In the never ending quest for six packs and flat stomachs, ab work is divided into parts. Typically we see upper abs, lower abs, and obliques.
It is easy for someone to look down or in the mirror and see which region they would like to improve. Depending on your training, you might even split up ab work with lower one day and upper on another day.
If this sounds similar to what you are doing, I have some advice.
Stop wasting your time.
When I was new to the weight room, I had a very similar split. I was led to believe that certain exercises hit different parts of the abs more than others. When this was discussed with other people, no one ever told me I was wrong.
I can only imagine the reasons for this belief without ever being able to find the one definitive answer. Maybe it is thought that the abs are 6 or 8 individual muscles that you can see on really lean people.
The truth is that what we call abs is really called the rectus abdominis. The transverse abdominis is a muscle behind the rectus abdominis and can pull your midsection in. I guess I can see where abs comes from.
Another part of that truth is that the rectus abdominis is one muscle. It is the muscle closest to the skin. When the rectus abdominis is activated, it does not activate in parts.
The whole muscle acts as one. This is why you cannot train for the upper versus the lower. Side note: if you really want to see a flat stomach or six pack, clean up your diet.
What does this idea of individual muscles inside of one muscle mean for your training?
Your core stability and spine health are being compromised.
Too many people with six pack abs can easily be pushed over from the side. They lack stability. Someone who lacks stability does not have strong abs, they are just lean.
The exercises used for upper and lower ab splits are hazardous to your spine. For those of you that don’t care about your spine, your future chiropractor will thank you for your poor choices.
Upper ab exercises usually mean crucnches, situps, toe touches and other high compression, spine flexing exercises. Lower ab work, on the other hand, usually involves flexing at the hip. Leg raises and reverse crunches are way better for you than the upper ab exercises, yet can over time take a toll on you.
You must balance your core work out with planks, Paloff presses, farmer’s walks, side planks, bird dogs, etc. to reduce the risk of injury. These stabilization exercises are how you should really be training your abs. Performance in other lifts, athletics, and daily life will improve with increased core stability.
So remember, the abs work together. Flexing the spine is also risky for back health.
Train hard, train smart, and clean up your diet if you want a lean midsection. Stop wasting your time and start reaching your goals sooner.