Abdominal Exercises on the Floor
By Mary Ann Wilson, RN
According to one survey, both men and women are more concerned about the shape of their midsections than any other part of their body. Everyone wants a trim waistline and flat tummy. Most people are motivated to do abdominal exercises because they don’t want a flat tummy. What they don’t realize is that strong abdominal muscles support the back. They are also important in everyday activities, such as walking and sitting; even breathing and good posture depend on the abdominals.
Whether you want to begin exercising your abdominals to look good, to have a healthy back, or to function better in activities of daily life, it’s important to know how to get started. Proper technique as you’re doing abdominal exercises is very important.
The body comes equipped with a wonderful built-in girdle that supports the internal organs and back. That’s why it is so important to keep it in tip-toe shape. Most people think of the abdominal muscles as one big muscle…but in reality, four different layers of muscles make up the abdominal muscle group. The deepest layer is the transverse muscles followed by the rectus abdominus and finally the internal and external oblique muscles. That’s important to know if you want to get the most out of your abdominal workout. Their location and the direction of the muscle fibers dictate the best way to exercise each set of muscles for optimum results.
The deepest set of muscles, called the transverse, run across the front of the abdomen. We exercise them every time we draw the abdominal contents back toward the spine.
Pelvic Tilt, Knees Bent
- Begin by lying on your back, on the floor. A small pillow or pad underneath the head may be used for comfort. (I like this position because it takes the stress off your back, helps maintain the pelvic tilt, and isolates the abdominal muscles by keeping the hip flexors out of action).
- Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.
- Due to the natural inward curve of your lower back, there may be a space between your back and the floor. Gently press your lower back toward the floor and eliminate the space.
- Relax the buttocks and leg muscles to insure that the abdominal muscles are performing the exercise. Hold for a count of 5 and then relax.
- Breathe normally throughout the exercise. Do not hold your breath while tightening the abdominal muscles. Begin with 3 – 5 repetitions of the exercise. Gradually work up to 10 repetitions.
Advance to the next exercise when you can easily perform this one.
Pelvic Tilt, Knees Bent, Bellybutton Toward the Spine
- Perform the exercise as above.
- While the abdominal muscles are tight, and your lower back is flattened to the floor, pull you abdomen in and upward, as though there is a string pulling the bellybutton toward the spine.
- This recruits a deeper abdominal muscle that is a primary stabilizer of the spine.
- Hold for a count of 5, and then relax. Remember to breathe normally; do not hold the breath. Begin with 3 – 5 repetitions of the exercise. Gradually work up to 10 repetitions.
NOTE: Do not try this exercise if you have Osteoporosis. It puts too much pressure on the vertebrae and could contribute to a vertebral fracture.
- Use the same position as described above. Alternatively, you may rest your lower legs on the seat of a chair, knees bent to a 90% angle and positioned directly above the hips.
- Take a deep breath in, and as you slowly exhale, flatten the lower back toward the floor. Pull the bellybutton toward the spine.
- Reach the hands toward the knees and curl your chin toward your chest.
- Lift your head off the floor and look at your knees.
- Slowly lower the head to the starting position as you inhale.
- Relax, and repeat. Begin with 3 – 5 repetitions of the exercise. Gradually work up to 10 repetitions.
Advanced Abdominal Curl-up
Once you are able to easily perform the exercise above you are ready to progress to the next stage. Again, avoid this exercise if you are managing osteoporosis.
- Lift your head and shoulders off the floor. Note: The lower tips of the shoulder blades remain in contact with the floor.
- Inhale as you slowly roll back down, one vertebra (spinal bone) at a time.
- Return the head to the starting position.
- Relax, and repeat. Begin with 3 – 5 repetitions of the exercise. Gradually increase the number of repetitions as tolerated.
Note: Because weakness in the front of the neck may limit the number of abdominal curl-ups you can do, only perform as many as your neck strength will allow. Consequently, you will keep the strength of the neck and abdominal muscles in proper balance with each other. As your neck strength improves, you will be able to perform more abdominal curls using the correct technique.
Rectus Abdominus and Oblique Muscles
The rectus abdominus stretches from the breastbone to the pubic bone and is strengthened when we shorten the distance between these two reference points.
If you add a twisting movement at the same time, you’ll activate the two top muscle layers, called the obliques, that run diagonally up and diagonally down.
Basic Abdominal Exercise
- Lie down with your legs up on a chair
- Flatten your spine to the floor and draw the TRANSVERSE MUSCLE down.
- Take a deep breath and lift your chin. Look at the pubic bone. This will begin to work the RECTUS ABDOMINUS which shortens as you come up.
- Lift the shoulders slightly off the floor if you are able.
- and the OBLIQUES are brought into action by twisting.
Toning your abdominal wall will pay off with a flat tummy and strong back. That sounds like a good investment of time and energy to me! How about you?