When most people discuss their ideal physique, a “flat tummy” or “chiseled abs” is often atop their most desired features.
Well-defined abdominal muscles are synonymous with a ‘Hollywood Body’, and due to our culture’s general admiration for them, it’s not surprising they’re so often sought after.
But are ‘core muscles’ only for aesthetic purposes? I mean what the hell do they actually do?…
Core’s Primary Function Number One:
It Prevents Unnecessary Movement
Without well functioning core muscles you are far, far, (one more time: far) more likely to fall prey to an injury.
Without your core firing and keeping everything where it needs to be, vital structural points of your body (you know, such as your spine) will move in ways they aren’t designed to.
What happens when there’s movement in key structures that aren’t supposed to move? In serious cases, you’re looking at a terrible injury. In moderate cases? Have you ever had a sore back? Having a stronger core in many cases could have prevented that.
Core’s Primary Function Number Two:
They Make You Better At….. Everything
Have you ever completed a heavy back squat? What do you think it was that stopped you from folding in on yourself with that load on your back?
Have you ever ran, jumped or swam (If not… you probably should)? Which selection of muscles do you think made that movement efficient? And with group of muscles do you think you should develop further for even greater efficiency?
Nope, it wasn’t a trick question- the answer’s right there in the blog title. You can thank your core for contributing to pretty much every basic human movement you make (and probably most of the ‘non-basic’ movements you’re making too!)
“Ok, ok, that’s great, buuuut if I am mostly interested in getting a flat stomach, what do I need to know?”
Your Genetics Will Play A Part
It’s important we get this out of the way early, but it’s also important we get it out of the way in a positive encouraging way, instead of a “woe-is-me” approach.
How visible your core muscles will be are largely dependant on how low your body-fat percentage is.
Now I’d love to live in a world where everything was even, and we’ve all be predisposed to have the exact same amount of fat, muscles and bone density from birth.
But you and I know that’s not the case.
We all know someone that can eat whatever they fancy, go for a gentle jog, and have the outline of abs year round. Hell, maybe that person is you.
But those people are few and far between (and even if that is you, working your core muscles (and watching your diet) is still going to pay dividends for your health, and physique as that metabolism starts slowing down!).
Which brings me onto our next point…
You Need To Have A Sensible Diet
This isn’t a nutrition blog so I won’t delve into the science and specifics of what exactly constitutes a ‘sensible diet’, however I can assure you, any more than one greasy take-away meal a week probably isn’t it.
As a general rule, if dropping your bodyfat to ‘Ab showing level’ is your goal, here are some basic dietary guidelines you can stick to:
- If it didn’t run, fly, swim, or grow from the ground, eat in sparingly.
- Don’t eat distracted
- Listen to your hunger and fullness cues- hungry? Eat. Feeling full? Stop.
- Stay hydrated- 2-3 litres of water a day MINIMUM.
What won’t help your cause is eating to excess, following dangerously low calorie diets, or binging at the weekend. If you want to see your abs, make sure your eating is contributing to the goal, not taking away from it.
“Alright, so you don’t get abs 100% through exercise, but it helps, right?”
Yes, getting the stomach you want is going to take more than a clean diet and a good morale compass- you’re going to have to work for it.
Now most of you will probably be thinking “please, I know how to train my abs, it’s the main thing I do!”
Excessive flexion exercises (sit-ups, v-sits, bicycle crunches etc) are only one facet of the core’s abilities- and by neglecting its other functions you’ll be shortchanging your progress, and sabotaging your attempts to sculpt your ideal midsection.
Let’s have a quick look at what movements can help build your core other than just crunches and sit ups.
Core Exercise Group Number One
Exercises labeled as ‘anti-extension’ refer to any movement whereby your core has to activate to resist the extension of the lumbar spine.
Exercises such as Ab-wheel, stability ball or TRX roll-outs are optimal for stressing your core in this manner- or walk-outs if you don’t have any equipment available.
Core Exercise Group Number Two
This function of the core refers to it’s ability to withstand a lateral force, such as by remaining upright whilst an external weight is attempting to pull you to one side.
Exercises such as offset farmers walks, suitcase deadlifts and windmills are key to progressing this facet of your cores functionality.
Core Exercise Group Number Three
Anti-rotational movements torch the core to build a functional and athletic midsection. Any exercise where your abdominals are resisting rotating against a force would be described as such.
These exercises include cable and band pallof presses.
Core Exercise Group Number Four
Hip Flexion Whilst Maintaining A Neutral Spine
Any moment bringing your knees towards, or away from your chest will stress your core to an extent (or, if muscular imbalances and a weak core are present, are more likely to affect the back).
Exercises that stimulate your core in this way are stability ball or TRX jacknifes, or hanging leg raises.
So, To Summarise:
- Building a ‘flat & toned’ stomach is going to require a certain amount of dietary adherence.
- Developing your core muscles is going to prevent your risk of injury.
- It will also make you athletically better at nearly every human movement.
- Because of the above point, you’ll be able to improve the performance and appearance of various other body parts by taking the time to build your core (meaning more powerful and sculpted glutes, quads, shoulders etc…)
- Your core needs to be built with more than just crunches and sit ups
If you want a scientifically designed, proven training plan that will build your abdominal strength, get you a flat, toned stomach and address the rest of your physique goals; the fastest route to take is to get in contact with me now, so we can create you a personalised coaching programme unique to your goals and targets.