People are constantly looking for a way to get a noticeable "six-pack" or toned abs, and while many may be able to get some results through exercise and proper nutrition, the lower abs seem to be the most stubborn body part to train. Still, you may be able to eliminate the much-hated lower belly pooch with targeted movements.
The abs are made up of six different muscles. The main muscle you are thinking of when you refer to “abs” is the rectus abdominis. It runs along the front of your torso from your fifth to seventh rib in your lower chest to your pubis bone in your pelvis. When people refer to upper and lower abs, they are really referring to the upper and lower sections of the same muscle: the rectus abdominis. There is no such thing as a separate lower abdominal muscle.
Other Ab Muscles
You also have four other ab muscles in your core. The transverse abdominis runs horizontally across the front of your waist like a belt. It is a deep muscle that lies below the internal and external obliques. You have a set of internal and external obliques on both sides of your core. Each internal oblique starts at the side of your hip crest and connects in an upper diagonal direction near the upper portion of your rectus abdominis. Your external obliques, meanwhile, begin at ribs five and 12 in your upper chest and connect in a downward diagonal direction to your pelvis.
Movements to Tone Lower Abs
While there is no such thing as a lower ab muscle, there is some evidence that suggests that you can make movements that will place more emphasis on different parts of your rectus abdominis. When you perform exercises that bring your hips closer to the ribs, you will feel your lower abs activating more than your upper abs. Similarly, if you perform an exercise where you move your ribs closer to your hips, you will feel more activation in your upper abs.
The Captain's Chair
The Captain’s Chair is an exercise machine found in many gyms. A study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise found that the Captain’s Chair is the best exercise for strengthening the entire rectus abdominis muscle. When you perform abs exercises on this apparatus, you have to bring your hips closer to your ribs, thus engaging your lower abs. Stand in the Captain’s Chair with your forearms on the parallel pads. Hold the handles and press your back against the vertical pad. Contract your abs and slowly raise your knees to your chest. Pause for a brief second and slowly return your legs to the starting position.
Andrea Chrysanthou began writing professionally in 1993. Her work has been published internationally by "The Cyprus Mail," MochaSofa and My Favorite Trainer, among other magazines and websites. She holds a Bachelor of Applied Arts in journalism from Ryerson University. Chrysanthou is a certified fitness instructor and personal-training specialist with more than 10 years of experience in the fitness industry.