Getting six pack abs is perhaps one of the most common goals that the Insta-perfect are looking for. Realistically though, they are almost as hard to come by as unicorn shit. Ok, perhaps that is a slight exaggeration, but it is still difficult, if near impossible to attain. What is something to attain however is a strong core. It is a good idea to learn how to differentiate between the six-pack and the core, as knowing the differences between the two, you will be able to create a much stronger core, overall.
The six-pack is technically 1 single muscle, called the “Rectus abdominis” and its main function is to move the body between the ribcage and the pelvis. This muscle is targeted when you do exercises that make you curl your torso, or lift your legs/knees up. The CORE, however is a group of muscles of which the rectus abdominis forms a part of.
Certainly, because of the fact that the core is a bunch of different muscle groups, it has plenty of important functions, including but not limited to:
- Maintaining organ position
- Spinal support
- Breathing assistance
It’s already sounding much more important than looking hot at the beach, right?
Alright, So now you know the difference: The abs are a single muscle group, while the core is a set of muscles that includes the abs. The abs, obliques, mid and lower back, and glutes are the main core muscles. These muscles are activated for pretty much any move you make. Try to feel your core engaging the next time you do a gym exercise like cable triceps pushdowns, or when you go for a run. When it does, it is stabilizing the movement and helping you to remain in a static, upright position.
Athletes who focus on the heart are much more stable and healthy during dynamic physical activity than those who only exercise their "six-pack." Furthermore, having a solid core is a great way to avoid certain injuries that are due to underdeveloped core musculature.
How To Train Your Core
Here are our best picks for exercises which you can use to target the core, and if you’re lucky you might just get that six pack too. You can include this in your regular training routine, but make sure that you are not doing them the day before heavy compound movements like squats and deadlifts, as this may compromise your performance and stability on those exercises.
#1 Floor crunch
The crunch is the most famous abs exercise and even though many people dismiss it, it can be a viable tool for core strength.
#2 Hanging Leg Raises
The hanging leg raise is another great abs and core exercise, which can help you strengthen your stabilizing muscle groups. The tricky thing with this exercise is getting into a rhythm, without swinging the torso out of control. This is only possible with a greater activation of the stabilizing core muscles, making it an overall perfect core exercise. If this exercise is too hard for you, you can do a hanging knee raise, where instead of lifting your legs straight, you only lift the knees up towards the chest.
#3 Twisted Hanging Leg Raises
A well-developed set of obliques gives a complete look of the midsection and one of the best exercises to target them is the twisted hanging leg raise. This is essentially the same as a hanging leg raise… But with a twist! By twisting the legs to the side during the raise, you allow for good oblique activation, making it a perfect exercise to get total core workout!
So far, all 3 exercises are dynamically involving, meaning that there is a phase of contraction and then relaxation. Truth is however, that the core and the abs not only provide for dynamic strength. If done right, the plank can be a great tool to develop static strength, which in turn will give you a more stabilized and balanced core overall.
Think of your core as the foundation of your body, which helps during most movements and especially more dynamic, athletic types of activity. Diversify from the thousands of crunches and include exercises like side twists, leg raises and hyperextensions for the lower back. Do all this and you will improve your core much more than you thought possible!
Don’t limit yourself.