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“Abs” – The Muscles that Surround the Abdomen

“In every weight room in all the countries of the world since the dawn of training with weights, the single biggest distraction from the actual task at hand has been abs. Or rather, an obsession with/ misunderstanding of the biomechanical role of/misunderstanding of the way to train abs. More people, including me, have wasted more time/incurred more injuries doing/gotten very little out of training the damn things than anything in the whole training repertoire except biceps. Some of the things I’m about to say will be met with a lot of disagreement by conventional wisdom exercise-science types and PTs, as well as virtually everybody that trains for appearance. I don’t care – I have to get this off my chest (Atonement? A guilty conscience for having trained lots of people incorrectly? An attempt to come to grips with years of having been wrong?) and perhaps in the process I can be of use to some of you.

First, by “abs”, I mean the muscles that surround the abdomen. I don’t just mean the rectus abdominis, the group in the front that everybody identifies with the term “six-pack” (that I never use), the most graphic visual evidence of both low bodyfat in most people and our remote connection to phylum anellida through its evident septa that separate the muscle into repeated segments. I refer to abs when everybody else refers to “the core” because I insist on being difficult, contrary, disagreeable and out of step with the infomercial people. This is the way I learned it, and I see no compelling reason to update. So in this article “abs” means the rectus, the internal and external obliques running across the lateral aspect of the abdomen, the transversalis (or transversus abdominis), and the muscles of the floor of the abdominal cavity.

Second, the abs stabilize the spine, meaning that they maintain stable if not rigid intervertebral relationships under compressive or shear (moment) loading – that is their primary physical function in a biped. We have been placed under the impression that the primary role of the abs is display to other humans in either courtship ritual or as a means of evoking envy, and this temporary cultural bias has not proven useful to many of us.

Stabilizing the spine is an extremely important thing to do when working or training… Mark Rippetoe

Stabilizing the spine is an extremely important thing to do when working or training, since the force generated by the muscles that extend the hips and knees is usually transferred to the external environment through the arms and hands (in the case of the squat the bar is supported by the trunk itself ), which means that the spine is the bridge connecting the force-producing musculature to the task to which it is being applied.” By Mark Rippetoe

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