Discover a hidden ab muscle that will help you get a six-pack - plus, three exercises to target this muscle, stabilize your spine, and strengthen your core.
As you learned in the episode 10 Flat Stomach Alternatives to Crunches, I’m not a huge fan of crunches. Not only do crunches burn a minuscule amount of calories and fat, but because they involve lying on your back and repeatedly bending and extending at the spine, they’re a big culprit when it comes to placing excessive strain directly on the portion of the low back that has the most nerves and is most susceptible to injury and fatigue..
So how can you maintain six-pack abs without doing crunches? One of the keys is a hidden ab muscle that you tend to hear very little about. In today’s episode, you’re going to learn exactly what that ab muscle is.
There is a muscle called the Transverse Abdominus that acts as a stabilizer to the middle part of your body. This muscle is actually located right behind your abdominal muscles. If you’re not familiar with this muscle, you may want to sign up for the military, because military drill sergeants are very aware of how to make the Transverse Abdominus sore. The reason drill sergeants love exercises that involve the Transverse Abdominus is because when this muscle is strong, your back and stomach are strong. And if you want a strong stable core that helps six-pack abs form, this muscle must be strong.
As a matter of fact, I spoke with one of my military friends, seargant Michael Volkin, and he had this to say about the Transverse Abdominis:
“I have to admit, I was doing sit ups for most of my adult life, but when I reached 30 I realized that my ab muscles were getting harder to see. No matter what I ate (or didn’t eat) and no matter how many stomach exercises I did, my abdominal muscles kept slowly disappearing. Then, I did some research on the anatomy of the stomach muscles and found the Transverse Abdominus. Ever since then, I am happy to say my stomach muscles are more prevalent than ever before. Not only that, my posture is better.”
So why did Michael find that this rarely mentioned ab muscle makes such a big difference? It’s primarily because the Transverse Abdominus is connected to your back, your ribs, and your pelvis. In essence, it is the ultimate stabilizing muscle for your entire mid-section.
However, there is a catch: This can be an extremely difficult muscle to strengthen, and although there are a multitude of techniques and exercises for strengthening the abs, few of them target the Transverse Abdominus. But here are three exercises that actually do target this hidden ab muscle in a way that will get you a six-pack:
Exercise #1: The Focused Crunch – This exercise is far different than a traditional abdominal crunch and involves what is called an isometric hold. Here is a video that will help you maintain good form.
Lay on the floor with your knees bent and your feet firmly on the floor.
Put your hands just below and to the sides of your belly button. Press a couple fingers from both hands into your lower abdomen.
Begin by drawing your lower abdomen down towards the floor, but do not move your pelvis. Your chest should rise slightly.
Stop drawing in your stomach as soon as you feel your muscles begin to tighten. The muscles underneath your fingers should feel tight. If you move too far, you will stop working your Transverse Abdominus and instead begin stressing your oblique muscles.
Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds while breathing normally.
Begin with 10-12 repetitions, and be cautious not to overdo it the first time you do these - or the next day you will be very sore.
Exercise #2: Scissor Kicks - A drill sergeant's favorite!Lay on the floor with your knees bent and your feet firmly on the floor.Place your hands under your buttocks and raise your head off the ground. If your head is not raised, the exercise loses its effectiveness.Raise one leg about 12 inches off the ground and slowly lower it back down.As you lower one leg, raise the other in the same manner.Start with three sets of 10-12 repetitions and increase repetitions as needed. Here are more instructions and photos for the scissor kick.
Exercise #3: Modified Plank Pushup - This is a tough exercise, so proceed with caution.Start in the push-up position with your palms on the floor and toes on the ground. Your back should be straight and your feet should be hip-width apart.Raise one leg as high as you can and then do a push-up. Switch legs and repeat.Start with three sets of 10-12 repetitions, and increase repetitions as needed.
Want more push-up variations that will target the Transverse Abdominus in a similar way? Check out the Get-Fit Guy episode Top 16 Push-Up Variations.When combined with proper nutrition, these three exercises will target your hidden ab muscle and get you a firm, defined six-pack. If you have more questions about targeting your Tranverse Abdominus, then join the conversation over at the Get-Fit Guy Facebook page!