“ What Does Squeeze Your Abs Really Mean”

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I’m sure everyone have heard that you’re supposed to “ squeeze your abs” or “ engage your core “ while working out for better stability and function. But people often interpret “engage” to mean “suck in” unfortunately that is the exact opposite of how you should engage the core as it actually de-stabilizes your core. It is a really important topic, your “core” muscles involve so much more that just your abs, it supports your spine and those core muscles are connected to your legs, to the way you stand, squat, sit ... it’s not just about your abdominal muscles, but also training your back, glutes and the whole area that connects to your spinal cord and helps your body support your spine, contributing to good posture and preventing back pain and injury.

The major muscles involved in core stability are the pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae, longissimus thoracis and the diaphragm. The minor muscles involved are the latissimus dorsi, gluteus maximus and trapezius. ( Thanks Google !!).

So with that being said a strong core will help your workout performance and for all the runners out there a study done by researchers at Barry university found that 6 weeks of core training drills helped improve the performance of recreational and competitive runners. (1)

The different cues for core engagement may vary depending on the movement you are doing but here are some that you can try.

  1.  Lie on the ground with your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.

  2. Relax your hands by your sides.

  3. Take a deep breath in. Breathe out and pull your bellybutton into your spine, engaging your abdominal muscles without tilting your hips.

  4. Hold the contact for 5 seconds.

  5. Repeat 5 times.

  • Your core naturally engages as the very first step in coughing or laughing. So another way to get the feel for how to correctly activate your core is by initiating one of those actions–you’re looking for that abdominal activation that takes place just before any cough or laugh actually occurs.

  • Or rest your hands on either side of your abdomen and try to push them away using only your abdominal muscles.

It’s a little tricky at first but soon becomes second nature.  I promise, you won’t have to walk around with your hands against your abdomen forever!

You may also have heard advice to relax the abdominals during pelvic floor work (especially during exercises to help reduce urinary incontinence), but research shows that may be outdated information (2), that advice to keep the abdominal wall relaxed when performing pelvic floor exercises is inappropriate and may actually adversely affect the performance of these exercises.

Targeted abs workouts can be great for engaging and strengthening the core, but don’t forget that you can also get build core strength from focusing on it during your total body workouts as well.

In conclusion engaging your abs will not only give you a hard and flatten core it will also stabilize your lower back, improve your balance and coordination, enhance flexibility, promote better breathing( core muscles are connected to the diaphragm like I said before so working out this muscle groups will enhance the ability to inhale and exhale fully. If the body is able to take in more oxygen, the heart is able to pump more blood so there will be a significant improvement overall performance in the body) and last but not least strengthen the body.