Perform Olympic lifts for stronger, more cut abdominal muscles. New research published in the journal Physical Therapy in Sport found that competitive female weightlifters have significantly stronger internal and external oblique muscles than a recreationally active control group. Last week I provided evidence that supports training the whole body rather than doing “ab” exercises for the strongest, tightest abs—a recommendation that is ideal for the less athletic or more novice training population. But, for athletes and more advanced lifters, the clean and snatch will pack a powerful hypertrophic punch to the lateral abdominals.
In this study, elite Thai weightlifters were found to have significantly thicker internal and external obliques and transverse abdominis muscles than the control group. Internal obliques were the thickest, followed by external, and then transverse abdominis, with the relationship between them representing structural balance of the lateral abdominal musculature.
It’s no big surprise to anyone who has done heavy Olympic lifting that it builds the abdominals. And researchers point to the strenuous overload of fast-twitch abdominal fibers required from the snatch and clean and jerk as the reason for greater size and strength in the subjects’ lateral abdominals. Additionally, they point to the role of the internal oblique as part of the muscular system that transfers the load between the pelvis and thorax, as well as the stress of repeated rapid lifts required from the snatch and clean.
Transverse abdominis strength and size is further developed through the stabilization required in the catch portion of the snatch and clean, and because of intra-abdominal pressure that is commonly increased in weightlifters versus recreational trainees. Clearly, Olympic lifts are an excellent addition to your “ab” program if you are trying to get stronger and more powerful. Novice trainees will benefit from re-reading my tip on abdominal training from last week, Train Your Whole Body for the Best Abs: Forget the “Abs” Exercises
Sitilertpisan, P., Pirunsan, U., Puangmali, A., Ratanapinunchai, J., et al. Comparison of Lateral Abdominal Muscle Thickness Between Weightlifters and Matched Controls. Physical Therapy in Sport. March 2011. Published Ahead of Print.