Standing in front of the mirror after my cold shower this morning of December was something like a miraculous experience to me. For the first time in my 28 years of life I was able to see the veins in my abdomen!
However, this process did not develop linearly. I mean that I was not a guy that started focusing on training and diet a year ago or so — let’s say — and, after much effort, reached his goal. I had been involved in running and gymnastics for no less than the last 14 years. I had ran 4 marathons with reaching sometimes the 130km/week and had simultaneously been doing thousands of crunches (specific type of abdominal excercises). The scale at that period was showing a similar weight with the aforementioned cold morning.
Although the abs were never my first priority, they always appeared to be an unfulfilled dream.
For me the veins in the abdomen is not so much about aesthetics but mainly they stand as a physical proof that the body is getting close to reach or has reached its optimal fat levels. There is no excess fat in simple words. And this is a quiet nice achievement.
In the past although I was doing abs exercises, most of the time I was focused on crunches and sit-ups following what most fitness coaches have been suggesting.
Let’s now make clear some things about these particular muscles:
The most important muscle is the Rectus abdominis. This is the so called six-pack although it does not have six but eight “packs”. This is one muscle and noticeably there are no upper and down abs as the common knowledge and not only is teaching.
The second most important muscle is the Transverse abdominis. This one is not clear in the above picture but in the following one:
This muscle is the deepest of the six main abdominal muscles and runs as a belt horizontally unlike the Rectus abdominis which runs vertically. The Transverse abdominis is nicknamed the “corset muscle” because it has the effect of pulling in what would otherwise be a protruding abdomen. It is very well felt working during coughing or laughing.
The wrongs on crunches
All these years I have been focusing on crunches without knowing basic things such as:
-They are using no more than the half the range of motion of the abdominal muscles.
-They are not using the Transverse abdominis so you never acquire a flat belly. Remember the TVA works like a belt.
-They do not strengthen the ab muscles because of the thousands of repetitions. This is even common logic.
And many other reasons are found in the bibliography.
First and foremost it has to be clearly stated that there is no way to see your abs if you are not less than 10% of body fat for the men and below 16% of body fat for the women. By doing even the best ab exercises and eating mistakenly at the same time is not going to result in the goal.
The below two exercises made the trick for me and as far as I am aware for many others. They are both important and useful to men and women. I came across them in the NYTimes Best Seller of Tim Ferriss “The 4-Hour Body: An uncommon guide to rapid fat-loss, incredible sex and becoming superhuman: The Secrets and Science of Rapid Body Transformation”
- The Myotatic Crunch
You have to use a Bosu Ball. Else a small Swiss ball (about 45-55cm diameter) or a pile of firm cushions as Tim suggests. If you cannot have access to one of them a cheaper choice would be the peanut (video).
If you can do only one of the two exercises pick this one.
Try to fully understand the theory and do not worry if it is not clear in the beginning. Later I have embedded a video. Same with the cat vommit (exercise 2).
If you have a BOSU or a Swiss ball ensure that your ass is close to the ground, usually at about 10-15 cm distance. Then:
- Stretch your arms overhead but keep them close to the ears.
- Lower very slowly for not less than 4 seconds till your fingers touch the floor. At that time focus on your arms to be as stretched as possible for the whole time. When your fingers touch the ground you have to have stretched your abs as much as possible.
- Pause for 2 seconds.
- Rise again slowly and pause in the upper position. The Rectus abominis, the six-pack has to be now fully contracted. Stay for 2 seconds. The arms should not pass the 90 degrees with the floor.
- Repeat for a total of 10 repetitions. If in the end of the tenth you still feel you could do more then add weights to your hands or move during the exercise more slowly. In the case you are at home you can use books as weights.
It is very important to understand the balance on the exercise and be totally focused on the muscles that you are using. Do not hurry, focus on doing it right and not to measuring your abilities. In the case you are doing it correctly I promise you will experience a vast burning in there! Else it may be a signal you are doing something wrong.
And here is the peanut:
2.The Cat Vommit Exercise
This exercise is the solution for the flat belly. For the exercising of the transverse abdominis which we said works as a corset for the stomach and crunches do not use it. The myotatic crunch uses also the transverse abdominis but not as much as this one. Tim recommends the myotatic crunch if you had to pick one because it works on both rectus and transverse abdominis. Personally I do both exercises.
- Sit on four and focus your gaze either directly under your head or just a little in front. Do not arch your back or strain your neck.
- Exhale forcefully through your mouth. During that time you may arch your back in order to empty your belly from the air as much as possible. Full exhalation is necessary to contract the transverse abdominis, and you’ll use gravity to provide resistance.
- Return to the starting position without arching your back or straining your neck and hold your breath for 8-12 seconds. Your gaze only under your head or slightly in front. At that time you have to push your belly button against gravity, upwards and towards your spine as much as possible.
- After the hold inhale fully through the nose.
- After one full resting breath cycle repeat.
- Do this for 10 times.
REMEMBER: The most possible thing is that after this exercise you will not feel that your abs have worked enough. Don’t worry, TVA is like this. Just stick to your program and the results will come. After 3 weeks I bet you will have seen the first results, as long as you have normal levels of body fat, as well.
I do these exercises 3 times a week but twice would be great, too. I just want to make sure that my abs have worked the most. Also, I spend much less time compared to when I was doing crunches. 10 minutes every time are more than enough.