Just about every bodybuilder and fitness enthusiast wants to build a ripped six-pack set of abs because it looks so darn good as the centerpiece of a muscular body. But beyond pure vanity, having a strong midsection is absolutely critical to maintaining proper health and creating your best possible physique.
Here are three reasons you NEED strong abs to build your best body.
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Spine and Abdomen Protection
When you want to get bigger, you must lift heavy weights. And any time you start slogging the big iron, your chance of injury increases dramatically.
For major exercises like squats, deadlifts, bent rows, and overhead presses, much of that injury risk involves the delicate areas of your abdomen and spine. This is true because of a build-up of tremendous intra-abdominal force as you strain against the weight, the tendency to round your back, and the direct loading of your spine with hundreds of pounds of iron.
You need strong abs to keep your midsection tight as you squat deep or push a barbell overhead. Weak abs in these positions make you vulnerable to abdominal ruptures, which could keep you out of the gym for months.
Similarly, strong abs work in conjunction with your spinal erectors and other core muscles to keep your spine in proper alignment when performing these big moves. Any weakness could lead to rounding your back with monster poundages, which could have disastrous results and keep you out of the gym for years.
When your abs are strong and capable of keeping you safe during lifts, you will have more confidence to attack big weights than if you’re walking around with a weak, flabby midsection. It’s a mutually-reinforcing relationship, too, because the more weight you use in good form over time, the stronger your abs will become.
In some cases, abs play a direct role in helping you lift, as in the Nautilus pullover. While this will never be considered a basic, compound move, it does involve your lats, the largest muscles in your upper body. To get the most out of machine pullovers, you need to stretch your lats and abs at full extension and then contract them both hard at the end of the movement. Strong abs help you move more weight and grow bigger and stronger.
As mentioned above, abs help counter the intra-abdominal pressure that builds during hard physical work, but ab contractions also help you create pressure in your abdomen. This keep your organs and rib cage in their proper places.
Strong, healthy abs also work as antagonists to your back muscles. The balance of the two keep your spine aligned the way it should be and helps you sit and stand tall, improving both oxygen flow and confidence. If you have weak abs and strong erectors or lats, your spine will tend to curve backwards over time and leave you with back pain and muscle spasms.
Far beyond being just a show muscle, abs are vital to your well-being and progress in the gym. Train them hard and make them as strong as possible if you want to build your best physique.