Stomach_musclesHere is a quick overview of the muscle groups associated with your abdominal area.

The primary functions of the abdominal muscles are to stabilize your body, keep the abdominal organs in place and to bear down in movements such as child birth, coughing, elimination, etc.  There are four layers of abdominal muscles:

1. The outermost layer of the abdominal muscles is the rectus abdominis. When this muscle shows it is commonly referred to as a 6 pack. It runs from the pubic bone to the breast bone and middle ribs. The primary function of the rectus abdominis is flexion of the torso and also assists other muscles in compressing the abdomen.

2 and 3. The next layer of muscles are the internal and external obliques. These muscles run diagonally on the sides of the torso from the top of the hips to the middle ribs. Their primary function is twisting, side bending and rotation of the trunk. They also assist in flexion of the trunk. They also assist in flexion of the trunk.

4. The transversus abdominis is the deepest layer of abdominal muscle. This muscle goes around the midsection – front to back with fibers running side to side. The lower portion attaches to hip area (front and back) and the upper portion attaches to the to the lower ribs. Contraction of the transverse muscles pulls the belly in. These muscles are more associated with autonomic nervous system functions such as coughing, bearing down, elimination and childbirth. An easy way to connect with these muscles is to place your hands on the sides of your of your abdominal area and cough.

In my book “ABS! 50 of the best core exericses to strengthen, tone, and flatten your belly” you will find ab and stomach exercises that work all four muscle groups. Click on the book below to learn more.

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Check out this new youtube video promoting the best ab and stomach exercises in Howard’s abs book: “Abs, 50 of the best core exercises to strengthen, tone, and flatten your belly.”



See sample pages of the Abs! book on Amazon by clicking here.

While the thought of having 6-pack abs might be the “ideal” for many of us, there are many more great health and fitness benefits for practicing ab and stomach exercises. These wonderful benefits alone, should provide sufficient motivation to work your core!

Improves digestion and elimination: The process of peristalsis (food moving through the digestive track) is greatly improved when you practice ab and stomach exercises. This is due to the actual movement of the exercise itself as well as improving the overall function of the organs and tissues associated with digestion. Elimination is also improved.

Reduces back pain/ protects the back: Weak abs put unnecessary strain on your lower back both in just holding your spine in a good stable posture as well as for everyday movements like bending over to pick something up getting in and out of a car.  You need strength in your core to do this without hurting your back. Having strong abs also helps to reduce or eliminate lower back pain.

Improves athletic performance: Most movement begins with the core. Having toned abdominals helps your entire body function optimally. When you regularly practice ab and stomach exercises you will dramatically increase endurance and power through out your entire body.  A strong core will also help protect you from injury during athletic activities.

Good posture: Stong abs help you keep good posture which means that your spine I more likely align properly. This improves the functioning and movement of your entire body as well as your nervous system.

Improves your breathing: The more toned your abs are the more they can assist in breathing. Try this little experiment. Sit upright in a chair and place your hands on your belly. Take a slow deep inhalation and then a long slow exhalation. Notice how your belly moves out on the inhalation and out on the exhalation. What makes these movement possible are your abs.

Helps maintain proper functioning of the stomach organs: When you exercise your abdominal area, the organs of this area get an internal massage. The organs are squeezed and soaked in fresh blood. In yoga this is referred to as a “tonifying” effect on the organs. Metabolic wastes are squeezed out and fresh blood with oxygen and nutrients are brought back into the organs.

Helps with pregnancy/child birth: Exercising before pregnancy as well as during pregnancy will make for easier child birth. It will also help your reduce stress, help keep you healthy and after you give birth, your body will return to its original form a lot quicker!  Note: There are many stomach exercises that should be avoided or modified during pregnancy. Working with a knowledgeable fitness professional is highly recommended until you know which exercises to include and which to avoid.

Increases muscle mass: Challenging any muscle group with resistance exercises will build muscle. This is highly desirable not only for strength, but because the more muscle you have on your body the more calories you will burn, even at rest!

Enhances overall looks: Working your abs helps to flatten your belly and adds to a long lean look. If you watch your diet and add some exercise then you might just find your 6-pack too! By including ab and stomach exercises in your workout you probably burn more calories too. And when you look good and feel good, your self-confidence and self-esteem can soar!

Prevent hernias: Hernias are often caused by weak abdominal muscles. Simply put,1 strong abs will greatly decrease your chances of developing a hernia.

Less pressure on your joints:  Having a strong core helps to stabilize your body. This keeps your body balanced and unwanted pressure off your joints, which can lead to injury and pain.

 Improves your energy: According to some eastern practices the stomach is the seat of will power and making sure that this area is strong, flexible and healthy will allow energy to flow properly. Test this out for yourself. Do ten minutes of ab and stomach exercises and notice how your energy level improves!