When many people think of abdominal muscles, they think of the six pack at the front of their midsection, and that it consists of just six small muscles. In reality, it’s actually much more than that. Our core, which is made up of 35 muscles, is what helps connect the upper body to the lower body and allows us to bend forward, backward, side to side, and round and round.
A common mistake people make when working out is overdoing the front of the room abdominis, otherwise known as the rectus abdominis. If you only focus on these and neglect the other muscles, you end up creating a bent forward posture and even the illusion of a pooch when you might not even have extra body fat there. This can also lead to lower back pain and bad posture.
With that said, below is a list of the main muscle groups, as well as movements and exercises you can try to strengthen your entire core—so that you can look and move your best.
Bend forward for rectus abdominis. For this movement, I love a pike plank. To do so, get in a push-up position on the ground and slowly contract the front of your abdominals by driving your belly button in towards your sternum; then vice versa. Once you’ve contracted in this motion, slowly open your abdominals back to the neutral position.
Bend backwards for Erector spinae muscles. For this movement, I love an alternating Superman. Lying on the ground face down with your arms extended forward and your legs back, slowly lift your left arm and right leg up and then return them to the ground. Then do the same with the other side. Keep going back and forth. This is a fantastic movement to open up the front of the abdominals, and for strengthening the back of the core.
Side to side for obliques. Try the dumbbell side band movement: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, with a dumbbell in your right hand hanging down the right side of your body. Your left arm should be bent with your left fingertips against your left temple. Slowly let the dumbbell slide right down your side as your left elbow tilts up towards the ceiling, then contract your left side as the dumbbell gradually makes its way back up to the starting position.
Spider-Man planks for rectus abdominis, obliques, and lower back. When in plank position, bring your right knee towards your right elbow, bring it back, and do the same on the left side; then bring it back. Keep alternating.
Round and round for Transverse abdominals. Try the lower body trunk twist. Lying with your back on the ground with your arms extended out sideways and your knees bent and up towards the ceiling, slowly rotate your lower body clockwise halfway until you hit the ground, and then back the other way. Keep going back and forth.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.