Everyone desires to have incredible abs, whether that be incredibly cut, distinct, easily recognizable partitioned muscles or merely a flat, smooth, stream-lined torso that easily corrupts even the most innocent of imaginations, everyone loves abs!
Unfortunately, abs are some of the most difficult muscle groups to define or build easily because, as your calves are difficult to sculpt because you use them every time you take a step, your abs are difficult to sculpt as you use them on a daily basis to hold yourself erect and breathe. Abs are also difficult to mold as they are a large muscle group interconnected with one another, offering rapid recovery as well as the need for more exercises and reps to specifically target the abdominals. Most unfortunately though, abs are difficult to obtain because your belly has a tendency to store excess fat, causing the appearance of a rounded belly rather than flat or muscular.
There are three major muscles to the abdominals with the rectus abdominis (the six pack muscles), the obliques (the v-cut), and the transversus abdominis (a lateral muscle that bands across the midsection deep within the body) comprising the abdominals.
The rectus abdominis are the six-pack muscles, the muscles that everyone thinks of when they think of abs, the deep ridges, the washboard. These are the muscles that perform a simple function of maintaining your bodily posture, keeping you standing or sitting straight. These muscles work in accordance with the lower back muscles, the erector spinae, to maintain your posture no matter what you are doing. The rectus abdominis are much more than merely photographic deliciousness.
The obliques are the v-cut, the deep lines on the sides of your torso, the muscles people do not normally think of when they think of abs, but are no less important. Obliques functions as support for the rectus abdominis and erector spinae, aiding in maintaining posture, but are primarily used during rotating actions such as cartwheeling, bending to the side, and carrying loads on one side of your body.
The transversus abdominis is a muscle that is rarely thought about, but is actually the master behind all of the abdominal movements and functions. The transverus abdominis traverses the entire midsection of the body, connecting the rectus abdominis and obliques, allowing for even more power and support to be generated by the outer muscles when utilizing the inner transversus abdominis. The transversus abdominus lies within the body underneath the rectus abdominis and obliques, unable to be seen easily as it is not a superficial muscle. However, the transversus abdominis gives rise to even more posture and structure support, working in accordance with the rectus abdominis, obliques, and erector spinae in all action during the course of a day.
Training the three pillars of the abdominals is a relatively easy task, especially for two of the three, but unfortunately, one pillar is more moderately difficult. Regardless of fat that is deposited over the abdominals, the muscles still exist providing structural support to the body, which means they can be trained just as any other muscle that has fat deposited outside of it.
The rectus abdominis can be easily trained with such exercises as the common (though drastically ineffective) situps, leg raises, farmer's walks, hollow body hold, and plank to name a few. The obliques can be trained simply with such exercises as side bends, oblique crunch, Russian twists, farmer's walks, and side plank. The transversus abdominis, however, require a rather broader repertoire of exercises such as dead bug, plank, windmills, farmer's walks, Russian twists, and even hollow body holds.
Notice that Farmer's Walks can be utilized to train all three pillars as they require all three pillars to engage and fire to be able to perform the exercise. Farmer's Walks are the King of All Abdominal Exercises, at least in my opinion, for they can easily be progressed or regressed as they utilize weight to be able to be executed, of which one can hold more weight or less weight depending on strength levels. Farmer's Walks can be varied as well as using one or two dumbbells, one or two barbells, or even bars dedicated specifically to Farmer's Walks.
Farmer's Walks are an incredible ab exercise because it challenges core stability the most effectively, especially when utilizing a single dumbbell or barbell to perform the exercise as it will challenge one part of the body more than the other, but also engage the opposite side in an antagonist role, which in effect trains the deeper transversus abdominus. An entire ab workout could be comprised of just Farmer's Walks or even Farmer Holds (where you do not walk, but instead stand fully erect and still), but at the very least, Farmer's Variants should be incorporated into every ab workout.
The three pillars can be trained either together or separately, meaning on different days or on the same day. They can be trained as any other muscle meaning you can train one pillar on one day, then another on a second, and the third on the third day. Keep in mind, though, that due to the fact that they are all interconnected, recovery time will be quick, provoking more work or more creative exercises to be created.
A sample workout would be Farmer's Walks 4 x 20 yards, per side, Side Bends 4 x 10, per side, Leg Raises (or Full Circles, where you bring your legs in a wide circle as you are lying down) 4 x 10, 5 per side, and Weighted Surrender Situps (the fact that you only go to your lower back significantly targets the transversus abdominis).
I hope that possibly I have answered any questions you may have had about the abdominals, how they work, where they are on the body, what trains them effectively. Any comment or question is welcomed. Remember, you can always the 10XCircuit team directly through email, Facebook message, or Instagram direct message for any questions or concerned.