There’s an axiom that exists in fitness that “abs are made in the kitchen.”
And, there is much truth to this statement -- what you eat has a direct impact on whether or not you can obtain a six-pack.
Thanks to movies, magazines, and social media glorifying a tight, shredded six-pack, many individuals seek to attain a sleek midsection for themselves.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get a tight and toned stomach, but it’s also important to remember that there is more to a strong midsection than 6-pack abs.
Today, we discuss why a strong core beats six-pack abs.
Let’s first start by discussing…
What is a 6-Pack?
Essentially, a “six-pack” describes the visible ab muscles on the front of your body, most often the muscle alluded to are the rectus abdominis.
Truth be told, individuals can have a 4, 6, or 8-pack.
Getting down to a certain level of leanness is required to reveal your front ab muscles, but whether you have a 4, 6, or 8 pack (and how much they “pop”) heavily hinges on your genetics.
In addition to showing the world you know how to diet, the rectus abdominis also helps:
- Protect internal organs
- Maintain posture
- Control breathing
There’s More to Your Core…
Your 6-pack (or 4-pack or 8-pack) is just the beginning of your core.
Yes, it serves some vital functions, such as flexing the spine, protecting important organs, and bracing for impact, but there are a number of other critically important muscles as well that surround your midsection.
The obliques are the muscles on the sides of your rectus abdominis (the muscles referred to as the 6-pack). They surround the spine, diaphragm, and pelvic floor muscles as well as the glutes.
The main functions of the obliques are to stabilize and support the spine, reduce the stress on the knees and lower back, and maintain proper postural alignment.Together, these muscles help you support and stabilize your spine and pelvis, ease the load on your low back and knees, and keep your body in proper alignment.
Located deep within the abdomen, the transverse abdominis extends from the front of the abdomen to the sides of the body, where it helps provide stability and strength to pelvis, back, and core.
The spinal erectors (or erector spinae) are a set of muscles that straighten and rotate the back. While we think these muscles only reside in the lower back, the truth is that they span the length of the back, from the sacrum all the way up to the base of the skull.
Now that you’ve got a grasp on the muscles of the core (including those of the six-pack), let’s now take a look at some off the beaten path exercises you can do to strengthen those important core muscles, in addition to sit ups, crunches and leg raises.
4 Exercise to Strengthen & Tone Your Core
#1 Forearm Plank Bird Dog
Begin in a forearm plank, with your abs braced, elbows under shoulders, glutes tensed, and head in a neutral position.
Slowly lift the left arm off of the floor and extend it in front of you without letting your body rotate. Next, extend your right foot behind you, squeezing the glute.
Hold this position for 2-3 seconds, ensuring that both hips remain square to the floor.
Next, bring your forearm and foot back down to the ground and repeat on the other side.
For a greater challenge, perform the same movement (extending the opposite arm and leg) from a high-plank (push up) position, rather than from the forearms.
#2 Russian Twist
Start by sitting on the floor, with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
Next, lean back so that your upper body is at a 45-degree angle to the floor.
Link your hands together in front of your chest or hold onto a light dumbbell or medicine ball.
Then, brace your core and raise your legs up off the ground.
Rotate hands all the way over to the right side, pause for a second (squeezing your core), then rotate to the left side.
Make sure to keep your back straight throughout the exercise, as it will be tempting to let the chest cave in and hunch your shoulders forward as you fatigue.
Aim for 20 total repetitions (20 reps / side) before increasing load.
#3 Back Extensions
Back extensions are one of the most fundamental, yet effective, exercises you can perform to strengthen your core (especially your spinal erectors).
Lie face down in a glute-ham or back extension machine with the tops of your hips just past the highest point of the pad.
In this starting position, your torso should be folded over the pad with your back flat.
From this position, concentrate on squeezing the low back muscles to pull your torso up until its parallel to the floor.
Hold this position for a second or two and slowly extend to the bottom.
Remember to squeeze everything from your glutes to your head, both to ensure you're working the muscles to the max, while also protecting the spine.
#4 Side Plank with Rotation
The plank and side plank are staples in just about everyone’s core routine (or at least they should be).
Adding a rotational component to the side plank intensifies the challenge on your abs, while also developing strength and stability in the arms, shoulders, and obliques.
Begin by lying on your left side with your left forearm below your shoulder. Extend your legs, right foot on top of the left.
Brace your core and squeeze your glutes to lift your hips off the floor to form a straight line from head to toe.
Raise your right arm straight up in the air.
Now, rotate your torso toward the floor and bring your right arm under your body.
Pause for a moment, then rotate your torso back to the outside and straighten your right arm to return to the starting position.
Perform 10 reps, rest 30 seconds, and then repeat on the other side