As the saying goes, abs are made in the kitchen. Yet, exercise is also important. Beyond the aesthetics of a taut tummy, strong abdominal muscles may improve posture, help prevent injuries and maintain stability in the sensitive lower back.
To reap the benefits of a strong, stable core, aim for a 30-minutes ab workout that challenges all four of the abdominal muscles.
The Anatomy of Abs
The four areas of the muscles of the abdominals are multi-layered, according to Harvard Health Publishing. The rectus abdominis muscles are in the front of the abdomen and are commonly known as your "six-pack." On each side of the torso are the external oblique muscles, and the internal oblique muscles are found just inside the hipbones, next to the rectus abdominis. In the lower belly are the transverse abdominis muscles. All of these abdominal muscles work together to provide stability all around the spine and in the pelvis.
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Visible abs are the result of the presence of muscle combined with an absence of fat, explains the American Council on Exercise Fitness. The rectus abdominis is crisscrossed by connective tissues and when the amount of fat between the crisscrossed abdominal muscles and skin decreases, abdominal muscles become more pronounced. Abs become even more visible when weight loss occurs.
Calorie Killer Ab Exercises
In order to burn off excess fat, calories must also be burned. The amount of calories burned in an abdominal workout depends on the type and level of intensity of the workout. For example, a high-intensity mix of cardio and strength-building abdominal activities (think: burpees, planks and mountain climbers) may burn slightly more calories than low-impact ab exercises such as Pilates.
Opt for a calorie-killing core workout that can be done in increments of a few minutes at a time. Better yet, work up to performing abdominal exercises for 30 minutes a few times a week. Also be sure to engage and activate all four of the abdominal exercises using the best abdominal exercises you've never heard of that go beyond the standard planks and crunches.
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Challenge Muscles in Multiple Ways
Like any activity, variety is the spice of life. Ab workouts are best performed every other day or done consistently for a specific amount of time per week, such as 30 minutes on alternating days. Because it takes aerobic activity to burn fat calories, core exercises will only strengthen and tone the underlying muscles; it's only when excess fat is eliminated that muscle definition will start to be visible.
The Mayo Clinic emphasizes the importance of practicing core exercises as a method of training the muscles found in the lower back, pelvis, hips and abdomen to work in harmony, thereby creating stability and balance. This, in turn, helps to prevent injuries, alleviate lower-back aches and pains and even improve posture.
Challenging abdominal muscles to work in new and different ways will keep them activated, engaged and powerful, leading to increased strength, stability and support of the whole body. Make your next abdominal workout a success by focusing on building strength and stability on all four areas of ab muscles.