By now you know that it takes more than crunches to get a rock solid six pack. Crunches and other ab exercises tend to target the 4 main ab muscles: the transverse abdominis, the rectus abdominis, the external obliques and the internal obliques. But the thing is, without help from a few unexpected places, you may just be wasting your efforts!

That’s right, it takes more than just strong ab muscles to build a six pack!

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Making sure your supporting muscles get in on the action can go a long way to helping you get a chiseled midsection!

Here are 5 muscles that, when properly activated, can help you trim and tone your waistline!

1) Neck Flexor

If you find that you lead with your head when doing crunches, or that your chin pulls down towards the floor when you’re planking, than you aren’t keeping the work in your abs. This means that the muscles you think you are working, aren’t working as hard as they could be. Make sure that you always keep your head in line with your shoulders. Some of these problems can be caused by a weakness ¬†in the neck flexor muscles, which run along the front of your neck, coupled with tension in the back of your neck. So if you’re finding it particularly hard to stay in line, try spending a little extra time loosening up your neck. You can use a foam roller or try lying on your back with knees bent. Keeping your mouth closed and the back of your head on the floor, bring your chin towards your throat. Keep your head straight, don’t turn to the sides. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Repeat this move 10 to 15 times.

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2) Diaphragm

Most of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the diaphragm. Unless you’re a singer, a musician, or have hiccups, the diaphragm may not even be on your radar. The diaphragm muscle sits just below your lungs and can help increase your core stability when strong. When your spine isn’t stable, you’re putting yourself at risk for injury while impeding your performance. The best way to use the diaphragm is to breathe deeply, from your belly rather than shallow breathing from your chest. The best way to practice this is when you’re at rest. Lie on your back and press your rib cage to the floor with every breath. This is what it feels like to breathe deeply. Remember this sensation and aim for it during all of your exercises, especially your core workouts.

3) Serratus Anterior

These muscles run along your rib cage and help to stabilize the shoulder blades. Pay attention when you are planking. If your shoulders stick out, you aren’t activating these muscles. Strengthening these finger-like muscles will make your planks and push-ups that much easier. AND, these muscles go a long way to adding to a more defined look. Activate these muscles in your workouts by pulling in your front ribs. To work on strengthening them, hold a plank and press your palms into the floor as you move your shoulder blades apart. Squeeze them back together and repeat. Do a few sets of 12 reps, 3 times a week.

4) Psoas

The psoas is among a group of muscles known as the hip flexors. This muscle runs from your lower spine to your pelvis and because we spend so much time sitting during the day, it is often weak or tight. When your psoas is tight, it can cause your glutes and ab muscles to go to sleep, ensuring that you’re not getting the full benefits of your workout! To stretch the psoas, kneel on your right knee with your left foot flat on the floor and your hands on your hips. Shift your hips forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your hip and leg. Be sure not to tilt your hips forward or arch your back too much. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then drive your right knee into the floor as if you are trying to bring it forward. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Do 2 reps and then switch sides.

5) Adductor

Simply put, the adductors are your inner thigh muscles. When functioning properly, these muscles work closely with the abs to power your body from the middle, out. Trouble is, because the core and ab muscles are weak in most people, the adductors are over worked. Get these muscles working together again by trying the Pallof press. To try this move, anchor a resistance band around a pole at chest height, holding an end in each hand. Step back until the band is taut. Now turn so your body is perpendicular to the band, with your left side facing the pole. Stagger your feet so your left foot is in front of your right foot. Stand with your hands together in front of your chest for a count of four. Then, slowly extend your arms forward for a count of four, then hold for a count of four before returning to the start position. You’ll notice that the band wants to pull you left, fight against this and keep your arms going straight ahead as much as possible. Do 5 reps and then switch sides.

So, when you are working the HIITCore series in SweatFlix, for example, remember these 5 muscles, add these strengthening and stabilizing exercises to your routine, and you’re results are likely to improve!

Remember, your body is a machine and when all the parts do the work they are supposed to, there is little you can’t achieve!

What tips and tricks do you use to keep your core activated? Let us know on Facebook!

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