Abdominal muscles are traditionally associated with a lovely figure. A “six-pack” can attract attention and symbolize sexuality. We associate these muscles with health as well. Abdominal muscles form our abdominal wall. If we had no abdominal muscles, our internal organs would stretch our abdomen beyond belief! Your small intestine alone is about 20 feet long.
There are six abdominal muscles, they are located in pairs on either side: rectus, external oblique, and internal oblique. Rectus abdominal muscles are especially visible. They have tendinous intersections which transform muscle tissue into something that resembles “cubes.” Rectus muscles are connected to the costal arch at one end and to the pelvic bones at the other end. These muscles are able to bend the lumbar spine.
Oblique (internal and external) abdominal muscles are located on the sides of the abdominal cavity. Their fibers are directed to different sides and are oblique. This allows them to easily turn the body. There is a transverse muscle of the abdomen under these that only a surgeon can see after all the previous layers have been moved apart.
To feel how your abdominal muscles work, sit down on a chair. Bend slightly forward and strain your abdominal muscles at the same time. Then try to sit up, while still holding your abdominals tense. Now you understand how hard your abdominal muscles work!
Both the back muscles and the abdominal muscles form the so-called low-back stabilizers, that is, they maintain the spine in a stable position. But the muscles of the anterior and posterior abdominal walls are not connected to the spine. So how do they help it? This is possible due to the lumbar lever which is connected with the motion of the pelvic bones.
This lever is like a swing: if you stabilize one end of it, the other end will remain motionless as well. Your abdomen works the same way. If you strain your abdominal muscles, one end of the lumbar lever (your pelvic bones) has some support, and the other end (your vertebrae) stays in the right position. Due to this muscular fixation, spinal stabilizers can maintain equal pressure inside of an intervertebral disc. This prevents the protrusion of its nucleus and disc herniation.
Not all of us have the habit of holding our abdomen in slight tension. But it’s especially important to do this when you’re doing physical work like carrying things, while working out or when you’re working in the garden. If you have to lift something and your abdominal muscles are totally relaxed, then according to the “lever law,” your spine will have to take the entire load on itself. The discs will experience excessive overloading and this can result in a split disc or even a disc hernia. You can read about all the consequences of this in my book, “33 Vertebrae or I Love My Osteochondrosis.”
This is an excellent opportunity to talk about the use and efficiency of a weightlifting belt. Many people think that if they tighten up one of these very firmly, they will be able to make pushes and pulls very easily. But it’s important to remember that if you don’t tense your abdominal muscles, wearing this belt will not help you at all! You will set new records and save your low back if you combine a belt with active contracting of your abdominal muscles.
Fitness magazines are often dedicated to exercises to strengthen the back and abdominal muscles, but these exercises can be both useful and harmful. For example, raising your body with your feet fixed is a favorite exercise of all the physical trainers. You can learn how to strengthen your spinal stabilizers correctly in my book “Smart Loin.” Later in this book, I will teach you how you can use your own abdominal muscles correctly in your everyday life to correct your posture and give you a healthy low back.
- Abdominal muscles are part of the spinal stabilizers.
- While lifting, you have to moderately strain your abdominal muscles in order to save your lumbar spine and prevent an intervertebral disc hernia.
- While training abdominal muscles you have to take into account their connection with the lumbar vertebrae.