Have you ever seen models with abs and wondered how they achieve that when it’s so hard for you even to complete a six-pack? Well, there are several ways to develop abs faster and easier as well as enhance their appearance.
In this article, I will tell you all about how to flex your abs, how to maintain them, and the benefits of contracting your abs. So, read on to learn more!
Why Contract Your Abs?
Flexing or contracting your abs can either be a way to look great in photos or as a part of your workout. Flexing the abs during an exercise or photoshoot engages the core and helps in achieving a defined appearance.
Here are also some of the benefits of flexing your abdominal muscles:
It Helps With Posture And Various Activities
The abdominal muscles, along with the lower back muscles and obliques, make up a part of the body’s core or midsection.
The core is one of the most critical parts of the body because it connects the upper body to the lower body, allowing the two to work in synergy to produce various movements.
Be it regular everyday tasks like reaching down to pick up stuff, vacuuming the floor, or even just standing to lifting heavy weights in the gym; you will need a strong core.
Most exercises and sports also require a strong core to develop enough power. As you contract your abs, this power is enhanced, improving your endurance and ultimately, your overall play.
The core muscles, especially the abs, also support the spine. This encourages and helps maintain good posture.
Having and maintaining proper posture also gives you an appearance that exudes confidence, allows you to breathe optimally, gives you a taller and slimmer silhouette, and assists you in reaping the full benefits of other exercises.
It Helps Strengthen And Protect The Back
A strong core almost always equates to strong back muscles since these muscle groups are closely related. This helps reduce the risk of back pain and injury.
If you are a runner, contracting your abs throughout a sprint can help prevent any compression due to impact in your lower back.
Ab flexing has been said to activate a hard-to-reach layer of muscles behind the obliques called the transverse abdominis. This group of muscles acts like some sort of corset that pulls everything in your abdomen inward.
In a 1999 study, it was found that isolating and activating this muscle layer helps relieve back pain. Since it also wraps around the spine, it helps improve your overall stability, therefore reducing the risk of a back injury.
It Helps You Exercise More Safely
When your abs are relaxed or weak, they cannot efficiently perform their function of supporting the body. Flexing strengthens them and allows you to perform more exercises safely.
For example, exercises that involve weights require a tight and robust core. Lifting a heavy load during a deadlift or doing heavy squats can cause a lot of damage on your back if your abs are not flexed.
How To Flex Your Abs For A Photoshoot
Do you have a trip to the beach with your friends or are a model with an upcoming project? If you are anticipating a photoshoot, you should let your abs shine! How, you may ask? Simply follow these tips:
1. Breathe Out As You Flex
Contrary to what you may think; taking a deep breath and sucking in your stomach is not the way to go if you want to highlight your abs. Instead, what you should do is exhale gently as you hold your pose.
Also, try not to breathe out all the air in your lungs as this can make you look like you are holding your breath. If so, your pose will look forced or strained. For best results, exhale naturally and gently.
2. Hands On Your Upper Thighs
Placing your hands and pressing them into your upper thighs (a little lower than the hips) will help you contract your abs. Place both hands on the front side of each upper thigh with your palms facing your body. Then, press your hands lightly as you flex your abs.
3. Slightly Twist To The Side
While also exhaling gently and lightly pressing your hands against the thighs, try to turn your body slightly to one side. Make sure you are still facing the camera or mirror that you are posing at.
Doing a side twist not only slims down the appearance of your waist but also makes your abs look more defined.
4. Do Not Suck In Your Gut
I know you will have the impulse to suck in your gut in an attempt to show off your abs, but this is actually something you should not do. While it seems like a good idea to slim down your stomach, it can make your abs look unnaturally thin.
What you want is to enhance their shape and make them more flattering. To do this, stick to relaxed, unforced poses instead.
For more information on flexing abs, please watch this video:
Tips To Make Your Abs Look Better In Photos
Aside from the previous instructions on how to flex your abs, there are other things you can do to make your abs stand out and look absolutely perfect in photos. Here are some of the best ones:
1. Try Getting A Tan
This is a tip that most bodybuilders swear by. This is because when your skin is tan, shadows are created around the shape of your muscles, highlighting them and making them more prominent.
With a tan, the curves of your body tend to automatically stand out. However, this benefit is said to be beneficial only if your abs are not yet that defined.
If you have time, you can sunbathe by the beach or spend a day or so under the sun. Otherwise, you can make a trip to your favorite tanning salon or opt for an instant spray tan if you are not a fan of tanning booths.
2. Perform Some Sit-ups
Sit-ups are known to build the abdominal muscles. However, did you know that doing a few sit-ups right before a photoshoot can actually help enhance their appearance? Yes! Sit-ups increase the blood circulation to the abs, making them look bigger and better.
3. Apply Oil On Your Abs
Oil is another secret tool used by professional photographers and models for stunning photos. Rubbing a bit of massage oil or baby oil on your abs before a photoshoot will help them stand out more. The shine effect will allow the right parts to catch the light and create a contrast of colors, highlighting your abs’ shape.
4. Pay Attention To Lighting Conditions
Lighting is essential in any photoshoot. If you are working with a professional team and photographer, they would know how to use light and how to position you against it to achieve the best result.
Usually, this means putting the primary light source off to the side of your body. So, if you are setting up for photos on your own or with a friend, you can replicate this type of setting.
This is one of the best ways to make your abs project since it helps bring out all the details, nooks, and crevices.
How To Flex Your Abs During Workout
Another instance where you need or want to flex your abs is during your workout. These are encouraged for TA or transverse abdominis exercises whose main concern is tightening the core.
There are two techniques used here: hollowing and bracing. The concept behind each method is similar, but one technique may not work the same for everyone. So, I suggest that you try both of them to see whichever works best for you.
The first technique, called hollowing, is a physical therapist-recommended exercise. To do it, follow these steps:
- Step 1: Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground and your knees bent.
- Step 2: Then, draw your belly button inward toward your spine as you breathe shallowly. Ensure that your tummy is not too depressed but work on making it harder. Remember that you are contracting your abs and not simply tucking your stomach in.
- Step 3: Do not move your chest and pelvis. Then, from the bottom of your abdomen up to the base of your ribs, imagine that you are zipping your muscles up.
- Step 4: Hold this for ten seconds, and then release. Repeat this movement ten times.
You can also do this exercise while sitting down. It takes practice, but if you just keep doing it regularly, you can master it in no time. In that case, you may be able to do it even while walking, standing in line, or doing chores.
Imagine that you are about to be punched in the gut. What is your initial reaction? Stiffen and contract your abdominal muscles, right? This is what you call bracing.
Bracing targets both the superficial and deep muscles of the abdomen. It is also the thing that you do as you perform push ups, planks, and other similar exercises. This technique can be done anywhere, anytime, and helps make your core stronger and keep it that way.
Flexing Your Abdominal Muscles
So, we have gone over different ways to flex your abs. Now, here are the detailed instructions to properly practice the technique of contracting your abdominal muscles. Once you have mastered this technique, you can then incorporate it into your workout and other daily tasks.
- Step 1: Lie with your back on an exercise mat or on the floor.
- Step 2: Bend your knees upward and place your feet hip-distance apart with your soles flat on the floor.
- Step 3: Place your arms on your sides with your palms facing down.
- Step 4: Keep your lower back pressed onto the floor and your pelvis slightly lifted up.
- Step 5: Take a deep breath.
- Step 6: Release your breath as you slowly empty the air out of your abdomen. As you do so, draw your belly button toward your spine to fully contract your abdominal muscles.
- Step 7: Take another deep breath, filling your belly instead of your chest with as much air as you can, all the while keeping your abs contracted.
- Step 8: Repeat this for as many times as needed.
Note that this exercise involves an exaggerated breathing pattern. It requires you to breathe forcefully. However, breathing too forcefully can cause lightheadedness and nausea, which can be dangerous. So, try to take it easy at first while you get a hang of it.
Also, remember to keep your abs a little more relaxed as you exercise so your body can still move naturally. However, do not relax your abs completely.
What Flexing Really Does
Just to clarify, flexing your abs does not necessarily give you a perfectly toned, chiseled six-pack. Getting defined abs does not happen overnight and is not a one-step process. It involves a lot of time, discipline, proper diet, exercise, patience, and determination. Flexing is just a cherry on top.
Flexing the abs alone will not make you thinner, either. While some experts claim that ab flexing helps burn calories, no change is actually visible unless you reduce your overall body fat first through diet and exercise.
If you think that flexing the abs will lead you to mass gains, you are unfortunately mistaken again. Flexing works on the core muscles isometrically but still do not involve any muscle work, which makes muscle growth impossible.
Flexing your abs, however, is an excellent way to enhance muscle tone even for people who have a rather sedentary lifestyle. It also has fantastic benefits for those recovering from injury or surgery.
If your real goal is to get washboard abs, there is much work to do beyond just flexing your muscles. You have to first trim away excess body fat by eating a proper, balanced diet and exercising regularly.
Then, you have to do a lot of frequent core-strengthening exercises to build and strengthen your abdominal muscles. Flexing can enter the equation here. It helps target your deepest core muscles as well as condition your abs to look ripped.
There are many reasons why and many ways on how to flex your abs. Be it for exercises or photo shoots, and it is important to do it properly to avoid pain, reduce your risk of injury, and achieve the best results.
So, did you learn anything from this article? I hope you did! If you enjoyed reading this, you might also want to check out some product reviews for all your gym, health, and fitness needs!