Abdominal exercises or Ab exercises are among the most popular exercises done anywhere in fitness. They are done by two groups of exercisers. The first group calls theses exercises “core” exercises. They perform them because they understand that their core (torso) is the basis for all movement and necessary for stabilization of their spine. The second group calls them “ab” exercises. They perform them because on some level they are still under the misconception that belly exercises will make their mid-section smaller either by losing fat in that area or by making those muscles tighter.
Benefits of Ab Exercises
When done properly, ab exercises can have these benefits:
- Strengthen your abdominal muscles
- Support for the spine
- Lower incidence of back pain
- Improved posture
- Better athletic performance
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Contrary to popular misconception, abdominal exercises do not do the following:
- Decrease stomach fat: Fat is burned as a fuel for your whole body and the body takes if from all over. Exercising one part of your body does not take fat from that area.
- Smaller waist: For the same reason as above, ab exercises do not make your waist smaller. You have to lose fat by a good diet and exercises. See Exercises to Lose Weight to learn more about this.
Ab Muscles and How to Work Each
There are four muscle groups. But, keep in mind that it’s hard to isolate just one ab muscle. Most are somewhat involved in all. Just one is the prime mover getting the most work.
- Rectus Abdominus: This muscle is responsible to contract the spine to the front. Ex. Crunch.
- Internal Obliques: These muscles are responsible for contracting the spine on one side. Meaning, the left internal oblique brings the left shoulder toward the left hip and the right internal oblique brings it back and vice versa. Ex. Side bends.
- External Obliques: These muscles are responsible for contracting the spine to go across your body, either laterally or at an angle. Ex. Twists and Twist Crunch
- Transverse Abdominus: This muscle is responsible for holding your stomach in and rotate your pelvis forward. Ex. Vacuums and pelvic stabilization.