From muffin tops to beer bellies, loose abs are often a reminder of missed workouts. But, have you ever heard of “bread loaf abs?” The term is used to describe taut sculpted abs that look more like a loaf of Wonder Bread, rather than wonderful. When someone has “bread loaf abs” the abdominal area appears to have a bread loaf sitting vertically atop the tummy. Unlike muffin tops and beer bellies, bread loaf abs have nothing to do with under-exercising. It’s just a matter of tweaking your workouts to rectify the problem.
Bread loaf abs are a result of intensely training the rectus abdominis, that runs the length of the torso and undertraining the transverse abdominis that’s buried deeper. Focusing on exercises that work the transverse abdominis along with the obliques and back muscles will lead to a flatter stomach and more functional muscular strength. Take a look at a diagram of the abdominal muscles and you will notice there’s much more to the abs than the superficial six pack.
If you learn to control and strengthen your transverse abdominis and your obliques, your abdominals will not only appear flatter and taught, you’ll have greater functional strength and will be less apt to experience back pain which will lead to better, more productive workouts.
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To engage your transverse abdominis you need to “brace” your “core” before you start any strength movement. That’s fitness lingo for “pull your belly button toward the back of your spine without sucking in your gut”. Imagine that you are wearing a corset, but are still able to take deep breaths. It’s easy to use momentum to mindlessly swing through crunches or bicycles. However, slowing down and taking the time to make sure you are braced before you begin moving will completely change the exercise and effort.
It’s not that you shouldn’t do crunches. Keep doing them!
They are effective. But make sure you add variety to your core workouts in order to further challenge the deep transverse abdominis and the obliques:
– Start with Dead Bugs
This simple exercise will teach you to automatically engage your transverse abdominis before you begin a crunch or get into a plank.
– Do plank variations
All planks – side, front and forearm – are good choices to build functional abdominal and core strength. To up the intensity, try a single-leg side plank with a hip dip or other variations like side-plank with torso rotation and plank-ups.
– Master Bridges
Try them first with your feet on the ground. As you get stronger, put your feet on a stability ball for more of a challenge.
Keep in mind that if you brace your core while performing any strength move, with or without added weight, you can correct muscle imbalances. Performing a variety of abdominal movements in different planes of direction will eat away the bread loaf and stave off the muffin top and beer belly to reveal pancake six pack abs.