Abs training for women is always a thorny issue because, in the general imagination, the abdominals are mainly used to "burn fat" on the waist with "localized weight loss".
This idea is based on false assumptions and usually leads women to unproductive training (very high repetitions, very high frequencies, etc.). What we are interested in is that abdominal training for women can lead to very pleasant aesthetic results as well as significantly improve posture. This leads us to reconsider the use of abdominal exercises based on what are the principles of hypertrophic adaptation. In other words, instead of thinking about how to burn more fat on the belly, let's think about how to create more tone at the level of the abdominal wall.
In this article we will start by understanding the anatomy of the abdomen in general and, specifically, we will focus on obliques muscles, the most external part of the wall. We will understand what the function of these districts is and how we can obtain their tone and shape as complete as possible.
The abdominal wall is composed of several muscular districts that work in strong synergy with mainly postural and respiratory functions. The training of these districts is therefore also important in our daily life and to maximize the execution of other exercises in the gym.
The abdominal wall is composed of:
- External oblique muscle. The largest muscle of the abdomen is superficial and its contraction intervenes in the respiratory dynamics.
- Internal oblique muscle. Also functional mainly to the respiratory dynamics, compared to the external oblique it is not superficial but deep.
- The square muscle of the loins. It has several origins and is divided into an anterior and posterior bundle. Without going too far into the maze of human anatomy, it intervenes to fix the 12th rib, it helps in exhalation. With the relaxed pelvis, it helps in bending the trunk on the side (side bent exercise) and can extend it by acting together with its contralateral.
- Rectus of the abdomen. The undisputed protagonist of our abdominal wall, the one that allows us to have that aspect of a tonic abdomen and the famous six-pack. The rectus of the abdomen has the main function of flexing the chest on the pelvis with a minor role in the torsion and inclination of the torso. Note that the rectum acts at the level of spinal flexion, not the hip. In other words, the various forms of Leg Raise if they do not see a bending of the spine will never lead to an optimal activation of this district!
- Transverse abdomen. What many identify as lateral abdominals or oblique abdominals is a large muscle that helps form the anterior wall of the abdomen (it is, therefore, a superficial district). It is an expiratory muscle, its intervention, therefore, contributes to respiratory dynamics. It has a weak synergistic effect on trunk rotation and flexion.
Among these districts there is a very high executive synergy, therefore we will analyze them individually, always considering their synergistic intervention. Let's try to understand, in general, how to train the abdomen, what strategies to use, and then focus on specific exercises for the transverse abdomen to create an aesthetically pleasing effect contributing to the "separation" (aesthetic) of the rectum and transverse.
Let's start by talking about abs training frequency, which puts all of us in crisis. The ideal frequency for the abdominal muscles is 3-4 times a week. The abdomen can, therefore, withstand high frequencies because, being a small district (or complex of districts), recovery is fast and optimized. However, we don't get to train him every day because, like every muscle, he needs time to recover and overcompensate.
In terms of training volume instead, the ideal volume is 5-6 sets per session or 15-20 sets per week. In general, with such a volume we can be sure of obtaining excellent effects and hypertrophic responses.
The rep range should be above 15. Typically 15-25 reps are the ideal range. This is because we should not overload too much, we would risk compromising the balance of the spine and causing postural problems (as well as possible injuries).
Moving on to the exercises, we will now see specifically what to do to focus on the transverse. In general, however, we must maintain a good balance between dynamic exercises (Crunches, Crunch machine, etc.) and static exercises (Plank and the like).
The best exercises for obliques
Let's see, in detail, some exercises for the lateral abdominals (transverse abdomen). As we have seen, its main functions concern respiratory dynamics. We, therefore, assume that to work properly, we must focus on exhalation and breathing in general.
We inhale during the eccentric phase of the movement and exhale during the concentric phase. We squeeze the abdomen well, let out (almost) all the air. The transverse does NOT participate in lateral flexion and extension of the trunk. So doing Side Bend all day won't take us to work that area but rather, as we have seen, the square of the loins.
In the end, the best exercises are those of flexion of the trunk and then Crunches in all variants. We can make them free, with the machine, reverse, to the high cable, or with elastic bands (always putting the elastic at the top). They are all excellent solutions for sculpting oblique abs!
As we have seen, the districts that make up the wall of the abdomen enjoy an interesting complexity and synergy aimed, above all at maintaining the erect position (antigravity muscles), breathing, and trunk flexion. Trying to work on these skills and always maintain a good concentration on breathing during the exercises is the best way to develop a beautiful but above all functional abdomen!