Abdominal Exercises by Lori Victoria Braun
These exercises are divided into upper and lower abdominal. All the exercises stress the whole abdominal wall. However there are “clusters” of muscle separated by connective tissue. These make up the “washboard” or the “six-pack”. You can focus on the upper clusters by moving just the torso and the lower clusters by moving the pelvis. These exercises are in increasing order of difficulty. One of the most important things to remember when doing your abdominal exercises is to breathe properly. Inhale pushing out exhale pulling in.
Lower abdominal Exercises:
Lying Leg Raises
Lie on your back with your hands, palms down under your buttocks. Raise your legs about 12″off the floor and hold them there. Now trying to use just your lower abdominal, raise your legs by another 15 6″. Do this by tilting the pelvis instead of lifting the legs with the psoas. Make sure your knees are slightly bent.
Lying on your back, hold a weight or a chair leg (if lying on the floor) or the foot bar (if using the sit-up board). Keep the knees slightly bent. Pull your pelvis and legs up so that your knees are above your chest and then return to beginning position. This exercise is very similar to a hanging knee raise, but a little less intense.
Vertical Lying Leg Thrusts
Your initial position should be as follows, lie on your back. Put your fists under your buttocks to form a cradle. Raise your legs in the air 10″-12″ off the ground, knees slightly bent. If you feel any strain on your lower back, bend your knees a little more. Raise your head and shoulders off the ground slightly if you can to help keep the abdominal stressed. The exercise itself has four phases:
1.Raise your legs until your feet are above your pelvis; focus on contracting the abdominal.
2.Thrust your heels to the ceiling, breathe out, keep contracting the abdominal raising the pelvis out of the cradle of your fists.
3.Lower out of the thrust back to your fists, leaving your feet above your pelvis.
4.Lower your legs back to the initial position.
Hanging Knee Raises
Grab the chin-up bar using both hands with a grip a bit wider than your shoulders, cross your ankles and bring your knees up to your chest or as close as you can get. Pause at the top of the movement for a second and then slowly lower your knees by relaxing your abdominal. Don’t lower your legs all the way. Repeat the movement using just your abdominal to raise your knees. Make sure that you don’t start swinging. You want your abdominal to do the work, not momentum. Make sure your pelvis moves, your lower back stays neutral or slightly rounded, not arched, and that your abdominal are doing the work, not your hips.
Hanging Leg Raises
Just like knee raises except you keep your legs straight. This requires good hamstring and lower back flexibility. Make sure your lower back stays neutral or rounded. There is an isometric variant done by gymnasts called the “L-Support”, which basically consists of taking the leg raise position with the legs held straight at a level just above the hips. The position is held for 10 seconds. When you can complete this easily, try a higher position.
Upper abdominal Exercises:
Lying on your back put your knees up in the air so that your thighs are at a right angle to your torso, with your knees bent. If you like you can rest your feet on something, like a chair. Put your hands either behind your head or gently touching the sides of your head. Slowly raise your shoulders off the ground and try to touch your breastbone to your pelvis, breathing out as you go. Although the actual movement will be very small you should try to go as high as possible. Only your spine should bend, your hips should not move. Do these fairly slowly to avoid using momentum to help. You can increase the difficulty of the exercise by extending your hands out behind your head instead of keeping them at the side. Make sure you don’t jerk your hands forward to help with the crunch, keep them still.
Same as an abdominal crunch except that you raise your shoulder up, instead of pulling them toward your pelvis. You can do these quickly, in fact it’s hard to do them any other way.
Like abdominal crunches, take the lying, bent-knee position, but this time crunch diagonally so that you try to touch each shoulder to the opposite hip alternately. At the top position, one shoulder and one hip should be off the ground.
Drape a towel or rope around the bar of a pulldown machine so that you pull the weight using it instead of the bar. Kneel facing the machine and grab hold of the towel and put your hands against your forehead. Kneel far enough away from the machine so that the cable comes down at a slight angle.
The exercise is the same movement as an abdominal crunch, but using the weight instead of gravity. The emphasis is still on crunching the abdominal, pulling the breastbone towards the pelvis and making sure you exhale all your air at each contraction.
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