beneath the external obliques, running at right angles to them, are the internal oblique muscles.
- The internal oblique is the middle lateral abdominal muscle, which forms the inverted “V” shape.
- The origin is located at the lower back and hip bone and runs at an angle upward and forward to attach at the bottom of the ribcage, linea alba and the pubic bone.
- The internal oblique muscles are involved in flexing the rib cage and the pelvic bones together, sideward bending (lateral flexing) of the trunk, and rotating the trunk.
- The internal oblique muscles are referred to as “same side” rotators.
3. External oblique
- The external oblique muscles are the outermost fibers of the trunk, located on each side of the rectus abdominis.
- This muscle runs perpendicular to the internal oblique.
- The origin is located along the lower ribs (5th to 12th) and runs downward to attach to the top of the hip bone and the linea alba (the line of connective tissue at the midline of your abdominal muscles).
- The external oblique muscles are involved in flexing the rib cage and the pelvic bones together, lateral flexing (sideward bending) of the trunk, and rotating the trunk.
- The external oblique muscles are referred to as “opposite side” rotators.
4. Transverse abdominis
- The transversus abdominis is the deepest of the lateral abdominal muscles.
- This muscle runs laterally (along your side from back to your front) between the bottom ribs and your hip bone.
- The origin is located at the bottom of your ribcage, lower back, and hip bone, and runs forward to join the oblique muscles at the linea alba .
- The transversus abdominis is not involved in movements of the trunk.
- This respiratory muscle plays an important function in the forceful expiration of the air from the lungs.
The Ab Crunch Workout
The Abdominal Crunch Workout consists of five (5) exercises based on the abdominal crunch. Each exercise is done for 60 seconds (with good form), for a total of two sets. Each exercise in the series gets progressively more difficult, with the most challenging being the last exercise. Review the SlideShare presentation above for more comprehensive information.
Stay tuned for more “Ab Workout” articles and programs to help you challenge your abdominals to achieve your body the way nature intended!