The Best Type of Ab Exercises for Your Goals
You might not know it, but your core is at work during your entire P.volve workout. Whether doing dynamic movements or more targeted work, your entire core—the ab muscles, pelvic floor, diaphragm and back—must be engaged for best results.
The launch of our newest class type, Mat Definition, has proved just how many ways we can target this area. And with that, the need to understand the benefits of each so you can incorporate both into your routine.
Below, trainer Vilma explains more about mat abs (which you can find in two new Mat Definition programs on demand) and trainer Maeve dives into all things standing abs (which you can experience in Arms & Core Sculpt, now on demand.) Read on to discover why you can’t have one without the other!
Why is the core so important to the P.volve method?
VILMA: All of our core muscles groups are located at the center of our bodies and so we can say that the core is the fulcrum of all of our movements. Having an understanding on how to work from a strong, stable core is essential to help keep us from injury while teaching us how to get the best out of every movement when moving dynamically.
MAEVE: The P.volve method is rooted in functional fitness, meaning we work through exercises that mimic everyday movements for total-body strength and better alignment patterns that impact your everyday life. The core is made up of the muscles of your abdominals, back, pelvic floor and diaphragm and by strengthening these muscles, you will enhance your posture, spinal alignment, balance and stability. Along with aesthetics, core strength translates into efficiency for everyday tasks such as cleaning your house, playing with your kids or maintaining your balance on an icy sidewalk!
What is the benefit of mat abs?
VILMA: Mat ab work helps activate and strengthen the abdominals, which are one of the muscle groups belonging to the core system. These moves are great for learning form and technique while offering the ground’s stable surface as feedback. Mat abdominal work will also teach us how to use our abdominal muscles while coming out of any laying down position such as getting out of bed in the morning or rolling up off our couch so we can keep ourselves from injury though basic day to day movements.
What is the benefit of doing standing abs?
MAEVE: There are so many! Standing abdominal exercises target not just your core, but your entire body. The upright position forces the entire neuromuscular system to work together to maintain proper posture and stability throughout the movements. Standing abs also work heavily on lengthening the abdominals and the standing side hip and quad which will help counter the common position of sitting in a chair all day.
What is the real difference between mat and standing abs, and should you do both?
VILMA: Mat and standing abdominal work are beneficial but in different ways. Your core is a whole system of different muscle groups that work in unison to help you stabilize and control just about all of your movements. If you want to build solid core strength you need to make sure you're working all the muscle groups that form part of your core so you can learn how to properly stabilize from a strong center. Your abs/abdominal muscles are one of the muscle groups that form part of your core. There are exactly 5 muscles that are part of the abdominals which we do not want to ignore.
Just like every muscle group, the abdominal muscles are layered. Some of these layers are much deeper than others. In order to target all five layers of the abdominal muscles effectively, you need to do ab mat work. Standing work targets the core as a whole but is more indirect ab work whereas laying down mat work is more direct and allows us to isolate the abdominals, offering a new level of strength and definition.
The Mat Definition workouts will work your abdominal muscles dynamically using all of the varying forms of contraction listed above to help you achieve a new level of strength and definition thus making your standing work much more effective.
MAEVE: I absolutely recommend doing both! Standing abdominal exercises are more functional, meaning that they mimic everyday movements more similarly than mat exercises. Mat exercises are more isolated and focus more on the outermost layer of the abdominal muscles.
Additionally, when we perform standing abs at P.volve, we include more extension and rotation which works the abdominals through their entire range of motion to create mobility and integrated strength that we all need when doing everyday activities like reaching, pulling, picking up their kids and everything in between.
Is one method better depending on your goals?
VILMA: Both, standing and mat ab work are great but from my experience; mat ab work will give more definition. They’re both important for the core as a whole and work synergistically.
MAEVE: I recommend doing both no matter what your goals are. It may be easier while starting out to "feel" your core in mat exercises, but once you become more in tune with your body, you will be able to translate this same activation into standing movement patterns. Standing abs also focus heavily on stretching your standing side hip/quad, which may lessen tension in your hip flexors and improve your pelvis alignment in mat exercises.
Which should I choose if I have mobility limitations?
MAEVE: There are modifications for both! On the mat you can keep your head down or place your hands underneath your sacrum for lower back support. For standing abs, try holding onto a chair for stability support.
Ready to get moving? Get started with the 6-Day Core Foundation and 8-Day Core for total mat work, and the Arms & Core Sculpt to see more standing ab moves. Ready to get moving now? Try our 10 minute ab workout.