At some point in time, every last one of us passionately wanted a chiseled rock-hard mid-section. We all want to know how to get great 6 pack abs. Well here is one of the best kept secrets. It is the most coveted body part, the symbol of sexuality. In study after study researchers and health specialist alike have found that decreasing fat in your abdomen, and waist to hip ratio is the single most significant step that you can take to stay healthy for life, and age gracefully. Most of us have given up on the idea because our quest has for naught. We have been flooded with miss-information from fad diets, fat burner supplements, to exercise gadgets, promoting six week transformations with dramatic before and after photo’s, etc. The key to that coveted six pack is not one thing, it is four things.
Bringing your body-fat level down by:
1.) Following a precise nutrition plan that has the right amount of protein combined together with the right amount and the right type of carbohydrates spaced strategically through-out the day, and around weight training and cardio sessions.
2.) An intelligent cardiovascular program
3.) An optimistic athletic mid-set
4.) Building up the muscles of the mid-section, and building up all other muscle groups
In this article let’s focus on #4.
The secret weapon for developing the musculature of the abdominal wall is a little known exercise called the ab vacuum. It targets you inner most abdominal muscle, the transverse abdominis (TVA for short). Most people don’t even know they have one let alone how to activate it. The TVA is like a corset, it is your own internal weight belt, holding your internal organs in place. It is the foundation for the rest of the abdominal muscles, the internal and external obliques, and the rectus abdominis. If you have done crunches and leg-lifts until you are blue in the face and are still unhappy with your mid-section, this information could take your quest for that fit chiseled mid-section to the next level.
There are other benefits to strengthening your TVA.
• It is the only exercise that has the ability to actually make your waist-line smaller.
• By working and strengthening the TVA you are actually giving your spine more support, so the risk of a vertebrae or a disc slipping out of place is less. Did you notice that the old leather weight belts are not used anymore? That’s because we learned to tighten up our own internal weight belt on exercises versus using an external weight belt that shut off the need to activate the TVA which lead to injuries.
• Better sex. When you strengthen your TVA with the ab vacuum exercise you will be using your diaphragm and you will also strengthen your lower pelvic floor muscles (ala a kegel squeeze). To perform a kegel exercise, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles, as if you’re trying to stop the flow of urine mid-stream. Stronger pelvic floor muscles help women achieve orgasms and help men achieve and maintain erections. It also makes the orgasms more pleasurable. As soon as I tell my clients this, you can always be assured of overtraining of the TVA.
• You can work the other abdominal muscles more effectively. You can’t shoot a cannon out of a canoe. You can’t have strong walls on your building if your foundation is weak. When you strengthen up the foundation of your mid-section you will be able to perform your other abdominal exercises with more focused intensity. You will be able to feel the difference in weeks.
• Athleticism- The TVA is the deepest abdominal muscle group there is. It is truly the core the core. An athlete can have excellent cardiovascular condition and have strong leg and back muscles, but if his core muscles aren’t in optimal condition, this creates a weak link in the bodies muscle chain that affects all his movements. All movements and reactions start at the core. If core muscles don’t do their job to stabilize and move the torso, then arm and leg muscles will overcompensate, trying to do a job for which they are ill-equipped.
To get in tune with and activate your TVA simply place your hands around the sides of your body at your pelvis. Flatten your stomach by gently pulling in your gut, or pulling your belly away from your waist band. You can feel the TVA at work as it reduces the diameter of your torso in that area. This simple exercise also demonstrates the involvement of the abs in respiration, particularly exhalation.
I have put on an incredibly unique twist to this exercise. The combination of two little known exercises takes the effectiveness of this core exercise to the next level. Basically, I have combined an ab vacuum with a kegele squeeze. Most women know what a kegel squeeze is. In child birth it gets the lower pelvic floor muscles stronger which aid in the pushing for child birth. For men, when trying to perform a kegel squeeze, think about stopping the flow of urine mid-stream while pulling your belly-button back toward your spine (as you exhale about ½ of your lung capacity). Also try to think about squeezing your sphincter muscles or like you have a quarter between your butt cheeks and you don’t want it too fall out.
Now lets perform the exercise
To begin, lie on your back with your knees bent at a 90, feet flat on the floor and the small of your back pushed flat into the floor. Take in a very slow long breathe and start to slowly exhale ¾ of your air while you are pulling your belly button down toward your spine (I like to put my index finger on my belly-button and feel it raise as I take the long breathe in and then feel it start downward as I exhale ¾ of my lung capacity). While at the same time pushing your lower back into the floor and drive you chin down toward your chest slightly. Once you have ¾ of your air out hold your breathe and suck in through your throat with your breathe being held for 5-10 seconds. As you are holding your breath and sucking in, think about pulling your innards up and under your rib-cage. It is called the ab vacuum for a reason, it is a little hard to come out of it and resume your normal breathing. But you will, and once you do relax and take a couple breathes and repeat. Starting out do 1 set of 6-9 repetitions, 2-3 times per week.
You can do the ab vacuum anywhere, and need no equipment. It’s a great way to wake up, or to end your day. It will take lots of practice and each week you will be able to feel the muscles working more and more. Once you get good at the technique you will be able to feel a ½ circle burning sensation in the pubic area. Don’t be alarmed, just feel good about mastering one of the most unique and effective abdominal exercises out there. Please don’t give up on this exercise, once you master it you will be able to reverse gravity, and start to put back in place what years of inactivity and bad posture has started to let hang over your belt line.