The abdominal wall is composed of 3 major muscle groups: the rectus abdominis, the obliques, and the transversus abdominis. Each group is shown below along with a brief description.
Abdominal/core exercises will train these muscles either in isolation, working to correct areas of isolated weakness, or in combination, working to strengthen motions that resemble everyday movements. The exercises that follow are grouped according to the major muscle group they work. A complete set of abdominal exercises can be found in EMG’s Exercise Videos Library.
- Lower and Upper Ab Exercises – The rectus abdominis is the most visible abdominal muscle group in the center of the abdomen. It is responsible for the six-pack. These muscles play a role in maintaining posture. The rectus abdominis muscles can be broken down into two groups: the lower abdominals and upper abdominals.
- Oblique Exercises – The oblique muscles are abdominal muscles that run vertically along both sides of the torso. They play a major role in bending and twisting the torso.
- Transverse Abdominal Exercises – The transversus abdominis is the deepest abdominal muscle. It sits below the oblique muscles. It acts as an abdominal support belt and plays a major role in maintaining posture.
- Combination Abdominal Exercises
Proper Abdominal Exercise Training Techniques
Train all the major muscle groups in your abdomen. Do not focus solely on the superficial abdominal muscles. Incomplete abdominal training can cause muscular imbalances that can increase the likelihood of injury. Instead, focus on the following techniques to get the most out of your abdominal routine.
- Perform a Full Range of Motion – Perform all exercises through a full range of motion and maintain resistance on the muscles throughout the entire movement. Completing a full range of motion is essential to maximizing benefit.
- Perform Controlled Movements – The speed of each exercise should be slow and controlled throughout both the negative contraction and positive contraction. This constant rate of motion prevents you from using momentum to assist in the exercise and thus maximizes benefit. Quality is far more important than quantity for any type of training.
- Maintain Constant Tension – Maintain tension on your abdominal muscles throughout the full range of motion during an exercise. Do not relax at any point during the movement. Constant tension during an exercise maximizes its benefit to the muscle group.
- Do Not Hold Your Breath – Breathing during abdominal exercises should be the same as when lifting weights. Inhale during the negative contraction (when you are working against the least resistance). Exhale during the last two-thirds of the positive contraction (when you are working against the most resistance).
EMG’s Exercise Homepage: Exercise for Men