Core strategy… why it is so important to do ab work

Growing up I have said how I did not exactly workout… or enjoy it when I had to. BUT there was one thing I did do a lot of… and that was crunches. I would do crunches on crunches on crunches EVERY night, the same thing over and over. Was it good that I was trying to get a six pack? I guess…. Did I eat right? Heck no. Did I get results or a six pack? Absolutely not. I was like a lot of others out there who think that just doing basic crunches and other ab exercises will result in getting those abs you see in fitness magazines. Well even though I applaud any effort one puts in to workout, I am here to say you have to do more. Those infamous abs of yours (and yes you DO have them they just may be covered up with a few layers of fat and skin) :) will never come out if you don’t.

Working your core muscles is something EVERYONE should make a priority. Your abs so to speak are made up of more than just the “cuts” you see on the surface (aka your rectus abdominis) there are four actual layers. All four work together to aid in much more than just giving you a nice looking stomach. They assist in protecting internal organs, moving and protecting much of your chest and lower body, and assist in breathing and digestion.



Your abdominal muscles are broken-down into the four following groups:

Rectus Abdominis

  • These are what most refer to as the “six pack”
  • Its responsibilities include pulling the pelvis and ribs in as well as curvature of the spine
  • It is engaged during crunches and in jumping activities

Transverse Abdominis

  • The inner most abdominal muscle.
  • Responsible for stabilizing the spine and compressing internal organs. It also helps with breathing.

External Oblique

  • One of the largest muscles of the human trunk responsible for rotating the trunk, pulling the chest downward to compress the abdominal cavity, and helps in some of the rotation of the spine.
  • It is engaged when walking and running and doing most activities therefore injuring this area can be debilitating

Internal obliques

  • located beneath the external obliques responsible for supporting the abdominal wall, aiding in respiration, helps abducting and rotating the trunk, and works as an antagonist to the diaphragm.


So how do you work each of these? Here are some example exercises for each:

Rectus Abdominis

  • Bicycle crunch
  • Crunches in general (keeping shoulders and neck elevated)
  • Reverse crunches (lower part of abdomen)

Transverse Abdominis

  • flutter kicks
  • planks

External Oblique

  • Side planks
  • Russian twists
  • Crunches with twists
  • Side plate bends

Internal Oblique (focus on breath to really engage internal oblique at exhale)

  • Side planks
  • Side bends
  • Oblique crunches

** One of the main things to focus on when doing any core work is your breathing, make sure to really exhale when you contract in the movement. Work on placing your back flat on the ground (when applicable in the exhale). Pilates movements are a great way to work on this. Another pointer is to always relax your neck and try not to tense up when doing any sort of ab work. Concentrate on your breathing and contracting your core in ALL workouts, including but not limited to squatting, running, curling, dead lifting, etc.

The best formula is to take a few of these targeting each and make a workout 3x a week (on non consecutive days) to add to your routine. Be sure to change it up every week or so to keep your core guessing just like any other body part you train. Also be SURE you are eating a CLEAN/ HEALTHY diet full of lean proteins, veggies, healthy fats and complex carbs so these abs can be seen! You can do these exercises like I explained but if you are eating crap… you will never see those abs of yours, diet is key!!

And as always, seek approval from your physician before starting any exercise program!