Abdominal muscles are a key component in athletic ability and part of a well-balanced training program. Abs are the main muscle group in the core, which is the mid section of the body. Abdominal muscles support the upper and lower body increasing muscle control in running, twisting and turning motions used in all sports and other athletic competitions. Athletes strengthen abs for explosive performance and to help prevent injury.
Sustained athletic activity requires maximum oxygen consumption. Oxygen is needed by the muscles to produce adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, which is used to fuel muscular contraction. Carbon dioxide is released during this process and must be removed from the body by the respiratory system. The abs play an integral part in exhalation, helping to contract the diaphragm and expelling the carbon dioxide. The rectus abdominis, or six pack, , transversus abdominis, and both external and internal obliques contract and push the diaphragm upward increasing pressure and forcing the air out of the lungs. Better breathing can increase performance, endurance and recovery.
Golf swings, tennis serves and the high jump all use trunk rotation. Most sports have some twisting or rotation in standard play. Football moves rely on core twisting and rotation in turning to catch the football, weaving defensively and throwing the football. The abdominal muscles work with the back muscles to control trunk motion. During sports play when only the arms or legs are used the abs keep the trunk still by contracting or shortening of the abdominal muscles. During bending or twisting motions, such as in a tennis serve, the abs lengthen, helping the core rotate through the swing. A good training program for the abs includes both types of abdominal movements.
Support Back Muscles
Abs help support the back muscles, which are part of the core muscle system. These core muscles can be trained using plyometrics, or jump training, to build explosive force used in various athletics such as basketball. By supporting the back, strong abs help prevent injury to both the abdominals and back muscles.
Upper and Lower Body Stabilization
Swimming, rowing, throwing, skiing and many other sports involve upper and lower body coordination, which engage more muscle groups. The abdominals support the upper alignment of the body and control the supporting movements of the legs and arms. Well-toned and trained abs help in timing and muscular coordination, which swimmers and tennis players rely on. Having better toned abs also helps increase endurance, improving overall athletic performance.
- American College of Sports Medicine: Training Your Abs
- Human Kinetics: Anatomy and Physiology of Muscles Involved in Breathing
- Journal of Athletic Training: Abdominal Muscle Activity While Performing Trunk-Flexion Exercises
- Breathe Strong Perform Better: Professor Alison McConnell, PhD, FACSM, FBASES