This was the very first muscle ‘trouble spot’ that motivated me towards developing feature focused workouts or any of my specialty workouts for that matter. You might say that it was because of what you read below that led to the creation of the entire PhysicalBLUE website in the first place. The trouble spot that I am referring to is the “V” muscle, though that is hardly the correct scientific terminology, this name references the bottom of your core where your muscles taper off down towards your groin.
Initial thoughts about identifying the “V” Muscle
What intrigued me more than anything about the V muscle was how little the general public seemed to know about it. When I went and asked people about it or searched online, you could not imagine a more disorganized discussion. There seemed to be (and still is as I write this) a large misunderstanding about what this muscle even is! Even more disturbing was the fact that it comes from some very promising sources and from very established websites and/or magazines. I dug more and started to theorize for myself what these tapering lower abdominal muscles actually consisted of and then put my theories to the test. Here are my findings.
What is the V-muscle, anatomically speaking?
Oddly enough, there is a load of misconception here. People that write articles all over the web on how to develop the muscle sometimes fail to be completely accurate about what muscle you are actually working out. To be fair, and not entirely surprisingly, some of these have the correct workouts to build up the V-muscle but they don’t actually explain correctly what muscle it is. So let me clear it up once and for all. When people talk about the V-muscle they are talking about that diagonal muscle line right around your hip that forms between your legs and your torso and leads towards your crotch. Together with the right and left side the two diagonal lines form a ‘V’ shape, hence the name. A lot of time, most people call it your ‘lower abdominal’ and leave it at that, others will be a little more specific and point out that it is actually the ‘lower end of your external oblique muscles’. Well the truth is that neither of them are entirely right and neither of them are entirely wrong, here’s why:
Unlike several other muscles we work on our body, the muscles in our core are designed for more than just x-axis and y-axis movement, it also includes most of the z-axis. What that means is that your core supports the movement of your torso in every which way, left, right, up, down, rotation; everything. This is different from a muscle group like, say, your biceps (yes it is a muscle group), which is responsible for simply lifting your forearm. But I am sure you should already know this about your core… the point I am trying to make is that in order for the human body to support this kind of movement, the bio-mechanical structure of our core muscles is quite intricate involving several directions of contraction and levels of muscle. In a nutshell, our core is made of multiple layers of muscle and tendons. And the “V-muscle” is the accumulation of several layers of different muscles, so in order to build a bigger or more visible V muscle, you need to develop either your weakest layer or better yet, all of them. Now, when you see someone with a prominent pelvic muscle and you see that ‘V’ shape popping out like a raised platform, you are actually seeing a very well developed set of core muscles (generally tied in with a low body fat, of course) and each layer of muscle pushes the layer above it so that it is ‘raised’ and has that visually enhanced (read: sexy) look.
This will get a bit complex so let me give you a brief overview of what I am about to cover in order to develop these muscles:
- Direct muscles – These are going the be the actual muscles that make up the V muscle. You will have to inevitably develop these muscles to give you a strong looking v-muscle.
- Indirect muscles – Some muscle groups need to also be developed in order to indirectly assist the visual impact of your ‘V’. These include your abs, erectors, and quads.
- Other Dependent Variables – This covers all other factors that contribute to building up a visual V muscle, including the obvious fat loss but also simple and overlooked things like posture, flexing, and clothing.
The specific anatomical structure of the V muscle
The direct muscles consist of three muscle groups. As I explained above, there are multiple layers that make up the V-muscle, these are the three:
- The Transverse Abdominal (Tranversus Abdominis) – The innermost layer, this muscle is a large, thin sheath that wraps around your belly between your rip cage and your hip.
- Internal Obliques (Obliquus Internus Abdominis) – The middle layer, this is a thicker version of the transverse abdominals underneath except that they pull in a different direction.
- External Obliques (Obliquus Externus Abdominis) – The topmost layer, these are the more visible rippled muscles (we hope!) on either side of our abdominals.
Do not worry about the terminology if it comes as complex to you, what you really need to know is that the “V-muscle” is actually a combination of three layers of muscle groups that each contract in their own direction. Contracting in their own direction means that in order to work them, you need to be doing multiple direction workouts (like compound movements).
To visualize this better: the below images depict the same spot on the human body.
* – However, it is worth noting that generally these muscle groups have different ‘thicknesses’ and that working your External Obliques are going to produce more results than working your Internal Obliques which are going to produce more results than working your Transverse Abdominal. All of which, I will tell you how to do later in this article.
Other factors that enhance the V muscle
Some other muscles can also contribute to the visual impact of your v-muscle, though technically there are several indirect muscles, I am going to just label the major ones:
- Abdominal (Rectus Abdominis) – Your abs contribute because the more developed they are, they increase in density and size which takes up more space; when they push outward towards your obliques, it can essentially push the muscles over and create a bulging effect which enhances that ‘V’ look.
- Erectors (Erector Spinæ or Extensor Spinæ) – These are the muscles that line your spine in your lower back. Depending on the individual, erectors can also have the same effect as developing your abs, but the real reason I list them here is because developing your lower back can correct posture associated with a more prominent V muscle and also helps to make it more visible by tightening your core (and the skin in the front).
- Quadriceps (Quadriceps Femoris) - Your front upper leg muscles, the quads, are important here because you need to have healthy upper legs in order to tone up your hip area, where the V muscle is. I am mainly concerned with the uppermost quads where the muscle ties down to the top of your hip or pelvis (called the crest of ilium).
I am not going to give you specific workouts for the above since they are pretty straight forward but you need to know that these three muscles need to also get significant work in, do squats, and variations thereof, along with core workouts to tone these areas up.
Lastly, we are going to go over the other dependent variables that are needed to get a stronger or more visible v-muscle. When lawyers write up a contract or a legal document, they often will list what are called ‘recitals’ at the top of the document, recitals refer to basic assumptions or ‘givens’ about the situation. I like to refer to these ‘other dependent variables’ of the V muscle as recitals too, they are the basics that perhaps you missed along the way, so for thoroughness’ sake, here they are:
- You must be of a reasonable fat percentage – Though you don’t have to have extremely thin (I first built up my V muscle with close to 15 pounds of excess fat), you do have to be within reasonable shape.
- Lower your waistline – This just means that you need to wear your pants or shorts lower, the V muscle tapers all the way down to your privates and if you wear your clothes too high up on your waistline, they won’t be visible anyway.
- Correct your posture – This may not apply to you but in order to expose the V muscle your pelvis needs to be properly pushed out with a strong and straight lower back. Making sure your posture is correct and your hip bone is in line will force out the overlying layers of muscle.
- Learn how to flex your V-muscle – All those models you see with these chiseled and prominent V muscles? They are flexing. You need to stand in front of a mirror and teach yourself what does what – learn how to flex it and you’ll see for yourself the change in your V. (Make sure you have appropriate lighting or else you may see no change at all)
As of right now, I have told you virtually everything you need to know in order to google up some exercise solutions to build up your V-muscle but I also have some exercises that I found that were extremely targeted and helpful for me.
I found these exercises through a very tedious process of guess and checking where I would go to the gym and do a superset of one single exercise and then see what was sore the next day. Once I got closer to finding the exercises that targeted my V muscles, I started honing them by modifications in stances and increased targeting.
Here are the exercises:
Standing Side Lifts [images coming soon...]
You might have done these before but there is a modification to the normal workout. Grab one heavy dumbbell (or weight plate with a handle) with your right hand and stand completely upright with your hands at your side and your feet together (modification 1), your spine should be straight and your shoulders square. Now, instead of letting your left hand hang freely, place it in full contact with your leg and do not remove contact at all during the movement (modification 2). To perform a repetition: while keeping your eyes faced forward and your spine as straight as possible, slowly lean towards your right so that the hand holding the weight is lowered as far as you can go, then go reverse and lean to your left as far as you can go – your left hand should remain in contact with your body at all times and you should be reaching down and trying your best to get as far as possible. That is 1 repetition, after completing a set with weight in your right hand, repeat with your left.
Standing Posterior Side Lifts [images coming soon...]
This is exactly the same as standing side lifts but with a twist; when you dip your weighted hand to the side, dip it at an angle behind you. So instead of lowering the weight directly to your right side, your torso should be twisted about your waist so that your weighted hand is now being lowered parallel to the back of your leg. If you are doing this for the first time, please make sure you don’t hurt yourself, use a lighter weight until you are comfortable with the movement. 1 repetition is one dip, then repeat with the opposite side.
Standing Anterior Side Lifts [images coming soon...]
Also the same as standing side lifts and standing anterior side lifts except that now you are lowering the weight slightly angled in front of you so that it is running parallel to the front of your leg. 1 repetition is one dip, then repeat with the opposite side.
Straight Arm Planks [images coming soon...]
Assume a pushup position with your arms extended fully (straight), then slide your feet back a few inches and hold the position for a period of time. The further you slide your feet back, the greater the angle of your arms and the floor and the more difficult the workout becomes. Hold the static position for 30 to 60 seconds.
Straight Arm Side Planks [images coming soon...]
Same as straight arm planks except that you are isolating one side of your core. Place one hand on the floor and extend your arm, your other hand right above your hip bone (the placement is important as it increases the weight your core has to support). Your torso should run perpendicular to the ground. Hold the static position for 30 to 60 seconds then repeat with the opposite side.
Seated Dumbbell Crunch [images coming soon...]
Grab a dumbbell and take a seat on a workout bench. Pick the dumbbell up between your feet and lift it up. Place your hands on either side of your butt on the workout bench for support and extend your feet outward by extending your legs. You will have to lean back your torso in order to balance the weight, just make sure your back is in good posture throughout the movement. After extending, contract and pull the weight back towards your core. That is 1 repetition.
Side Leg Raises [images coming soon...]
Stand upright behind a chair (or other support) and rest both hands against the top of the chair back for support. While still facing forward and keeping your right leg as straight as possible, slowly raise your left leg sideways into the air. You should feel the contraction in your left core muscles, the better you are at stabilizing the movement, the more targeted this exercise will become for your core. Repeat with the right leg, that is 1 repetition.
Two-Handed Cable Axe Chops [images coming soon...]
Using a cable cross-over machine, assign the pulley to the highest position and attach the two-hand rope. Stand perpendicular to the machine with your feet far apart (twice shoulder-width) so that your right side is closest to the machine. Grab the rope with two hands and, as if you were chopping would with an axe, pull it over your right shoulder down towards your left outstretched foot then return to starting position. That is 1 repetition, finish the set and repeat with your other side.
* – The images in this post are part of the public domain as provided by the Wikimedia commons.