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.
This wonderful built-in girdle supports your internal organs and back, when kept in tip-toe shape. Most people think of the abdominals as one big muscle…but in reality, four different layers of muscles make up the abdominals…and 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.
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.
Pelvic Tilt, Knees Bent
Lie on the floor, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. A small pillow or pad underneath the head may be used for comfort. Because of 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, eliminating the space. Your buttock and leg muscles should be relaxed 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 inward, 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 (or 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, curl your chin toward your chest, lift the 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.
When you can easily perform the exercise above, advance to lifting your head and shoulders off the floor . (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 work up to 10 repetitions * (see note below)
*(Weakness in the front of the neck may limit the number of abdominal curl-ups you can do. Only perform as many abdominal curl-ups as your neck strength will allow. This keeps 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.)
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.
TRY THIS EXERCISE WITH ME…
Lie down with your legs up on a chair (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).
NOW: Flatten your spine to the floor and draw the TRANSVERSE MUSCLE down.
The RECTUS ABDOMINUS shortens as you come up.
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?