Last Updated on August 14, 2022 by TJ Daniels, Certified Personal Trainer
Many of us are looking to get into better shape. Whether it’s for hitting the beach or for personal health issues, it’s never too late to get fitter and healthier.
Thankfully, with consistency and commitment, there are many exercises you can perform to achieve whatever goal you have.
One exercise that is fantastic at targeting your obliques and ab muscles is the heel touch.
By learning how to do heel touches properly and safely, you can also activate the transverse abdominis, the deepest of the 6 ab muscles.
Heel touches, also known as alternating heel taps, are a signature isolation exercise. They can be effective for strengthening your ab muscles, such as your obliques.
Most people think about six-pack abs when someone mentions core training, but often forgotten are the benefits core exercises provide beyond the “good looks”.
Having a stronger core is very important as it can help your spine become more stable and improve your lower back to help avoid injury.
Because heel touches are an isolation exercise, it is not the best option if you’re looking to burn a high number of calories.
For that, you should add cardio-based ab movements. This will make your routine more challenging but you should see gains sooner.
Be consistent with heel touches, and a range of other ab exercises, and you will strengthen your core in a much quicker time.
Also, keep your workouts to 30 minutes or less so you have extra energy to do all the other things you have planned in your day!
And, document each exercise so you can work on a variety of muscles every day or so. The more muscles you train, the stronger and healthier you will be!
For today, we will be looking at how to perform heel touches.
So, if you want to target your abdominal muscles on the sides of your body, read on to incorporate this exercise into your workout routine.
What Are Heel Touches?
Heel touches focus on your oblique muscles, but are quite a versatile movement.
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced fitness enthusiast, heel touches can be implemented into any routine to help you strengthen your ab muscles and slim down your waistline.
Heel touches can be achieved through body weights or with additional resistance.
This, however, generally depends on how fit you are. Obviously, the more you train, the stronger you will become.
During the movement, you will be reaching to touch your heels. As you move between each heel and your core squeezes, your oblique muscles contract.
Therefore, every rep takes you one step closer to strengthening your core.
Heel touches are a fantastic exercise to perform, even as you get older. Balance and stability become more important than ever as it grows weaker over time.
By doing heel touches frequently, you can improve your balance, stability, and core strength so everyday tasks can become easier.
How To Perform Heel Touches
Technique is critically important with whatever exercise you do. To achieve your goals and the best results possible, you need to perform the exercise correctly.
So, with this in mind, let’s take a look at how to perform heel touches effectively and safely.
- Begin by lying on your back. Your feet need to be apart and flat on the ground. Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle with your arms extended flat at your sides. Your fingers should be pointing toward the floor.
- Now, slowly lift your head to move or crunch forward toward your core/torso. Try to pull your belly button inwards and toward your spine. In this position, make sure you do not tuck your chin into your chest. Your neck should be in a relaxed, neutral position with your eyes looking at the ceiling.
- With one hand at a time, reach to your heels with a wide bend movement or a swivel.
- Repeat this by alternating between each heel and squeezing your oblique muscles. For every tap you make, exhale through your mouth. This will give you more energy as you continue.
- Make sure that every rep is controlled and slow. Start with around 12 to 15 reps per side and repeat this for 3 to 4 sets.
When performing heel touches, you must pay close attention to your body. If you start to feel any sort of discomfort or pain, stop exercising immediately.
If the pain continues, consult medical help.
Muscles Used In Heel Touches
A range of muscles on the side and front of the obliques are targeted through heel touches.
As your head and shoulders lift from the ground, the transverse abdominal muscles (TVA) are engaged.
Your six-pack muscles, known as your rectus abdominis, stay in a contracted, static position throughout heel touches, helping to strengthen your abs.
Also, your hip flexors can become more flexible when doing this exercise, too.
The main muscles used in heel touches are:
- Rectus abdominis
- Transverse abdominis
- Internal obliques
- External obliques
- Hip flexors
Your rectus abdominis is a lengthy muscle found on the front of the ab wall. Better known as the ‘six-pack,’ this muscle sits in the middle of your core.
If you have layers of fat, you will not see these muscles, which is why diet, cardio, and consistency are key to gaining ‘six-pack abs’.
The primary function of the rectus abdominis is to provide frontal flexion to your pelvis.
Sit-ups and crunches are also great at targeting this muscle, as well as static holds, like in heel touches.
Transverse Abdominis (TVA)
Your transverse abdominis is a very deep layer of muscle, situated behind your rectus abdominis. This is found on the walls of your abdomen.
These muscles are responsible for holding and supporting your organs and helping stabilize your spine. Without these muscles, any limb movement is almost impossible.
The internal obliques are found on the lateral side of your rectus abdominis.
Although thin, it makes up a whole layer of your abdominal wall and they typically work at all times.
Its functions include helping you flex and bend your torso during all kinds of movements.
The internal obliques also work simultaneously with the external obliques when you elongate your trunk. For instance, when you do a back-bend stretch.
Larger than your internal obliques, your external obliques are located to the sides of your rectus abdominis as well as on the front.
Without these muscles, you couldn’t twist or torso in any way.
If you twist your torso during a Russian Twist, your left side internal oblique will contract simultaneously with your external oblique on your right side.
The hip flexors are a group of multiple muscles that help you lift your legs and torso together.
When you bend your knees and drive them in, or bend at the waist to meet your knees, it is your hip flexors that are helping you do so.
Implementing heel touches into your workout routine can help strengthen your obliques and core muscles.
As you can see from our guide above, performing this exercise is pretty easy.
As with any exercise, though, you need to be consistent. If you are, expect to see and feel results soon!