Is having six-pack abs a possibility for everyone?
Well, certain people are more genetically predisposed to being able to develop a “six pack” over others. However, there certainly are environmental factors that contribute to the development and maintenance of a six pack.
Proper nutrition, strengthening and aerobic exercise all contribute to a healthy body mass index and a lean, toned physique.
As a physical therapist, I am less concerned with the development of six pack abs are more concerned about a stable and strong overall core.
The abdominal core is much more six pack abs, it’s made up of two main muscle groups which serve different purposes.
Group one is made of deep stabilizing muscles such as the transversus abdominis, pelvic floor, deep multifidi of the back and internal obliques. These muscles are key to stabilizing the body, so that movement can happen from a stable core.
The second group of core muscles is the large movement muscles that include the rectus abdominis (the six pack), external obliques and hip flexors. These muscles are responsible for movement of the torso, like when you are doing a sit up exercise.
Even if you can’t develop six pack abs, or don’t have the time or desire to, it’s still important for everyone to develop strong abdominal and back muscles.
A strong core is essential for everyone to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle, prevent injury and to avoid lower back pain. Weaker cores are associated with weak pelvic floor muscles that can lead to incontinence.
In my experience, people don’t often like to perform the stabilizing core exercises that are essential to active the inner stabilizing muscles. However, there are other exercises that are essential to begin with in order to perform more challenging abdominal exercises correctly.
These exercises can help activate the inner core and teach you how to stabilize your core muscles so that you may safely progress to more challenging abdominal exercises.
1. The Abdominal Draw In Maneuver
2. Bird Dog exercise
Try and perform multiple reps of these exercises five times per week.
If getting back into the gym is part of your New Year’s Resolution, it is O.K. to ask for modification options or to stop performing exercises that are too challenging or causing pain. Especially in abs or core classes, be aware if a certain exercise is causing pain, especially back pain.
Learn how to activate your core before trying challenging abdominal exercises that involve movement of all four extremities.
And if you are having back pain, consult your local physical therapist for more information on pain, core strengthening or any neuromusculoskeletal issue.
This blog post was contributed by Rachel Zimmerman, DPT is a staff physical therapist at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.