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Will keeping my belly "tucked in" or taut help strengthen my abdominal muscles? Are there any negative sides to doing this? I used to do this in high school but gave up doing it when I started working and the sedentary life kicked in.

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No. A muscle won't get stronger unless you make it do work: crunches, or keeping a tight core during a lift, for example. I suppose your abs do a bit of work if you just keep them tight, but they'll adapt to that really quickly and you won't see any extra strength or size come from it.

However, in the context of lifting (squats, deadlifts, pressing, cleaning), your abs will be doing a significant amount of stabilization work, and that will make them stronger. Here's a really good article by Mark Rippetoe on the subject of abs.

Also the tag of bellyfat suggests a link between the strength of your abdominal muscles and the amount of fat around your belly. There isn't any.

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How about keeping it taut as a practice? Should I just keep it hanging while I workout? –  Ron Jan 9 '12 at 3:00
    
Oh, you didn't say while working out. What exercise, specifically? –  user2567 Jan 9 '12 at 3:07
    
I started Starting Strength last night and was wondering if I needed to suck my belly in while doing the lifts. –  Ron Jan 9 '12 at 3:11
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@Ron While you're in a lift it is helpful to keep your core tight. I'm not sure that "sucking in" is quite the right wording for this, but certainly you want to keep it tight during your lifts. –  Greg Jan 9 '12 at 3:15
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Greg's right. You just want to keep your core tight. It should not feel like you're "sucking in" though. Think about getting ready to take a punch in the stomach. It should be that type of tightness. And in this case (once you get up to heavy weights), you will be working your core significantly during your lifts, so your abs will get stronger. –  user2567 Jan 9 '12 at 3:22
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I don't think anyone is giving you the answer you're looking for. If I understand this question correctly, you are asking about keeping your abs engaged or taut at ALL times. Yes this most definitely works! I started "holding in" my stomach in high school, and I always had ab definition without much effort. Lately, I've stopped and there is a huge difference. I am training myself to start doing it again. Keep your abs tight as if you were doing crunches. It is challenging at first, as you have to train yourself but eventually it becomes something you just do without thinking.

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