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The Hidden Ab Muscle That Will Get You a Six-Pack

Discover a hidden ab muscle that will help you get a six-pack - plus, three exercises to target this muscle, stabilize your spine, and strengthen your core.

By
Ben Greenfield,
April 7, 2014
Episode #180

Page 1 of 2

As you learned in the episode 10 Flat Stomach Alternatives to Crunches, I’m not a huge fan of crunches. Not only do crunches burn a miniscule amount of calories and fat, but because they involve lying on your back and repeatedly bending and extending at the spine, they’re a big culprit when it comes to placing excessive strain directly on the portion of the low back that has the most nerves and is most susceptible to injury and fatigue.

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So how can you maintain six-pack abs without doing crunches? One of the keys is a hidden ab muscle that you tend to hear very little about. In today’s episode, you’re going to learn exactly what that ab muscle is.

The Hidden Ab Muscle That Will Get You a Six-Pack

There is a muscle called the Transverse Abdominus that acts as a stabilizer to the middle part of your body. This muscle is actually located right behind your abdominal muscles.  If you’re not familiar with this muscle, you may want to sign up for the military, because military drill sergeants are very aware of how to make the Transverse Abdominus sore.  The reason drill sergeants love exercises that involve the Transverse Abdominus is because when this muscle is strong, your back and stomach are strong.  And if you want a strong stable core that helps six-pack abs form, this muscle must be strong.

As a matter of fact, I spoke with one of my military friends, seargant Michael Volkin, and he had this to say about the Transverse Abdominis:

“I have to admit, I was doing sit ups for most of my adult life, but when I reached 30 I realized that my ab muscles were getting harder to see. No matter what I ate (or didn’t eat) and no matter how many stomach exercises I did, my abdominal muscles kept slowly disappearing. Then, I did some research on the anatomy of the stomach muscles and found the Transverse Abdominus.  Ever since then, I am happy to say my stomach muscles are more prevalent than ever before. Not only that, my posture is better.”

So why did Michael find that this rarely mentioned ab muscle makes such a big difference? It’s primarily because the Transverse Abdominus is connected to your back, your ribs, and your pelvis.  In essence, it is the ultimate stabilizing muscle for your entire mid-section. 

However, there is a catch: This can be an extremely difficult muscle to strengthen, and although there are a multitude of techniques and exercises for strengthening the abs, few of them target the Transverse Abdominus.  But here are three exercises that actually do target this hidden ab muscle in a way that will get you a six-pack:

Exercise #1: The Focused Crunch – This exercise is far different than a traditional abdominal crunch and involves what is called an isometric hold. Here is a video that will help you maintain good form.

  • Lay on the floor with your knees bent and your feet firmly on the floor.
  • Put your hands just below and to the sides of your belly button. Press a couple fingers from both hands into your lower abdomen.
  • Begin by drawing your lower abdomen down towards the floor, but do not move your pelvis.  Your chest should rise slightly.
  • Stop drawing in your stomach as soon as you feel your muscles begin to tighten. The muscles underneath your fingers should feel tight. If you move too far, you will stop working your Transverse Abdominus and instead begin stressing your oblique muscles.
  • Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds while breathing normally.
  • Begin with 10-12 repetitions, and be cautious not to overdo it the first time you do these - or the next day you will be very sore.

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