With gyms closed in many areas and the cold weather forcing Canadians indoors, wouldn’t it be great if there were an easy fitness hack to build muscle while we wait for the warm weather to return? Unfortunately, the #japaneseabsworkout popularized on TikTok isn’t the answer.
Proponents are rolling up a towel and then placing it under their lower back as they lie on the floor, arms extended up over the head with pinky fingers touching and palms on the floor. Legs are hip-width apart, feet gently turned in so the big toes are touching. The claim is that by lying in this position for five minutes a day for 10 days, you will develop a flat, toned stomach.
Cassey Ho, a certified personal trainer and founder of Blogliates, pushed back on this trend, saying she is “so sick of fake fitness information going viral on Instagram and TikTok.”
Ho claims that the trend was started by Toshiki Fukutsudzi, a Japanese reflexology and massage specialist.
In a video posted to YouTube in 2015, Fukutsudzi shows how to fold up a towel and place it behind your navel while lying down, however, this method seems to be intended as a treatment for lower back pain. Later on, Fukutsudzi also claims that that this movement could help with weight loss, according to Health.com. At one point in the video women measure their waists and height before lying down on a rolled up towel.
It’s difficult to verify if Fukutsudzi was the first person to make these claims, however, years later the trend is going strong.
The claim is that this stretch will correct the placement of your pelvis, although how this is connected to weight loss or muscle development is unclear.
What does it take to get abs of steel?
While the ripples of a six-pack seem to have given way to images of sleek tummies and prominent obliques in fitness magazines, there are still multitudes of people aiming for that physique.
Development of a six-pack relies on the muscle that extends from the sternum to pubic bone, called the rectus abdominis. Tendons stretch over the rectus abdominis, creating a series of ridges and valleys that form the bumps that make up washboard abs.
Developing a six-pack is far easier for some than it is for others. Individuals who have naturally bulkier muscles or more “fast twitch” muscle fibres may find it easier to see the characteristics of a six-pack, whereas those genetically predisposed to developing “slow twitch” muscle fibres might have more trouble, Melody Scharff, a certified personal trainer in New York City, told Everyday Health.
Being able to see your ab muscles also relies on developing a crazy-low body fat percentage, since fat stored in and around the abdomen can cover up the ripple of muscle. Exactly what percentage you need to get down to depends on the individual, where fat is stored and the natural prominence of their abs.
Before embarking on a quest to lower your body fat percentage for visible abs, it’s important to speak to a registered healthcare professional. Get your body fat too-low and you run the risk of increased injuries, constantly feeling tired and developing heart concerns or osteoporosis. Females may begin missing periods (amenorrhea), while a male’s testosterone levels may drop.
Not having visible abs doesn’t mean someone is unfit or weak. Better indicators of health include heart and breathing rates, cardiovascular fitness and overall strength.
For these reasons, many bodybuilders — whose jobs rely on showing every muscle they have — will only aim to lower their body fat percentage just before a competition, and then will increase their body fat back to a healthy metric as soon as possible.
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