Sculpted abs with perfect symmetry — both vertically and horizontally — might be the goal for anyone really trying to get into shape. As you may have noticed, though, the human body doesn't always obey orders. Are you working out diligently but coming up with uneven results? Take a look at some possible causes and, hopefully, the solutions.
Throw Fire at the Fat
"If you've got definition in your upper abs but not your lower abs, check for a layer of fat across your lower abs," said Los Angeles-based personal trainer David Knox, author of Body School: A New Guide for Improved Movement in Daily Life. The solution: Lose weight, being mindful that "spot reduction" is a myth and that evolution has left us with a tendency to store more fat in the lower abdomen than elsewhere. That said, fat-burning cardio could help you melt away that bulge that's throwing your proportions out of whack.
A Balanced Routine
If fat isn't the problem, check your exercises, advised Knox. "A lot of people think crunches are the answer to everything, but they don't do much for the lower part of the rectus abdominis. You've got to work it from your pubic bone to your rib cage. That means getting your legs involved, working the hip flexors and the obliques," he added. It's also worth keeping in mind that you can have a perfect six-pack but no real core strength and no balance.
Check Your Posture
If your lower belly is pushing out, but your upper abs are lifted and supported, you might just have bad posture. Same holds if your upper abs are pooching out, but your lower belly is flat.
Help for Love Handles
Love handles are most likely weak obliques, the two layers of muscle that flank the rectus abdominis. They stretch diagonally across the abdomen, helping to hold your stomach in playing an important role in stabilizing your core. The obliques make it possible for your core to rotate. You can get more defined obliques by doing twisting exercises, though these should be done carefully because done incorrectly they can cause lower back problems. Twisting exercises using light resistance such as the Russian twist, walking lunges with twists and plank twist on stability ball are good for tightening up the sides.
Dented Cans in Your Six-Pack
The rectus abdominus is the large and longitudinal muscle that underlies the proverbial six-pack, but the definition is provided by bands of connective skeletal muscle known as tendinous intersections. Some people have six-packs or eight-packs, while some only get four or even three. That's just nature doing its thing and, unfortunately, said Knox, there's nothing whatsoever to be done about it because the tendinous intersections don't respond to exercise.
- Body School: A New Guide for Improved Movement in Daily Life, by David Knox
- University of New Mexico: Superb Abs Resource Manual, by Len Kravitz, PhD
- Sports Chiropractice, by Robert D. Mootz, Kevin A. McCarthy
- ACE Fitness: Myths and Misconceptions
- ACE Fitness: Abs! Abs! Abs!
- Principles of Functional Exercise for Professional Fitness Trainers, by Dr. Robert Inesta