Upper Abs vs. Lower Abs
How many times have you heard someone say, “You’re working your upper abs when you do crunches?” It leads you to believe your “lower abs” are doing nothing during a crunch, right? It also sounds like you have two separate muscles. Well, that statement is a misnomer.
You don’t have “upper” or “lower” abdominal muscles. You have one long muscle called the rectus abdominis. It’s the same muscle that is nicknamed the “6-pack.” This muscle runs from your ribs to your pubic bone. Take a look at the picture. Locate the belly button. Do you see the dark lines just to the right and left of the belly button? That outlines the rectus abdominis muscle. Notice how the outline starts just below the pecs (chest muscles) and continues past the belly button into the crotch. (Sorry, but that’s how low this muscle goes!)
Now, lay on your back to prepare to feel for yourself the inaccuracy of the above statement. Place one hand behind your head and the other on your stomach, a couple inches below the belly button. Do a few crunches. Can you feel the rectus abdominis contracting under your hand?
When you do crunches, your entire muscle contracts. Similarly, when you do reverse crunches – typically to target the “lower abs” – the entire muscle contracts. Yes, the upper fibers will fatigue after several reps of crunches. But, know that the whole muscle was worked.
I’m being nit-picky about the usage of the phrase…I know. But, this phrase has led to misconceptions. Next time you hear it, realize what he really means is, “When you do crunches, you’re working your rectus abdominis completely, but you’ll feel it more in the upper portion.”