Contrary to popular belief, abs and core are not the same. Abdominal muscles – or, as we like to call them, abs – are the exterior set of muscles. These are the ones that, when exercised long enough, can grant you that so-desired six-pack.
Your core, however, is way more complex. Sure, it includes your abdominal muscles, but it stretches way further than that, reaching the pelvis and the diaphragm, your back and your hips. Meaning you can have a strong core without a six-pack and vice-versa.
A six-pack will make you look good – a strong core will take you places. That’s because you’ll still look good, but you’ll also enhance your overall gym and sports performance. Not to mention that it will also mitigate your back pain and protect you against injuries, improving your everyday life.
Now that we’ve clarified the basics, let’s get into the anatomy of your abs and core. Knowledge is power – and having insight into these crucial differences will help you reach peak functional fitness for the future.
Abs and core: the anatomy of the abs
Abdominals are the midsection muscle group made up of:
- External obliques – help to give spine flexibility and rotation.
- Internal obliques – assist your external obliques from below.
- Transverse abdominis (TVA) – the deepest muscle of the abdominal wall which stabilises the lumbar spine and pelvis.
- Rectus abdominis – the “six-pack” muscle you actually see, that primarily acts to help flex the spine.
There’s nothing wrong with working on your abs – they’re part of your core, after all. But if it means you’re not giving your full trunk (aka, core) attention, you’ll neglect important muscles responsible for strength and balance in your body. All of your muscles – including your abs – should be working together.
When you think of abs, you probably think of crunches and sit-ups – both very popular for six-pack-builders because they isolate ab muscles to strengthen your midriff. These traditional abs exercises can lend their way to a sculpted midsection – the top layer of muscles that create that six-pack aesthetic. However, performed alone, they miss many key core functions, such as preventing back issues and improving athletic performance. During your next workout, ask yourself if you’re targeting more than this one small group of muscles and look towards a routine that includes more.
All about the core
Okay! Let’s get you away from thinking about abs and focus on the core, which makes up so much more. It’s the centre of your whole body, comprising more than 20 muscles in the stomach, back, hips, shoulders and neck. The rest, such as your arms and legs – are an extension of your core.
Going deeper, your core muscles also include your diaphragm, pelvic floor, internal and external obliques, spinal erectors, deep rotators, glutes and more. Core muscles work as a team to keep your hips, shoulders and spine stabilised, help your body stay upright, as well as aiding bending, twisting, lifting and other natural movements.
Functional fitness focuses on the entire core, strengthening it from every plane of motion to not only aid sports and fitness, but activities in daily life too. Aim to train for strong mobility in the upper section of your core, and strong stability in the lower section. Core training can include planks, single-leg bodyweight exercises, Supermans, back extensions and dead bugs.
This 20-minute abs and core workout will show you exactly what we mean. It targets the full range of muscles so you can get the best of both worlds.
At EVO, our philosophy is to make sure your body is strong, healthy and resilient. We train with natural core movements, using your own body weight and functional training equipment such as TRX bands, bars, medicine balls and rings. It’s a playful, purposeful fitness experience. If it sounds up your street, find a club near you.