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  • Jennifer Penney

Abdominal Spot Reduction (Part 2)

Who needs Spanx when you have a transverse abdominis?

Full disclosure, I have never worn Spanx. They don't look particularly comfortable and I'd probably go crazy having something that tight around the middle of my body. You too, can be free from Spanx forever! Let's go through a brief abdominal anatomy lesson to show you how...

First things first, if you haven't read part 1, check it out here...

I believe in KISS (Keep It Super Simple) so this will be both brief and simple.

When I say "abs," people tend to picture the classic "6-pack" but the 6-pack is just one muscle out of the four that make up your abdominal muscles. Those four muscles are the rectus abdominis, the external obliques, the internal obliques and the transverse abdominis.

Four separate muscles make up your abdominals

Let's start with the muscle everyone is most familiar with, rectus abdominis (6-pack.) Your rectus runs vertically from your ribcage to your pubic bone. It is arranged in pairs (4 sometimes 5, pairs) running up/down along either side of your linea alba, a vertical sheet of connective tissue. The rectus muscle is responsible for forward flexion of the torso. Its the primary mover muscle any time that you bring your ribs towards your pelvis or your pelvis towards your ribs. When you perform a crunch or a hanging leg raise, rectus abdominis is doing most of the work.

If you work your rectus muscle, it will build and get bigger. When your rectus muscle grows, it expands outward. Keep in mind that this can sometimes have the unwanted effect of making your abs look bulkier or boxier than you might like.

Alongside and to the outside of the rectus abdominis is the external obliques, the opposite side rotators. They run diagonally from the outside of your ribs towards the midline, starting at your ribcage and extending down to the pelvis. External obliques are responsible for rotation and assisting in forward flexion of your torso.

Also used for rotation are the internal obliques, the same side rotators. The internal obliques run diagonally opposite to the external obliques (internal and external are perpendicular.) Internal obliques are a layer deeper than the external and rectus muscles. The external and internal obliques together form an X across your middle.

But what about the Spanx that I said you'd no longer need?

Throw out the Spanx and I'll introduce you to my friend, Transverse Abdominis (a.k.a. TA.) The TA muscle makes up the deepest layer of your abdominals. Like a corset, it wraps horizontally around the front and sides of your torso, holding everything inside and providing support for your internal organs. The TA muscle in action pulls everything inward, causing the waist to narrow and the abdomen to flatten, stabilizing your low back and pelvis before movement. It connects into the muscles of your pelvic floor as well as your diaphragm to aid in breathing.

The TA is the muscle you want to work if you'd like to get rid of your lower belly pooch, the dreaded "mummy tummy."

Spending the majority of your ab work time on crunches, sit up variations, or hanging leg raises means you are primarily targeting your rectus muscle. This may cause your rectus to grow outward, possibly making your tummy bulge more.

Want to learn how to build balanced abs? Is one of your abdominal muscles "overpowering" the rest of them? What exercises should you be doing to make sure you are working all four of your abdominal muscles? What are the best exercises to activate your transverse abdominis? I'll be covering these topics and more in my upcoming 6 Week Abdominal Reboot course...

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