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The abdominal wall consists of three layers external oblique, internal oblique, and transverse abdominal. The rectus abdominis is a very long flat muscle, which extends along the whole length of the front of the abdomen, and is the muscle that gives that six-pack look.
The obliques, which consist of external and internal obliques give that V Cut look. The obliques are responsible for rotating and twisting, so, when you include exercises that involve rotation at the thoracic spine you’re working on developing those actively. If you’re involving exercises that need to resist rotation of the spine then you’re working them statically. In the end, whether you see those muscles comes down again to whether the muscles are covered by fat or not.
The rectus abdominis is responsible for flexing the vertebral column AKA the spine. To target the upper part of the rectus abdominis crunches are great, and for the lower part leg raises or reverse crunches. Bicycle crunches target the obliques as well due to the rotation.
There is a common misconception that the core is the abs, the core is the trunk, and it’s everything but the limbs. So, even your back and chest muscles are part of the core. And once you understand that you need to develop your strength from the core inside out you’ll really start making progress.
What is a 6-Pack Abs?
You need to develop the abdominal muscles to get six-pack abs, but the key factor to seeing that 6-pack is eliminating fat around the stomach area. Not seeing a six-pack doesn’t mean there isn’t one or that the core is weak.
A six-pack abs refer to the rectus abdominis which runs vertically on each side, i.e. the spine is the middle and on each side superficially runs the rectus abdominis muscle. On top of that runs the linea alba which is a band of connective tissue that runs from the sternum to the public bone. It helps stabilize and brace the core muscles but also helps define the separation that runs in the middle of a six-pack.
The six-pack is the rectus abdominus, a paired muscle that runs vertically on each side of the abdomen, separated in the middle by a band of connective tissue called the linea alba, or white line. There is a tendinous intersection within the muscle that runs horizontally across the muscle, creating the six distinct parts of a six-pack.
Exercises For The Abs
The 5 best ab exercises without kettlebells are:
- Crunches (bicycle, lateral, conventional)
- Leg lifts (AKA reverse crunches)
- Leg raises (hanging or laying supine)
- Plank (high, low, side)
- V sit-ups or holds
The 5 best ab exercises with kettlebells are:
- Kettlebell ribbons into a twist
- Kettlebell side bends
- Heavy single kettlebell overhead hold
- Single kettlebell swing and clean into a shoulder press
- Suitcase deadlift into a suitcase hang clean and military press with a single kettlebell
Actually, to be fair, I’ve listed 2 exercises and 3 kettlebell combos. Videos for the above can be watched below.
1) Kettlebell ribbons into a twist.
2) Kettlebell side bends for the obliques.
3) Heavy single kettlebell overhead hold. You can do this in place or start walking to increase instability.
4) Kettlebell combo: Single kettlebell swing and clean into a shoulder press.
5) Kettlebell combo: Suitcase deadlift into a suitcase hang clean and military press with a single kettlebell.
Other kettlebell core work that’s just as good. Kettlebell standing hammer curl and rotation. This exercise really works the core, it digs into the obliques but also works the upper back.
Kettlebell Halo when done right, works the core from all angles. You have to go as wide as possible and go heavy. If you keep a narrow stance you increase the instability which works on creating stability.
Single arm kettlebell swings, they’re also great for the core. As you swing that weight at high speed and fling it forward, the force pulls the side of the body that holds on to the kettlebell forward, this force needs to be resisted (remember resisting thoracic rotation).
Here’s a double kettlebell exercise for the core that I’ve been experimenting with, it involves thoracic lateral flexion and thoracic rotation. It would be even more effective when using one kettlebell and working one side at a time.
Kettlebell ribbons with a narrow stance for more core work.
Try Kettlebell sqibbons if your squat is good.
Advance to other rotational kettlebell exercises.
Windmill variations for the core.
More rotational exercises.
You might have noticed if you read the intro to the post, that everything above is focused on rotation or lateral flexion, and the rectus abdominis is not actively targeted. This is because it’s almost impossible to work on thoracic flexion with a kettlebell other than adding a kettlebell to the crunch or sit-up.
In all honesty, when you are working with heavy weights overhead, swinging, snatching, or cleaning, you are using the abs in some form or manner. I personally prefer to stick to bodyweight exercises like hanging leg raises and crunches to work this area, rather than adding a kettlebell to the crunch or sit-up.
The muscles in the lower part of the core/trunk at the front are:
- External oblique
- Rectus abdominis
- Transversus abdominis
- Internal oblique
To work the muscles that are on the side, you want to include exercises that involve rotation or have to resist rotation, or involve lateral flexion or have to resist lateral flexion and have a weight on the opposite side. To work the muscles at the front, you want to include exercises that involve flexion of the spine or resistance to prevent extension.
For example, a crunch is an exercise that involves muscles that action flexion of the spine. Around-the-body AKA slingshot is an exercise that involves resisting the extension of the spine when the kettlebell moves behind the body.
How To See Your Abs
Now that you know how to develop your abs, six-pack, V cut, or core, you need to be able to let them shine through and this is where the saying of “Abs are made in the kitchen” comes in.
You need to be in a calorie deficit, i.e. eat less than you burn. Burn more than you eat and your body will start digging into those fat stores. And unfortunately, you can’t target that process to just go and burn the fat around the stomach. Ironically, that’s probably the last place your body will get rid of most of the fat. So, you got your work cut out. Developing the ab muscles is the easy part, getting them to shine through is the hard part and where the true dedication comes in.
Eat healthy food, usually in smaller portions than you did before, but this does depend on what your body needs and what exactly you are doing to expand energy. Cut refined sugars, cut processed foods, cut alcohol, and so on, yes, life is going to be a lot more boring. Eat when your body needs it and not when the clock says so. Try fasting.
Just some random things to give you some idea of what’s healthy, and that’s not to say this is what is going to do the trick for you. But it will get you started feeling more energetic, healthier, and happier, which all assists in the whole process.
Fresh 100% organic broccoli and potatoes from your local farmer. High-quality olive oil. Fruits. A good piece of meat from a butcher that gets their meat from farms that feed their animals with the same goal that you’re looking for, to be healthy. After all, if the animals have a sad life, and are pumped full of chemicals, they won’t provide the nutrition that your body needs and probably will provide the opposite effect of what you’re looking for.
Eggs, if your eggs come from a farm where there are tens of thousands of chickens cramped up in a small space, they get sick, to avoid that sickness, they give them injections. To save on costs, they feed the chickens low-quality food, low-quality food has the same effect on animals as it has on us. Now, no one eats us as we’re on top of the food chain, but if there was, they would rather have someone that is healthy. Phew, am I glad we’re on top of that food chain.
I’ll end this topic with some spices. Ginger root or ginger, is widely used as a spice and a traditional medicine. Fresh ginger, turmeric, and garlic all do wonders for the body. I’ve tried to be a little humorous on the serious topic of nutrition, but this is one I’m extremely serious about. If you would only start by incorporating these in your diet, I am sure that you will experience positive changes in health. Try it for 4 weeks, take note of how you feel before and after, and let me know.
You can cut the fresh ginger and turmeric into slices, put them in hot water, and add some good quality raw honey to sweeten it if you’re not a fan of the taste. Raw garlic, if you are not worried about the smell and are more interested in the benefits, eat it in small doses, or hide it in your salads.
PS. I used to have a good six-pack that showed and now it’s hidden by a slab of fat, simply because I don’t have the discipline and can come up with lots of other excuses. I have serious respect for people that maintain their chiseled look.