Thursday, July 24, 2008

Six Packs : The No-Crunch Ab Workout

Basic Guide to Abs

Do you need to be intimately familiar with the form and function of your middle body muscles to execute your exercises correctly? Well, no. But having a grasp of the anatomical fundamentals will help you understand which muscles you're working, when you're working them and why you're working them. To this end, a brief (and painless) anatomy lesson:

  • You have four abdominal muscles collectively known as "the abs."
  • Your largest abdominal muscle is the rectus abdominis or the rectus abdominals. This is a wide, flat sheet of muscle that runs down your middle, from your lower chest to below your belly button. The rectus abdominis's job is to curl your spine forward and keep it still when you move other parts of your body, such as when you lift a heavy box off the floor.
  • There are no such things as the "upper" and "lower" abs. Although an exercise may originate in either the upper or lower portion of the rectus, it will still hit the entire muscle.
  • Your internal and external obliques run diagonally up and down your sides. In addition to helping your rectus curl your spine forward and stabilize your spine, your obliques enable you to twist and bend to the side. Because the fibers of your oblique muscles are interwoven and wrap all the way around your middle, they provide a lot of lower back support.
  • The transversus abdominis, which resides directly beneath the rectus abdominis, is the deepest of all your abdominal muscles. This muscle isn't responsible for any type of movement per se, but you use it whenever you exhale forcefully, cough or sneeze. You don't need to target this muscle specifically, but know that you use it whenever you pull your abs inward and exhale strongly during ab exercises.
  • Your chief set of lower back muscles is called the erector spinae and it runs down the entire length of your spine on either side of your vertebrae. They bend your spine backwards, stabilize and support your spine. They work together with the abdominal muscles so you can comfortably perform the exercises in this program, and everyday movements as well.

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