If you’re into fitness, then better abs are probably one of your continual goals, right? So, you do sit-up after sit-up, plank after plank, but your abs aren’t quite as tight and toned as you’d like them to be. Sometimes, traditional ab workouts just aren’t enough. You may need a little something extra to transform typical ab exercises into that coveted six-pack and a stronger body overall.
Your core muscles go far beyond simply your abdominals, and include all the muscles besides the ones in your arms and legs.1 They offer support, initiate movement, stabilize the body, and make it easier to do a variety of physical activities. The core muscles include deeper muscles that are not visible when performing typical workouts, including the transverse abdominis and the pelvic floor.2 These are also the muscles that ought to be utilized when working towards a more efficient exercise plan.
There are other ways to work your abs than doing rep after rep of crunches or sit-ups. Some of them may even seem counterintuitive, but they are great ways of engaging and activating your ab muscles, which, in turn, make them more toned and defined. Incorporate these tips into your daily ab regimen for a better, more effective workout.
1. Work Your Glutes
Though it may seem odd, flexing your glutes during ab exercises can give you that extra edge to really hone your stomach muscles. Working your glutes has two functions that work your abs. First, it causes hip extension, which helps activate your ab muscles. Second, it causes your pelvis to do a posterior tilt that further activates those same muscles. All this ab activation allows you to get a better, more efficient workout.3
How To Do It: When doing a plank, squeeze your glutes as hard as you can. You will feel your abs tightening and becoming extra tense. This tension will work your abs like nothing else. Strengthening your glutes by doing exercises like squats and lunges will also help to strengthen your core.
2. Focus On Breathing
Simply exhaling – yes exhaling – can have a profound effect on your ab exercises. When you exhale completely and fully before each ab rep, you set your rib cage down, and this helps to effectively activate your ab muscles.4
Breathing deeply each time also helps activate your abs and provides stability. This stability allows all of your muscles to work at their maximum capacity. When doing a plank or crunches, for example, take the deepest breath you can, then blow it out completely. Count each breath as you would count a rep, and focus on making each breath as efficient as it can be.5
3. Engage Your Pelvic Floor
When you engage your pelvic floor, you better work your transverse abdominis. These muscles are at the front and sides of your abdominal wall, layered underneath your obliques, and they are considered an important part of your core. They act as a girdle for your frame and provide excellent stability for your spine. You will generally feel them contracting every time you cough.6
How To Do It: To engage your pelvic floor, as funny as it sounds, act like you’re trying to hold in your pee. Maintain this tension as you do sit-ups and other ab exercises.7
4. Build And Maintain Tension
Developing tension throughout your entire core is essential in building strong muscles and also protecting your lower back. Additionally, it helps build muscles in places that aren’t immediately visible when you look in the mirror, but that are necessary in getting the rest of your abs to get that desired taut and defined look.
How To Do It: Sitting up straight and tall, put your hands on either side of your waist near your lower back and flex the muscles around your waist so that you feel your ribs pull into your center and your shoulders pull back a little. You should also feel a contraction under your hands. It’s important to maintain this tension as you breathe, because flexing can sometimes restrict breathing. This action of flexing and breathing is also known as bracing. Practice bracing as you do your ab exercises to get in a better workout.8
Another way to build tension is simply to flex your abs (like you’re bracing yourself for a punch) while doing your sit-ups and crunches.9
Make The Most Of Your Workout
Small adjustments can help take your standard ab routine to the next level. Try to change things up every once in awhile by incorporating a different tip on alternate days of exercising. But remember, any type of physical activity can potentially cause injury. If you feel excessive pain or discomfort during a workout, stop doing the activity. If pain persists or gets worse, you might want to contact a professional.
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