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Know More about Abdominal Training

Keep in mind there are four main muscles that make up the abdominal wall: Transverse abdominis (the muscle activated when you cough), the rectus abdominis “the upper abs” and the internal and external obliques. Here I want to discuss a few exercises that work the whole abdominal wall.

Try starting your ab work with the transverse area. Why? Because it is a key protector of the lower back, and is often weak on most individuals. Exercises like leg raises, hip thrusts, vertical knee raises, and stability ball in and out rolls work this area well. The trick is on the leg raises to keep your lower back DOWN at ALL times and don’ let it come up. If you have a hard time, try bending one leg and lift and lower with other leg. With the hip thrusts, grab a piece of stationary equipment and raise your leg straight in the air. Proceed to thrust up and back and hold for a count of two. Most people don’t go high enough, or don’t hold long enough. If it’s too easy add a dumbbell between the feet, or use a slant board to increase difficulty.

The vertical knee raises come next. Make sure your back is against the pad and round your back just a little to add more tension. Lift the knees to the chest and hold for two seconds. Again if it’s too easy, add a little resistance with a weight. Also lower down 3-4 seconds to make it even harder.

Stability ball in and out rolls, also called springboards, walk out off the ball with shins resting on ball. Push down hard with shins and bring the ball to chest and hold for two-three seconds, exhale and extend the legs back out. If it’s too easy try doing it on a single leg.

Next is the “upper abs”. Remember anytime you bring your torso toward your lower body your doing flexion of the spine. That targets that area. I like stability ball crunches, Janda sit-ups and Overhead band reaches.

First ball crunches, lie back on a stability ball so that can get a good stretch. This loads the abs then place your hands on your chest and pull your self almost all the way up, and exhale. Inhale, and lower back down slowly to make it hard. If it’s easy, try placing your hand over your head and that will make it harder, or add a light weight.

Janda sit-ups were designed by a back specialist name Vladimir Janda. You need a partner for this exercise but it’s a good one. Lie down on a mat with legs bent. Place hands by chest. Have someone pull your calves toward them and then proceed to pull your self up toward your partner and three-quarters of the way up and exhale. Pause for a second and lower slowly. This move really works the abs and takes pressure off the low back.

And finally overhead reaches with a band. Wrap a band around a stationary object about head height. Hold the handles of the band overhead and out a little ways. Then I want you to push your butt underneath you, stretch back a little and then crunch forward. Exhale and pause and lower back slowly. Be sure you DON”T arch your back, it will place pressure on the spine. Want more tension, walk out more or use a heavier tension band.

Lastly we have the obliques which help rotate the body from side to side and help you bend from side to side. They also are key in helping you balance when you perform exercises on a single leg.

My top three are oblique crunches, saxon side bends, and rocky twists off of a stability ball. Oblique crucnches can be done off of a roman chair or stability ball. Lie on your side, with your hips positioned at the top of the ball. Stretch over the ball to “load” the muscles. Place your hand by your chest and proceed to crunch like you would lying on your back, but instead you are on your side. Inhale down, and exhale at top. Go about three-quaters of the way up, hold for two seconds and lower back down slowly. Once your done with one side, switch and do the other side. To increase difficulty, raise you hands out overhead a little more.

Next is saxon side bend, hold two light dumbbells just a little overhead. Keep your abs in and knees a little bent. Proceed to lean to the right as far as you comfortably can. Pause and come back up. Exhale and lean to the left and repeat the same movement. This exercise also works the quadratus lumborum, a deep low back muscle that is often tight and weak on most people. You may experience a little soreness the next day or two after you do these. It’s okay, as long as there isn’t any sharp pain.

And lastly the rocky twists: You may need a partner, or a way to fasten your feet. Sit on a ball lean back a little, push your hips forward so that your butt is underneath you. Hold a medicine ball or weight out in front of you, and proceed to rotate to the right. Pause for two seconds and then come back to straight position and exhale. Inhale and rotate to the left, just like as you did to the right. Make it harder by extending your arms out more, or adding more weight.

As far as repetitions are concerned, try to work in the 8-15 range. Recent research suggests you’ll do more benefit with heavier weight and lower reps then with extremely high reps and very light weights. Be very cautious though that you don’t put your spine in a position where it can be damaging. Take your time and do the exercises properly before you add the weights and lower repetitions. You may want to do some higher reps for a while to get used to the movements and get your body accustomed to the training. I would recommed training the abs 2-3 days per week MAXIMUM. They need rest and recovery like your other muscles.