Generally toning exercises are recommended every other day, with a recovery day in between. Your ab muscles are striated, skeletal muscles just like most muscles use during a workout. These muscles need a recovery period to reduce microtrauma.
Whenever you work any muscle, you subject it to microtrauma. Microtrauma is simply the tearing of the muscle fibers, which leads to inflammation and soreness. As such, depending on the intensity of your workout, those particular muscles worked during a strength training session need anywhere from one to three days to recover in-between workouts. If you train your entire core every day, you run the risk of injury due to overuse. There is one exception to the rule – neuromuscular training. This type of training isn’t loading the muscles, but simply educating your body to make the muscles work consistently for the best performance. In short, teaching your brain to talk to your muscles and create healthy movement patterns.
Yes and no. Certain ab exercises that recruit your transverse abdominis (TA) are crucial to the functionality of your core, so you can do these more often. They are crucial to your posture. Every time you take a step, climb a stair, reach overhead, cough or laugh so hard you cry, these lovely little muscles are kicking in. The problem is that we are not taught how to correctly and selectively strengthen the TA. We can do this through neuromuscular training.
Because the TA is known as the corset muscle, it is one we want to focus on to get those pre-mommy tummies back. We need to train all four of our abdominal muscles (TA, rectus abdominis, internal and external oblique), but the TA is essential for getting a flatter tummy and kicking the “bread loaf” or doming often seen postpartum or in people with diastasis recti.
Doing the following four TA exercises will not create microtrauma. Perform each exercise for 40 – 50 seconds — not until fatigue or failure. The purpose is to create a connection between your brain and core musculature to get your deepest ab muscles firing correctly. You can read all about this in our free Ab Rehab Guide.
Begin lying on your back with your knees bent, feet resting on the floor. On the exhale, tighten your abdominals, drawing your belly button in towards your spine. Your pelvis should not tilt. Hold this position, as you switch your arms overhead. Repeat.
BENT KNEE FALL OUTS
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet resting flat on the floor. Tighten your abdominals. Without letting your hip bones move, slowly lower one knee out towards the floor — only as far as you can without your pelvis moving. Slowly return to starting position. Alternate with other leg. Do not let your pelvis move.
DEAD BUG SWITCH
Begin lying on your back with legs bent. Lift your legs and arms off the ground, keeping your knees bent. Keep your spine neutral, core braced. Lower one arm to the ground and lower your opposite leg at the same time. Repeat with your opposite arm and leg. Continue to alternate. Maintain your low back on the floor and keep abdominals drawn down towards your spine. If you cannot maintain lower back, start by alternating arms. As you become stronger, alternate legs only. Then progress to opposite arm and leg.
QUADRUPED TA BRACING
Begin on all fours. Let your stomach relax down towards the ground, keeping your spine in neutral. As you exhale, tighten your abdominals by drawing your belly button up towards your spine and away from the floor. Hold this position without moving the pelvis. With every breath, tighten the TA.
We cannot target one area while ignoring the other areas — our bodies are one complete system and need a comprehensive approach including cardio, strength and flexibility. In Core Challenge, we cue the deep TA muscles in every full body workout. We take traditional exercises like the chest press and reverse lunge and add ab activation, so everything you do engages your core. Try Core Challenge in the Moms Into Fitness Studio.