A frequently touted myth concerning exercise is that doing so will adversely affect an individual’s height - an entirely unsubstantiated claim that has been further disproven by many clinical studies into the matter.
In actuality, height is a combination of many factors, and it is quite important for one to understand one very important fact: once the epiphyseal plates of the bones have sealed as a natural part of the aging process, no further vertical growth is possible.
Despite this, however, training the abs and other core musculature can in fact increase an individual’s height by way of improving their posture, bone density and several other biological pathways that lead to the exerciser standing taller - though, unless they are still growing, will not actually increase the total length of their body.
To begin investigating how abs workouts affect a person’s height, we must first delve into the basic anatomy of the skeletal muscle structures known as the “abs”.
The abs are in fact a number of different muscle groups that all work in tandem to stabilize and protect the body, with the ever popular “six-pack” in actuality being only the outer portion of the abdominal muscles - a muscle that is known as the rectus abdominis.
Deeper parts of the core reveal other portions of the abs muscles, such as the internal and external obliques that line the sides of the waist, and the transverse abdominis that is the deepest abs muscle and responsible for much of the thorax stabilization required to keep an individual upright.
When these muscles are healthy and recruited appropriately, one will achieve what is known as correct posture - a positioning of the entire body that holds in such a manner that the exerciser does not place excessive stress on any portion of the body, leading to a number of positive long-term effects.
However, the usage of proper posture also has one acute benefit that may be seen immediately; that of an increase in total height, however small.
Novice exercisers may be confused on what exactly an abs workout can involve - an important point, as many exercises do involve the abs without actually placing direct stimulus on such muscles.
A proper workout of the abs will usually involve direct dynamic contraction of the transverse and rectus abdominis, often taking the form of eccentric and concentric contraction in a wide range of motion while under a level of resistance derived from gravity, the exerciser’s own body weight or an external source of resistance like a dumbbell or exercise machine.
Certain abs exercises do not in fact involve dynamic muscular contraction of the abs, though.
Instead, these exercises contract the various muscle groups of the core in a static or isometric manner, forcing the abs muscles to hold their position while under significant tension in order to develop their strength, endurance capacity and size.
As can be inferred from these two descriptions, the majority of abs workouts involve abs isolation exercises - that is to say, movements that use the abs as the main source of force.
This does not include movements like the back squat, deadlift, bench press or push-up, as though these compound exercises do involve the abs, they do not directly stimulate them and as such result in only a comparatively minor level of development as an end result.
Abs workouts will usually involve a static contraction exercise alongside a dynamic one, such as bodyweight planks alongside decline crunches - with the intensity of such abs exercises varying on the sort of equipment available and the actual strength capacity of the exerciser themselves.
Apart from crunches and planks, other frequently seen exercises in modern abs workouts are hollow body exercises, leg raises that contract the lower portion of the abs and certain yoga poses that improve the flexibility and isometric endurance of the core.
Though abs workouts do make many individuals of all ages somewhat taller when performed properly and on a regular basis, they do not in fact increase the actual length of the exerciser’s bones for the most part - that is, unless the exerciser is still within the pubertal stage of their life.
During the teenage years of life, the human body reaches a point of accelerated growth and endocrinologically-driven height developments - all of which come to a slow stop as the individual exits puberty around the end of their teenage years.
This is primarily due to the closing of epiphyseal plates at the ends of the bones, of which signal that the bones of the exerciser have completed their growth (at the least in regards to total height), and that further growth in height is not likely after such an occurrence.
Abs workouts, much like any other form of exercise, can lead to improvements in bone length prior to such a point in an individual’s physical development, showing that; yes, abs workouts do affect raw height, especially in a positive manner - so long as the exerciser is still a teenager.
While this also means that you are unlikely to actually grow taller with abs workouts after puberty, this does not necessarily mean that you cannot appear taller with proper abdominal muscle training.
As was covered in the previous section, unless an individual is still within puberty, it is unlikely that their actual maximum height will increase from the performance of abs workouts.
However, several factors influenced by abdominal muscle exercises and general physical training can result in improvements in the relative height of the exerciser.
These can be such things as better postural adherence, improved bone density, and even certain internal biochemical changes brought on by regular exercise that can positively affect how an exerciser’s body works in regards to height.
A multitude of changes take place within an individual’s body as they perform physical activity on a regular basis, with many endocrinological changes such as the release of HGH or human growth hormone and improved cellular insulin sensitivity all being a direct result of regular and safe exercise.
In particular, it is the release of human growth hormone, IGF-1 or insulin growth factor and a reduction in cortisol that aids in the development of bone density and strong connective tissues - two factors that can aid in maximizing the height of an individual.
It should be noted that all sorts of exercise stimulate these internal bodily changes to a degree, and that it is not solely abs workouts that will result in such benefits, although they are just as capable as any other type of workout.
Just as was mentioned previously, the abs muscles play a significant role in ensuring proper posture.
This is because of the function and mechanics of each core muscle, wrapping around the thorax and spine and allowing the exerciser to remain upright through small isometric contractions that adjust for any sort of motion the body is making.
In particular, the internal obliques and transverse abdominis are contracted to a minor degree when an individual is standing completely erect, allowing them to reach their full height.
However, this is obviously not possible if such muscles are too weak to maintain that level of contraction for an extended period of time, requiring that proper abs exercises be performed in order to strengthen the muscles enough to support the body.
One other commonly touted myth related to abs workouts affecting height is that teenagers and children should entirely avoid any sort of exercise, with the reasoning usually being that such exercise at a younger age will adversely impact the child’s health.
This could not be further from the truth - abs exercises, alongside other kinds of workouts, will only improve the health and growth of a younger individual, so long as they are performed in a correct and safe manner.
In short - yes, teenagers and children should work out their abs, not only because it will likely aid in helping them achieve their maximum possible height, but also for the many other benefits exercise can offer.
A frequently overlooked factor that directly concerns height as a result of exercise is the psychological response to such activities; reductions in the stress hormone cortisol, greater self-perceived confidence and an improvement in mood-regulating brain chemicals can all lead to the exerciser standing taller.
Clinical research puts forward the idea that posture and self-evaluation are directly related, with poor self-esteem and confidence being in line with poor posture and the opposite being true as well.
As can be postulated from this, the various positive psychological and biochemical effects of exercise (whether abs-targeting or not) can lead to greater self-confidence and positive mood affect, thereby causing individuals to adhere to proper posture more, subsequently increasing their perceived height.
In summary; yes, abs workouts affect height. However, it is not in a negative way at all, and abs workouts will all but make you taller if performed correctly.
To end this article, we would like to stress that one should not solely be exercising for the purposes of achieving a greater height, regardless of whether it is only abs workouts or not.
Every individual should - at some level - be performing a proper workout routine that affects every muscle group in their body, as only training one muscle group can quickly lead to issues such as muscular imbalances and improper posture, which will make an individual appear shorter.
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