There is a pretty big misconception about “abs.” Many people think that our abs make up our mid-section around our stomachs. However, our core is made up of 11 different muscles. Wrapped around the trunk of your body, these 11 muscles are divided up into three major sheaths: upper abs, internal obliques, and the “deep four” (pelvic floor, diaphragm, multifidus, and transverse abdominis). In order to maximize your core workout, you’ll want to hit all three sections in your ab workout.
It’s likely that you’ve even been doing these types of workouts for a while without even noticing it.
“Moves like your standard crunches and sit-ups are upper abs movements, whereas lower abs moves involve moving your legs with things like leg raises and scissor kicks. As for working your obliques, it’s about isolating one side and actively engaging and crunching it with something like a side plank or a leg raise,” said Rhys Athayde, a founding trainer and CEO of Dogpound.
To maximize your benefits, he suggests splitting your ab workout into sections and working them one at a time.
“I recommend taking one specific part of your abs and concentrating on that for a lengthy period of time, the way you would any other muscle. That way, you’re working those muscles to the hardest possible condition and making sure that they’re activated before moving on,” Atahyde said.
For instance, instead of alternating between your right and left oblique, fully work one side to the point of exhaustion, then repeat that exercise on the opposite side.
There is, of course, one move that will activate all 11 muscles of your core--a good ol’ fashioned plank. Start with a hold, which will help activate your upper and lower abs simultaneously. Add some hip dips to activate your obliques. You can also add different moves, like a straight-leg crunch paired with a leg raise and scissor kick, which will help to engage all three sheaths at once.