While a toned and defined midsection is the goal of almost every fitness enthusiast, it’s not the only reason to strengthen the muscles in your core. Your core consists of the muscles that form your trunk and extend into your pelvis. These include the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis and the internal and external obliques. Strong core muscles are critical when it comes to performing compounds movements as these muscles play a crucial role in the stabilization and protection of the spine and other major body parts. So how do you target your core to achieve strength and aesthetics? Below are a few proven methods that are sure to leave you with a strong and defined midsection.
Don’t Do Crunches or Situps
Crunches and situps have very little return on your time investment. No, you will not achieve a six pack by doing endless crunches and they won’t make your core a whole lot stronger. Since they only focus on your surface core muscles, the rectus abdominis, the rest of your core is totally neglected. More than anything, you’re likely to hurt rather than help yourself as most people are doing them completely wrong. Not to mention, they are terrible for your spine and can result in less than stellar posture.
Focus on Multiple Muscles
The key to targeting your core effectively is to focus on using multiple abdominal muscles simultaneously. Performing any variation of a plank is a fantastic way to strengthen core muscles, tighten your waistline and increase stabilization of your spine. Planks target the deeper musculature of your core along with the surface muscles that you can see. While they won’t build rippling surface muscles that make up your six pack, they will create a strong and stable rectus abdominis and internal and external obliques. This will help stabilize your spine and allow you to perform better throughout a variety of other exercises.
Hanging leg raises and vertical chair knee raises are other highly effective core exercises that target multiple abdominal muscles simultaneously. According to research, these movements induce greater muscular activation than crunches. In fact, studies show that they are over 100 percent more effective at activating abdominal musculature. They also allow your spine to remain in a neutral position, lessening your chances of injury.
What’s the Consensus?
The traditional situp or crunch just isn’t’ worth your time. Focus on movements that recruit all of your abdominal muscles at once. You get the biggest bang for your exercise buck while saving yourself valuable time and avoiding the possibility of injury. Do this and you’ll see and feel a difference in no time.