What are the abs and what´s their purpose?

hey everyone,
I´ve been doing some reading on abs and I´ll try tu summarize what I´ve learned so far.

Previous to this I thought of the abs as a conjunction of the rectus abdominis and the obliques. But it does not end there. People have tried to include what is missing of the abs by referring to your abs with the term "core". But this is still a very vague concept for many. So lets make out the structure of the abs so we know what they are all about.

You can distinguish 4 main muscles of the abdominal structure.

These are the (1) external obliques. Their main funcion is to rotate and flex our trunk. Everyone has external and internal obliques on every side so that every time you turn your torso to the right, the external oblique on the left works in conjunction with the right internal oblique. The process is inverted when you turn to the left. Amazing!


Then you have the famous (2) rectus abdominus (your 6 or 8 pack). This one flexes your trunk and the reason why Pavel Tsatsouline wants people to get bullet-proof abs is because this muscle serves the purpose of protecting your internal organs. This is the reason why it is imperative for any martial artist to have a strong rectus abdominus. Hit a man with a soft gut and watch him getting sick, now hit a man with a strong gut and get ready because this guy is about to hit back.


Then you have the rarely heard about (3) transverse abdominus. This one gets mistaken for the obliques. So be carefull not to make this mistake. The transverse abdominus makes sure that the organs stay stable while moving. Picture them as two open hands put together to scoop up water. They not only protect the front, but also reinforce your back in order to stabilize your organs. Paul Chek describes this mechanism with the interdepency of the muscle with the thoracolumbar fascia.


Now, this is where the story ends for most people that talk about the abs. Usually only (1) and (2) are considered. You´re lucky if anyone mentions (3). So what the hell is (4)? - If you think of it functionally it all makes sense. Our number (4) is made out of two muscles: the (4.1)psoas and the (4.2)quadratus lumborum. It obviously makes sense because the psoas mainly helps you flex your hips! Try doing a leg raise with a flat back against the floor without contracting the psoas. You can´t! - Flexing the hips is a very difficult task for people that sit all day and this also leads to a whole lot of trouble in the back. The same thing can happen if it is too strong! Why? The psoas starts off the lumbar spine (your lower back) and ends at the inner hip (lesser trochanter), if it gets dispoportionately strong it pulls itself together over time creating a forward plevic tilt which creates all types of missalignments in your spine and shoulders due to compensation mechanisms triggered automatically by the body in order to help you maintain balance. It does this at a high price! An indication for this is a beer or pot-belly. But no need to panic, just to get moving. - Think of the psoas as the antagonist of the rectus abdominus. The psoas tilts the pelvis forward and the rectus abdominus tilts it backwards. A well balanced relation between them will induce proper posture. - Muscle (4.2) is the quadratus lumborum it sits right at the lower end of your back and should be considered a part of the abdomen. This one can be seen as the antagonist of the transverse abdominus.


Now, why do you need to know all of this? - the main reason is because most of us only emphasize the rectus abdomunus and the obliques, fortgetting all about the relationality of muscle interaction. The abs are essencial in triggering support mechanisms of the lower back. The reason why people grunt and scream or hold their breath while picking up heavy objects is that doing this alleviates up to 30 percent of the load on the lumbar spine. It creates intra-abdominal pressure. Alleviating the load carried by your lumbar spine is essential for maintaining good disk health. The stronger your abs are (in harmony with the other muscles) the more likely it is you won´t suffer back pain or inflict injury to your body. Your abs (or core) stabilize the relationship of upper and lower body helping you not to collapse (forwards, backwards, left and right) and damage your organs whenever lifting heavy objects.

Every time you workout your abs, start with your lower abs, move to the obliques and back and finish with the rectus abdominus. Look at supine pelvic tilts to prepare the region, reverse crunches with your back flat against the floor, do some cross crunches (elbow touching knee on the other side), supermans and classical crunches. Try kettlebell swings and try to empasize on a balance of muscle engagement so that the psoas doesn´t get overtrained. Stretch gently afterwards and witness the miracle of regeneration!


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