How to Train Abdominal Muscles

How to Train Abdominal Muscles

How to Train Abdominal Muscles

I have so many friends who have lost weight but complain of flabby belly. Whenever, I get online on any chat, I get atleast one message for sure saying,  ”Rest is all fine, how do I reduce my tummy?”. Any of my relative, I meet these days also come to the same point after some spurts of conversation ‘Bas pet kam karne ka bata de’. The fact is that toning up the belly is the most desirable and most difficult thing for everyone. As a matter of fact, this tummy loss industry is a million dollar industry, which every year, sells gadgets, supplements, surgeries and promises worth crores.  Sauna slim belt, tummy tucks and blah blahh.. The questions are.. Do we get anything by putting our money on these promises? do we  understand our abs muscles? Do we train them properly? Do we feed them properly?..

Before I hop on to dissect the anatomy of abdominal muscles, I would like to say that it is the tendency of human body to deposit fat around the lower abdominal. There are very few people who have flat tummy. Such people are genetically blessed or they use some supplements, which are unhealthy in the long run or  they have trained hard (read correctly) plus have followed proper diet  Basically, maintaining flat abs 365 days, 24X7, is no mean task, even for katrina kaif. So chill, it is normal not to have washboard abs all the time :)

However, we can strive to maintain flat abs by understanding our abs and by understanding the right way to train our abs.

Our abs is essentially composed of 4 muscles. Rectus abdominis, external oblique, internal oblique and transverse abdominis. Check out the diagram, to know the location of the 4 muscles

abs

The straight muscle, which has four muscle bellies is the rectus abdominis. 3 muscular bands pass over this muscle, making 8 muscular bellies, which are known as the famous 8 packs. Yes, we can have 8 packs. But it is really tough to get the lower two packs so generally it is the 6 packs that fitness enthusiasts aim for. This muscle help us flex the spine or help us do a crunching motion.

The muscle which runs in the direction of our hand placed in our pant’s pocket is called the external oblique muscle. This muscles help us do the twisting motion.

The muscle which runs in the direction opposite to that of the external oblique muscle is called the internal oblique muscle. It is a deeper muscle, situated under the external oblique. This muscle also helps in the twisting motion.

The deepest muscle is the transverse abdominis. The muscles which runs around our lower abdominal like a band. It holds the spine and the internal organs. This is the muscle that gets contracted in kapalbhatti pranayam.

Most of us think that we can get flat abs by doing crores of crunches. This is a big myth. Let us know the reason. Look at the crunching moment, it is the flexion of the spine, during which only rectus abdominis gets contracted.

How to Train Abdominal Muscles

In crunching, there is no twisting motion or motion of the lower abdomen. Which means that the other 3 muscles are not worked out during a crunch. Moreover, the other 3 muscles are the most important abs muscles as they are the deeper muscles. Going by this logic, how could we expect crunches to do any magic to the abs? Heyiee Gottcha?

second thing is that people who do a lot of crunches often complain of back pain. Why is that? As I mentioned in my article on sports injuries that every joint has a core. . If we workout only one core muscle of any joint then it increases the chances of injury of that joint as well as weakens the other muscles. The core of spine are the abs and the back muscles. So you see if you are someone who feels happy after doing crunches and say that today I did ab workout then please note that you simultaneously sent an invitation to back muscle pain and spinal injury. On the other hand, if you train both the abs (all four of them) and the back muscles equally then you have earned a strong spine, which will give you an amazing posture and an amazing strength to hold your organs strongly.

For the real magic, we need to consider the above two points, while training our abs. To revise: a) train all 4 ab muscles 2) train back muscles. Follow the below points.

1. Do twisting crunches instead of crunches i.e do a saw. This will work rectus and obliques along with the rectus

20120829171056-bicycle-crunch

2. Brace your lower abs, when you do your crunches. This will engage the deepest abs muscle, the transverse abdominis.

3. The crunching and twisting action should come from the strength of our abs not from our neck or shoulders. Even if w are able to rise to a small distance,  we have to just make sure that the strength comes from the abs. Gradually as the strength develops, the distance will increase.

4. Do stabilization exercises. These exercises engage the deepest abdominal muscles. These exercises actually hit the core. The best examples to understand the stabilization exercise is the plank and the naukaasana. When you do a plank, you are not visibly contracting/changing the length of any muscle. The way you do it in a crunch or in a twist. You are just  holding stable in one position, engaging your deepest core muscles that are attached to your spine so that you can stabilize your body. This is the real challenge for abs!! so if we do a saw on the swiss ball then we target all the abs muscles. I hope you got my point?

Other ways are suppose you do a chin up then go up, hold for sometime and then come back. or you do a squat then go down, brace your abs, hold for sometime and then come back on the strength of your abs-not legs.. Try this!

5. Do interval training. Do spurts of high intensity activity, take rest then high intensity again. This shocks the body. And is the best type of cardio for fat burning esp for the stubborn ab fat. So if you are a run person then walk, run, sprint and repeat. You can do HIIT, tabata etc

I will write on the difference between HIIT, tabata, fartlek in a separate post.

6. Take care of what you eat. This is the non negotiable part to get the washboard abs. Wake up and eat something. eat small meals every two hours. By small I mean small, this may also mean that you may feel hungry after the meal but know that you have another small meal coming up in the next 2 hours. And slowly let your body get accustomed to eating small meals. Soon you won’t feel hungry. This practice develops uber metabolism. Your  own body will become an uner fat burner. Better fat burner than green tea or protein shakes :P

Have a balanced diet. Stop beating about proteins. Everything is important. any diet lacking in the most basic mineral can throw the entire system off the track so eat simple things at home.

7. Stay hydrated. Water is not just for quenching thirst. It is also for stabilizing blood sugar and salt levels.

All these things followed like a religion even for 2 weeks will give you or will atleast get you closer to the dream abs! Tell your trainer these points and ask him to design a workout plan for you accordingly. Let him/her also scratch some of their mind.

This is the time, enough of asking ‘pet kaise kam karen’ I have told you.. Now your turn to go and hit it!.. will you?  :)

Also request you to get your questions rolling on the FORUM or on the FB page.

Cyaa.. Love Loads

Nidhi

abs

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52 thoughts on “How to Train Abdominal Muscles

  1. khushi

    Amazing article Nidhi. u cleared my age old myty. M among all d other fools who feel crunches r best way to reduce belly fat. U changed my direction of thinking.
    If i do those twist crunches about 100 ibstead of only crunches. How do i balance rest of my tummy workouts.
    I do 200 crunches. 100 leg raise. 100 half sit up.
    along wid cardio n twisting n side.

    Suggest n advice plz.

     
    Reply
    1. Nidhi

      Khushi.. do back exercises as well and as I mentioned do planks, squats, chin ups, swill ball.. interval trainings.. All that you have mentioned hit the rectus

       
      Reply
  2. martina

    omg m in love wid dis post nidhi a truly helpful and eye opener for all of us who r struggling wid our abs :) u r really our motivator…… :) :D

     
    Reply
      1. Nidhi

        yaaar some problem with wordpress.. I have gone through all code files not finding the bug.. I am on it.. will try to fix it asap.. sorry :( ( and thanks :D

         
        Reply
        1. Arzoo

          Nidhi go to discussion settings and change the settings of your before a comment appears section, it must be the first one clicked, unclick that, hope it helps.

           
          Reply
          1. Nidhi

            Hi Arzoo.. Thanks.. The problem is with my theme php code.. They have overidden nomal wp functionality.. Let us see.. I am trying to fix it

             
            Reply
  3. shilpa

    I have no words to thank for this article:) :) :) . I really needed it as i always comlain of tummy n back pain after doing crores of crunches :( :(. Thanks bunch nidhi for writing tthis superb article <3 <3 <3. I will bookmark n read it again to understand those techniques again :)

     
    Reply
  4. shrutinagani

    You know I just realized, I can just go log in and approve my own comment :P LOL. Too much effort!

    Anyway, nice article also good point about training the back with abs, that’s why I do superman with plank. And nothing like stabilization exercises, even a one leg stand engages core to the core :P wow what wordplay :D Very nicely written, I am amazed how you can structure your thoughts so nicely, when I read my articles its all jumbled masala khichdi :P

    Love you <3

     
    Reply
    1. Nidhi

      Hhehe.. because i have given you the moderator rights .. got one php file whicgh is creating problem..thanks yaar shrusiii.. full day lost in finding this problem..how are u now? Love you too :) )

       
      Reply
  5. tanvi

    Nidhi… how I wish all the fitness trainers are as informed and knowledgeable (sp?) as you. You should seriously think about starting a fitness studio Nidhu. Many will be benefited.

     
    Reply
  6. Manali

    Loved this article- These days it seems you guys are reading my mind and writing the blog!!!!! Belly Fat has always been a problem for me and you reminded me how I am just not attending to the problem(knowingly most of the times )…. But then again, you motivate me to face my weak points, and hence I am going to work on this.

     
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  7. Ramya

    Ok this was one helluva article Nidhi!! Just loved it. I’m an Apple shaped person n my tummy gives me a lot of grief. This article is just so helpful! :-) and I have a doubt. I read somewhere that genes play a huge role and that even with the ideal fat percentage and well trained abs, sometimes abs do not get flat if genes r against us, n in that case to achieve them would be to have an extremely low fat percentage which is not advisable :-( is this true? I was actually disheartened by that :-(

     
    Reply
    1. Manali

      Also, please write an article about ideal fat percentage. I feel more research is done on this based on data from western world and trainers here follow that most of the times, without factoring in the genetics aspect.

       
      Reply
    2. Nidhi

      Manali, Ramya.. Yes genes play a huge role.. Unfortunately :( . You know the I intentionally did not use this word in the article as I know that then it will become an excuse, which is not fair.. our body, if we train it the right way, it will respond.. may be not with visible 6 pack abs but who wants them? We are happy with a strong spine and strong core muscles, an un-flabby tummy.. So need to feel disappointed.. go hit it :) )

       
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      1. Ramya

        Nidhi I also want only that much but the fat from my lower abdomen refuses to budge! :( Ok enough whining I will get back to workout today. My leg is almoooossst ok :D I want flat tummy… And an optimal fat percentage. Mine had dropped after Shruti’s HIITs but am sure it will be back up now :(

         
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          1. Shreyashi

            Yes please write on fat percentage!!! :(

            Ramya- so happy that you’re doing better! :* Do you have any pain anymore?

             
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      2. Manali

        I agree that we like to blame difficult to achieve things on genes!!! But yes I will be more than happy with strong spine and core muscles. At the cost of repeating myself, this blog is a major motivational force and keeps me in check

         
        Reply
  8. Shreyashi

    Awesome article as always, Nidhi!!! <3 I had a question, though. My rib cage is very broad and my hipbones are very narrow. If I ever have a flat tummy, there actually has to be a hollow below my rib cage :/ This makes me feel that I'll never have a flat tummy because I have never seen anyone whose stomach caves in below the chest (unless when they bend backwards or are clinically underweight). What do you think about this?

     
    Reply
    1. Nidhi

      Shreyashi..ummm I understood (did not) your point :( .. But you know kajol, vidya balan, sonakshi sinha flaunt their paunch like it is the most appealing part of their body. That too they flaunt it at the peak of their career..Moreover, they are surrounded with the most skinny, anorexic, bulimic .. females still they are proud of their paunch. You know why? Because they know that flat stomach is not equal to a fit body. Flat stomach is not equal to a happy mind. flat stomach is not equal to a great career(even in their profession). so it is only in our minds that flat stomach = sexy body..

      Okay.. that was philosophy.. It is amazing that you understand your body and body shape so well. Whatever it is. It is the best. You workout just for fun and to stay fit. Let the body decide how to react. Love it for whatever becomes of it :) ).. Beating about the bush or keeping very high expectations bring frustation.. Chill maro, acha khao, khelo kudo, stay happy, and flaunt/walk your body with confidence. Whatever be the shape.. our aura is created by our energy and the state of our mind.. Expectations mitigates the aura.. happiness adds 5 stars to it.. :) ))

       
      Reply
      1. Shreyashi

        Oh thank you so much Nidhi :) I really needed to hear that :)

        Haha what I meant was…ummm… how to say it. OK. So my chest is very broad (the bones, not the bust), and my hips are very narrow (32 inch or so). Seen from the side, if my upper and middle tummy are in the same line as the base of my chest, my lower abs bulge out. If ever my lower abs become flat, and they are in a straight line with my middle and upper abs when seen sideways, my rib cage will protrude because it is really broad, even without fat on it. That’s what I wanted to say. But thank you for what you wrote :) I see what you mean :)

         
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  9. shilpa

    “Brace your lower abs, when you do your crunches” Nidhi wt do u mean by this ?? do we have to exhale n pull our lower abdomen in ?? Please correct me if i am wrong

     
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  10. shilpa

    Nidhi do u mean this ??? “For that the technique of abdominal bracing is used during core exercise training. To correctly brace, you should pull your navel back toward your spine” i copied ur worn lines from miss fit ;) ;)

     
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  11. shilpa

    actually i din understand this “Brace your lower abs, when you do your crunches ” so yesterday when i was reading your old article in missfit i found this ” you should pull your navel back toward your spine” for engaging core. so do u mean that we have to pull our navel back while doing crunches?

     
    Reply
  12. yoga for stomach

    Your site articles and posts are very useful, I am very much interested with you. Thanks for sharing such a good and helpful posts. You mentioned that information was very nice to us. Thank you

     
    Reply

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