Sucking In vs. Engaging Your Abs

           Why do fitness professionals tell people to engage their abs? Don’t a lot of people hold their stomachs in anyway so that we look thinner or more toned? Well, the answer to that second question is yes. And to answer the first question, it’s going to take a little more explanation.

           There is a major difference between “sucking in” your stomach and actually engaging your abdominal muscles. Both can be done at the same time, but it’s important to understand each one thoroughly. When people pull their stomachs in, it’s usually an attempt to look more trimmer and it is a much simpler process. However, if a trainer ever tells you to contract your abs while doing an exercise, they want you to physically contract the muscles of the abdomen so that it will stabilize the body.

           In order to do this, you must direct all of your remaining mental focus—whatever energy is not already focused on performing the specific exercise—to tightening your abs. This technique is also known as “bracing”. The best way I can describe it is to tell you to imagine that you are about to get punched in the stomach and flex those muscles so that it would hurt the other person’s fist more than it would hurt you. Is this technique easy to do? Not at first, no. But once you have mastered it, you can lift heavier weights, improve your exercise form (whether it is for an upper body, lower body, or abdominal exercise), and build immense strength endurance for your abs.

           Happy flexing everybody!

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