Exploding the Six-Path Myth
By Kara Wily
Imagine you wanted to design a supportive structure for your torso, you probably would not build a single layer brace that lay down the front of your torso. You would want to build a structure that had many fibers that wrap diagonally, horizontally and vertically across the torso. This single sheath approximates the structure of the rectus abdominus, fondly referred to as "the six pack." The more supportive structure, however, closely resembles the structure of the external and internal oblique, and transverse abdominal muscles. When these muscles are not sufficiently strong, the body succumbs to incorrect posture; the abdominal muscles are simply not strong enough to hold your spine upright against gravity. When bellies start hanging out over maximum capacity, indicating abuse of the "six pack," and back pain limits your activities; the problem stems from lack of abdominal support and stability. What we need to focus on in our attempt to have a stronger abdomen is the stabilization of the torso.
The primary function of the external and internal obliques and transverse abdominals is the stabilization and the support of the back and pelvis in an upright position. When we twist or lean, the obliques on the opposite side contract to control the motion. According to EMG readings, the obliques and transverse are active when bearing weight (such as in weight lifting) while the rectus remain quiet (Floyd and Silver 1950, On 1958). The internal obliques are the only abdominal muscle constantly contracted when standing, the rectus muscles are virtually at rest. The rectus muscles on which we so feverently focus during 100's of "crunches", have very little function other than lifting the head from a supine position. Furthermore, by building the rectus without awareness of the oblique muscles, you may actually strengthen the muscle to push the abdomen out, rather than pulling it in making it worthy of that cameo on "Bay Watch". Therefore wouldn't it make sense to focus on strengthening the oblique muscles, muscles which support the torso from the front, side, and back in order to tone and stabilize the midriff?
Consider three categories of exercises: 1) You should focus more on unilateral strength such as in the lateral curl. The action should be slow and sustained, not a quick jerky movement that recruits the rectus and lower back muscles. 2) A bilateral exercise whereby you work both sides of the oblique simultaneously will be even more important for stabilizing strength. Lay on your back pressing your navel to the spine. Here, squeeze one knee all the way to your chest with the other leg stretched straight out in front of your nose. The straight leg should be high enough off the floor so that the lower back remains flat. Switch legs and pause on each side for two seconds. 3) Reverse curls are a third exercise on which priority should lay in redirecting your program. Once again, a fast jerky motion will recruit the wrong muscles. Keep it slow and controlled and hold the curl for two seconds with that same navel to spine feeling.
The strength of the torso is imperative for lasting health. Chronic back pain, back strains and other injuries occur when the torso does not possess adequate torso stabilizing strength. Probably the best exercise you can incorporate into your daily regimen is endurance in holding your "navel to the backbone" for a sustained duration of time. You can spend fifteen minutes doing abdominal work every day, but unless you begin to incorporate the habits of holding in the abdomen in and concentrating on torso stabilizing strength, you will never possess the strength you seek, nor the waist line you desire.
DOn't forget the cardio. The cardio is the catalyst that exposes the 6 pack. Also - great article - but beware when prescribing leg lifts as these isolate the hip flexors and use the abs as stabilizers. At the end of the day, remember that you need exercise and nutrition to get a 6 pack, and when you mix it with
Nutrition Supplements you can see some great physical results.
I'm my experience both men and women can build a solid six pack and core without focusing intensly on intense ab workouts. Instead use a
workout routine thats include full body exercises like squats, the deadlift and benchpress, as these hit your core but also many other muscles. The result - your entire body gets a workout, and you build a rock solid six pack at the same time
“Opposition is a natural part of life. Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition - such as lifting weights - we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity.