Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fitness Strength Training: The Upper and Lower Abs Myth by Anders N W Lindgreen

There are countless ab-machines for sale claiming to hit the six pack from so many different angles that one must ask himself if they have indeed discovered the fourth dimension of midsection sculpting? Can we isolate the upper and lower abdominals through fitness strength training or do they even exist? The simple answer is no. I will now bust this myth wide open and you don't have to be an expert in anatomy to understand why.

The Proof

Your rectus abdominis (the anatomical name of the six-pack muscle) is on solid piece of muscle with two attachments, running from your pelvic region up to the base of your sternum. What gives it its square-like shape is a connective tissue called Linea Alba that sits like a net of strings over the muscle, allowing it to bulge out in between; giving it the six-pack look. When your muscle contracts, it brings your hips closer to your ribcage, like if you were doing an abdominal crunch. Now to prove to you that it is impossible to move the bottom part without activating the entire muscle, I want you to tie a rubber band or a rubber string in between two fingers and try to move both parts independently. It is impossible.

The Lower Abs Burn

Your core muscles represent the girdle of stabilisers running around your abdomen and lower back. Without these stabilisers your intestines would bulge out and your spine would break. Rectus abdominis are part of this group, but it's surely not alone. You have something called internal and external obliques that run from your side diagonally down toward your hip and toward your ribcage. When you experience isolated lower ab soreness, it is the obliques running down towards the hip that are sore, not the lower part of your abs.

Attachment Activation and Lower Ab Visibility

Even though you cannot isolate the upper or lower abs without activating the entire muscle, you sure can activate it differently. Pulling your upper body towards your lower body (a crunch) will put more emphasis on the top attachment and the reverse (called a reverse crunch) will put more focus on the bottom attachment. If you focus on only one of these movements until the end of time will you have a much more prominent upper or lower part? Not likely. What will really make your lower abdomen "pop" aside from muscle bulk is genetics and body fat percentage. It's that simple.