AB-solutely!

Posted: November 12, 2014 in Training
Tags: , ,

You may have heard that if your core muscles are weak, everything else will be too. Sounds pretty important huh?! Well if you haven’t, then let me explain it to you another way. Your midsection muscles from the front, around the sides and to the back act as a natural weightlifting belt. They are there to stabilize and support all of our day-to-day movements. So no matter if you are running, walking, sitting, lifting, driving or gardening, these muscles will be engaged and help keep your posture in check.

Looking at getting a tighter and stronger midsection, try this ab rotation for a stronger, more complete midsection: 2-3x/week – 20 sec each – 3 rotations

1) Crunches (upper rectus abdominis)

Crunches
This is the traditional crunch. The idea behind this exercise is to contract and then relax your stomach muscles while keeping a flat back and raising your shoulders off the ground. You can place your fingers on your head (as in picture) for support, or you can have them on your shoulders. Either way, make sure to look straight up and DO NOT pull or crank on your neck.

2) Reverse Crunches (lower rectus abdominis)

Reverse Crunches
This is the reverse crunch. Whereas the regular crunch works predominantly the upper portion of the stomach, this exercise works the lower portion. The goal of this exercise is to slowly, and with complete control, lift your hips and lower body off the ground. Concentrate on lifting and pulling with your lower abs to make this movement happen. As you pull your knees to your chest, the next movement should be to lift straight up to the ceiling.

3) Side Bends (external obliques)

Side Bends
This exercise can be done in a variety of ways. The most basic example is standing and with a set of dumbbells (as in picture). With a light to moderate weight, you will simple bend to the side – Side Bends. One thing to keep in mind while performing this simple movement: DO NOT bend forward or backward at all. Your goal is to bend perfectly sideways (lateral flexion). Your range of motion may be short to start but over time this also serves as a good stretch and will increase over time.

4) Side Plank (transverse abdominis, external obliques)

Side Plank
This is a variation of the very common and popular plank. This is the side plank that will work your complete core and will place a much higher demand on the midsection than your regular crunch. This version of the plank is known as an isometric movement. That means that there is no range of motion, you simply get into this position and hold.

5) Bicycles (rectus abdominis, external/internal obliques)

Bicycles
This exercise is slightly more difficult than the previous ones. The bicycle requires more balance, coordination and core strength to perform correctly. As in the picture, you will set up as if you were going to do regular crunches (see above if needed) but lift and straighten your legs out in front of you. Bring your left knee to your right elbow (as in picture) while rotating your midsection. Then, rotate the other direction to do the opposite side.

6) Prone Plank (spinal erectors)

Plank
This is one exercise you definitely don’t want to forget about. With all the previous movements, there has been some variation of hip flexion (bending forward / to the side) but nothing to do with the back. If you only try to strengthen the muscles in front, you will be never be as strong as you want to be or could be. The goal should be to work the opposing muscles (back muscles) as well. Think of it like the saying, “You are only as strong as your weakest link”. Meaning if your low back is weak, then so will your abs. You won’t have the ability to stabilize, support or control the weight you try to lift.

Now keep in mind, these exercises, NO MATTER HOW MANY YOU DO OR HOW OFTEN YOU DO THEM, WILL NOT trim the waistline. If you are looking to lose inches around the midsection, then your main priority should be drinking more water and having a cleaner eating protocol. Combine that with a sound cardiovascular and resistance program and then watch the changes happen! But that is for another day. This rotation will simply “tighten” and strengthen the core muscles.

*Side Note: You cannot “spot train”. Especially with the abs. In order to have a strong and durable midsection, try engaging (squeeze and tighten) your stomach muscles throughout the day and with every lift you do. You will gain more strength by concentrating on engaging the muscles instead of just doing a million crunches.

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