While most people lump these two forms of training together, there are a number of differences
When it comes to strengthening the midsection, most people interchangeably use “ab training” and “core training” to categorize exercises targeting this area. However, there are several differences between ab and core strengthening exercises. To learn more about the differences, keep reading.
The abdomen is a group of muscles comprised of three layers. The front layers house the rectus abdominis (the 6-pack muscle group) and the external obliques. The rectus abdominis helps flex your trunk while your external obliques assist in rotating and side bending.
Beneath the external obliques sit your internal obliques. This group of muscles helps rotate and side bend your trunk.
The third and innermost layer is the transverse abdominis, which provides stability to your entire abdominal region.
When you “work your abs” these are the muscle groups you target. These muscles are part of your core, but your core is much larger than your abdominal muscles. Your core extends beyond these muscles up to your diaphragm, around to your back, and down to your pelvic floor.
Core stability is critical for everyday function and maintaining control over your body. All body movements emanate from the core, so it's essential to maintain and build core strength.
Training should be approached differently for your abs and your core. Core exercises are those that stabilize your trunk. Exercises like planks, bird-dog, dead bugs, pallof press, etc., are all excellent options to target your core and improve strength.
To strengthen your abdominal muscles, you’ll need to isolate each of the specific muscles you're targeting. Most people work their abdominal muscles to achieve the coveted six-pack look. With this in mind, only the muscles of the abdomen that are visible, the rectus abdominis and external obliques, should be targeted.
When training your abdominal muscles, it's essential to ensure that your movements are in the direction of the muscle fibers you want to target. For instance, the rectus abdominis muscles align in a vertical direction. Exercises like crunches and sit-ups isolate these muscle fibers. Targeting your oblique muscles is trickier since they are diagonally aligned in your body. Side bends and twisting movements will help activate these muscle fibers and build their strength.
We’ve highlighted above some basic moves you can use to strengthen your abs. Check out our more targeted recommendations to add variety to your workout and build that six-pack you’ve been dreaming about.
Hanging Knee Raise
Stabilize yourself in a hanging position on a chin-up bar. Using your abdominal muscles, pull your knees up toward your shoulders. Pause when your thighs reach your chest and repeat.
Alternate Knee Crunch
Start in a tuck position with your thighs perpendicular to the ground and your legs parallel to it. Clasp your fingers behind your head and alternate sitting up and pulling each elbow toward the opposite leg. Return to the starting neutral position between each crunch.
Lie on the floor with your back touching it and your arms at your sides. Tuck your hands under your hips. Alternately raise one leg, then the other, from an inch off the floor to about 8″ off the floor. Mimic the movement you do with your legs while you're swimming but in quick, controlled movements.
Grab a kettlebell and lie on your back on the floor, positioning the kettlebell on your chest. Bring both feet in and place flat on the floor. Lift your torso off the ground and crunch up while keeping the kettlebell close to your chest. Pause at the top, lower, and repeat
There are many moves you can do to strengthen your core. We offer some guidelines below on how you can add some high-payoff core moves to your routine.
Pushup Position Movements
From traditional pushups to other movements like planks and renegade rows, any exercises performed from the traditional pushup position will help strengthen your core.
Any sort of leg raises or L holds will help build core strength. You may need to work up to them because they are quite demanding and require excellent grip strength as well.
Much of our power is generated from our hips, core, and shoulders. Twisting motions accompanied by weights can be a great way to add to your mobility and improve core strength. These movements can be accomplished with free weights, machines, or resistance bands.
Hopefully, you've gained some new insights into the differences between core and abdominal training. For optimal outcomes, it's best to add both into your regular routine. And no matter if you're trying to drop a few pounds or enhance a lean, cut physique, adding in the right supplements to your routine can help optimize your results.
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