Hey Angels and Alphas,
There’s no denying that a ripped midsection, or a great six-pack, is on top of the goal list of pretty much any person stepping inside the gym for the first time. But it turns out that even if your abs are well-defined, you might still be struggling in terms of the actual strength of your core.
The six-pack is not a goal, it’s an aesthetic result. It can be a byproduct of a quality fitness program paired with well-rounded nutrition. That being said, if you want to actually be strong (and look stronger), it’s more important to build your core strength than focusing on just toning your midsection.
What exactly is a six-pack?
A six-pack is basically used to describe ab muscles that are visible. Naturally, this means that anyone who has a six-pack has a body fat percentage that is low enough that the actual outline of the rectus abdominis muscle – the one that makes up the visible part of the abdominal wall – is visible.
That’s all it is. It’s not anything related to performance or growth, just the actual visibility of one muscle group.
And that’s exactly why your other core muscles matter MORE.
The rectus abdominis is basically the lead singer in the group. It’s the shining star of your six-pack, and it basically runs around your spine to brace it against impact and protect all the internal organs.
And while the rectus abdominis will be useful for you if you’re trying to hold a plank for a few minutes or just knock out a few hundred situps, it’s largely a superficial muscle. If you want actual performance benefits (and you want to get your abs to show,) you’ll most likely need to be lifting heavier, running, cycling, or doing other activities that build up the deeper muscles of your core.
The benefits of doing this are countless and they’re too many for us to explain in one post. It starts with ensuring better posture and a healthy spine (which basically keeps the muscles and joints in the lower body functioning properly,) and ends with decreasing your risk of arthritis, bone loss, and other age-associated complications.
In addition to the all-star rectus abdominis, your core also contains another vital muscle – the obliques.
They’re the muscles on the side of your rectus abdominis, and they’re a series of deep muscles that surround your spine, your diaphragm, your glutes, and your pelvic floor muscles. Bringing these muscles together, you’re able to support and stabilize the entire pelvis and spine, keep your body in proper alignment, and ease the load on your knees and lower back. Life-saver!
They may be not as visible as the rectus abdominis, but they’re still a vital part of your core muscles and sort of complete the entire six-pack look athletes are going for. This grouping of the deep core muscles and tendons works its way along the spine, and works to strengthen and twist your torso.
In one study, the researchers over at Ohio State University discovered that running with weak obliques leads the body to compensate up to 45 percent more muscle force from other areas… particularly the lower back!
This means that these deep core muscles are actually contributing to the majority of stability and running motion – this is crucial for runners.
So yes, there’s nothing wrong with having an entirely aesthetic goal or purpose with which you enter the gym. But having a six-pack won’t necessarily help your body protect itself against injury, help you perform better in your workouts, or give you the strong, lean look you’re really going for.
When it’s all said and done, most people have major success in achieving a six-pack through the simple effort of dialing down their nutrition.
A six-pack is more of a nutritional goal because endless reps on ab exercises don’t really get you anywhere. Since we all know you can’t reduce fat wherever you want on your body simply through targeted exercise, we have to remember that abdominal exercises may not really change the appearance of our abs or result in us getting a six-pack.
Instead, what we should be focusing in the gym is to build the athletic physique we want, meaning working on the muscles that are practically useful for our performance in and outside the gym. And when it comes down to it, the core is the muscle group that has the most to do with that.