Not many people stop to think about their abdominal muscles and how they are composed. It is much more common to think of them in terms of how we want them to look, hence the ever popular term “six pack.” The reality is that this thinking and lack of understanding of the abdominal composition leads to what is actually a myth, that having a “six pack” means you have strong abdominals.
The abdominal muscles are no different than any other muscles in your body, they need to be worked and targeted to strengthen them effectively. The plurality of the muscle group is very important to note. The abdominals are composed of 4 muscles, rectus abdominis, external oblique, internal oblique and transverse abdominis, listed from superficial to deep. The irony of the proverbial “six pack” is that it is the development of the rectus abdominis, the most superficial, and I would argue the most insignificant of the abdominal muscle group.
The action of the rectus abdominis is flexion of the spine, also know as the ever popular stomach crunch. To really create a strong abdominal core, it is very important to target the other three muscles that compose your abdominals. These muscles are responsible for rotation, spinal stabilization, good posture, and breath control.
So as you are working towards your fitness goals, I would encourage you to target more than the superficial abdominal muscle. I’m not faulting you if you still want that “six pack.” You can have that too, but it will be worth a whole lot more with the deeper support it needs from the other three abdominal players. Strengthening the deeper muscles will have an impact on your athletic performance and daily quality of life.
If you are looking for ways of learning exercises to tone these other muscles, consider Pilates or working with an athletic trainer that has training specific to core targeting.