Six-packs don't mean you're fit: how vanity muscles make fitness blindspots
Do six packs equal strength?
The short answer? Not necessarily.
Many people, both in and out of the fitness industry, hold misconceptions about visible muscles, especially when it comes to the widely coveted six pack (rectus abdominis).
But your core is more than just your abs.
Your core is made up of a few large muscles. It includes the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, lumbar paraspinals, internal and external obliques, and some other secondary muscles which all help stabilize the spine during movement and exercise. These muscles act as a natural weight belt, retaining organs and stabilizing the spine and rib cage. They’re utilized through countless activities, from seemingly simple tasks like walking and carrying groceries to more difficult ones like weight training. Next time you walk, place your hand on your core and feel it flex as you walk.
The perils of targeting only your abs: the muscles left behind
Too often, core training isn’t diverse. Focusing exclusively on vanity muscles leaves countless people doing endless crunches and straight leg in frantic beach season prep, but they’re only hitting a small percentage of their core muscles.
The Physical Harms
This training philosophy leads to muscle imbalances and, in some cases, injury. What’s worse is that, because they present as such a “fit” person, they often have blind spots for assessing their long-term health. Those who only training only their visible abs often face chronic lower back pain. But why?
Core muscles are extremely important in maintaining proper posture. Sure, hours at gym is great, but long term life style habits are vital and that requires endurance. A healthy lifestyle is more than protein shakes and “massive gains.” A healthy lifestyle includes how you’re sitting even now as you read this article. Long term slouching which is far more common in those who’s core isn’t fully developed and is one of the biggest predictors of chronic back problems.
The Mental Harms
Outside of potential chronic pain and soreness, society’s obsession with lean, toned muscles, and that ‘perfect’ physique isn’t necessarily correlated with health. EnFuse believes that bodies of every size and shape should be celebrated, loved, and cherished. People’s worth isn’t determined by the number on the scale. And I know, how can a fitness studio say that?
EnFuse is for people who know that every version of themselves is equally valuable, but also recognizes that some of these versions may not be fully able to do all that they want to do.
EnFuse safeguards your quality of life. We don’t care about how you look, we care about how you feel.
Never miss a moment
Your body should be an ally, not an enemy. Enfuse helps you reclaim and safeguard your autonomy
When it comes to societal optics of ‘health,’ things like “healthy weights” aren’t universal. Often, diet culture is a net harm with short-term, unsustainable results.
We believe everyone should have as much autonomy over their life as possible. We’ve had clients come in because their back hurts or because they can’t keep up with their kids. Sometimes chronic pain prevents them from sleeping or they can no longer work comfortably at their job. Don’t miss moments and don’t be in pain.
We want to mitigate, prevent, and treat chronic pain and limited mobility while building strength. If your body is preventing you from enjoying life to the fullest, then we’ll help you make your body an ally.
Here’s some readings on the body positive movement and ESPN’s nude photoshoots that shows the a wide range on what fit bodies can look like, from Vince Wilfork to Claressa Shields.
So you want more than vanity muscles. Now what?
Diversifying your core workout:
We can help diversify your workout. Here’s a few workouts that hit a wide range of core muscles:
Crunches (primary focus on upper abdominals)
Toe Touches (primary focus on upper abdominals)
Reverse Crunches (primary focus on lower abdominals)
Flutter Kicks (primary focus on lower abdominals)
Plank (general core stability)
Side Plank (general core stability with an emphasis the obliques)
Bridge (glutes and isometric contraction in your abdominals)
Core exercises should be included in everyone’s workout, regardless of their training goal. These muscles can help prevent injury and allow for safer lifting mechanics. These exercises, along with numerous other core strengthening exercises, can vary in repetition or duration. It is important to maintain proper form while doing all of these exercises in order to hit the targeted muscles. Our highly trained staff can help make sure that you’re doing each one right.
Granacher U, Gollhofer A, Hortobágyi T, Kressig RW, Muehlbauer T. The Importance of Trunk Muscle Strength for Balance, Functional Performance, and Fall Prevention in Seniors: A Systematic Review. Sports Medicine. 2013;43(7):627-641. doi:10.1007/s40279-013-0041-1.
Kibler WB, Press J, Sciascia A. The Role of Core Stability in Athletic Function. Sports Medicine. 2006;36(3):189-198. doi:10.2165/00007256-200636030-00001.