The Correct Way to Train Your Abs

By now most of you have seen the Calvin Klein super bowl commercial. You know the one with the guy gyrating around in just his skibbies, which made most of the America population salivate in their pants over his shredded midriff. The strange thing is after watching this; I had no inclination of going out and buying any kind of underwear.

If you have not seen it, here it is.

Where am I going with this? Well for some reason people think of the abdominals as a vanity muscle, good for two things; making you look good and shredding cheddar. These may be two great reasons to like the abs but there are many better reasons to love the abdominals.

Quick Overview

The rectus abdominis or abs, as they are commonly called, are only a small part of what makes up your core. What consists of the core depends on how you look at it. Is the core from the chest to the hips or is it from the shoulders to the knees?

I am inclined to think of the core as being the muscles that help transfer power and help sustain proper posture. This would include both the muscles that control your shoulders and the muscles the control your hip alignment. I would argue that the anything below the neck could be considered part of the core, but my goal is not to discuss this in depth but to make you aware of my definition of the core.

Now that I got that out of the way, lets look at some of the individual muscles that make up the core and what their roles are.

Rectus Abdominus- Trunk Flexion

External Obliques- Trunk Flexion, Contralateral Rotation

Internal Obliques- Trunk Flexion, Ipsilateral Rotation

Quadratus Lumborum- Side Bending

Spinal Erectors- Trunk Extension

This is one way to look at the core, by training each one of these muscle groups by what they do. Examples: Trunk Flexion- sit-ups, Obliques- dumbbell twists, Quadratus- side bends, Spinal Erectors- supermans.

The question is, is this the best way to train the core? The answer that I have come to believe is a resounding no. Hundreds of crunches and sit-ups and Russian twists are not going to optimize the role of the core.

Role of the Core

If the role of the core is not to bend every which way, then what is it? It would make sense that its role is to prevent flexion in all directions.

 Good Posture

One of the main roles of the core is to keep our spine and body in proper alignment. The muscles that make up the core create rigidity, in an otherwise flimsy spinal column. When lifting weights you should always be bracing the core to make sure you have good posture. Not to mention, to keep you safe from injury.

Transfer of Power

When performing many athletic motions the core plays a major role in transferring power from the legs to the arms. A great example of this is a baseball pitcher. The motion starts at the legs and ends with the ball being thrown. To get maximal velocity the power generated at the legs must be transferred all the way to the arms. This is accomplished by having a strong core to transfer this energy over.

If we are trying to train the core to optimize rigidity at the spine and the transfer of power through the core, then we need to look at the function of the muscles in a different light. Here is the new function of the muscles of the core.

Rectus Abdominus- Anti Extension (Resisting Extension)

External Obliques- Anti Rotation (Resisting Rotation)

Internal Obliques- Anti Rotation  (Resisting Rotation)

Quadratus Lumborum- Anti Lateral Flexion  (Resisting Lateral Flexion)

Spinal Erectors- Anti Flexion  (Resisting Flexion)

How to Train

  1.  Anti Extension

Exercises: TRX Fall Outs, Planks, and Ball/Ab Wheel Rollouts


2.  Anti Rotation

Exercises: Pallof Press

 3.  Anti Lateral Flexion

 Exercises: Farmers Cares, Suitcase Deadlift, and Side Planks

 4.  Anti Flexion

Exercises: Deadlift and Squats

I am Out

The abs are one sexy group of muscles, but sex appeal is only a small part of why they should be desired. Without them you would have no rigidity to your spinal column and without that you are not lifting heavy weights or transferring mass amounts of power. This is a way cooler function then just a show piece for the beach and bed room.

That’s all I got.


Josh Williams

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Posted on February 27, 2013, in Training and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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