THE ABS HAVE IT!
In fitness magazines you will see pictures of really fit men, and women with the “6 or 8 pack” abs people hope to achieve. Many people work hard to strengthen that one area, and forget that the “6 pack” area, otherwise known as the rectus abdominals, isn’t the only part of your core that needs attention. You must also strengthen your obliques and your transverse abdominal to have a strong midsection.
We all know that “crunches” are good for your abs, but are they the most effective movement to do when working to strengthen your entire core? Here are some simple tips and exercises to try if you’re looking to seriously train your “abs”.
Your rectus abdominals or “6 pack” area allows your body to bend forward and assists in bending back. It covers your inner organs, and runs straight down your torso. To strengthen this muscle, try something new like the Pilates 100’s, instead of your traditional “crunches”.
The 100’s is known as a warm up exercise, designed to generate not only body awareness and heat, but the connection to your breath as well. While there is very little movement and no torso pulsing while performing the exercise, it is an intense way to develop strength in your core, and flexibility in your upper back. The exercise relies on percussive breath to generate your body’s heat and control to maintain the same position for all 100 breaths. For the correct breathing take 5 short sniffs through your nose, and 5 short exhales through your mouth. This pattern completed 10 times = the hundreds.
Lay face up on the ground, with your hands palm down by your side, your knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Take a moment to nod your head yes, so that you have enough space between your chin and chest for your fist. Make sure your eyes are looking towards your thighs. As you exhale through your mouth allow your upper back and head to peel off the floor, so that your body creates the shape of a C. Your eyes look down towards your belly and your hands are 3-4” off the floor. As you inhale 5 breaths through your nose begin to pump your arms as if you’re slapping against water. As you exhale for 5 short breaths through the mouth continue pumping the arms.
Now that you are a bit warmer lets move along to the obliques. Your obliques are located on the sides of your body, and wrap around to the front. They assist in turning and twisting. Many exercises done for the obliques are known as waist whittlers’, because they assist in slimming, and strengthening the midsection. The twist from Pilates is one way to work these muscles, and as you become stronger, you could add a body band, or light hand weights to increase your challenge.
Come to a seated position with your body straight and tall, and your legs completely extended in front of you. (If you have a tight back, hips or hamstrings, sitting on a folded blanket, or rolled yoga mat will be helpful.) Squeeze your legs together from your upper thigh to your ankles. Extend your arms to the height and width of your shoulder line, fusing the arm muscle to the bone. As you exhale through your mouth, twist your body, from belly button to the crown of your head (keep your hips and legs still and quiet) to one side. As you inhale return to center and as you exhale again repeat to the other side. To keep things equal count one movement on each side as 1 complete movement. Repeat this series 10 times keeping a mindful and fluid pace.
For our next movement to strengthen the lowest portion of abdominals called your transverse abdominals (TVA), you’ll need to lie on a weight bench. The TVA may be felt by pulling your navel to your spine, and flattening the area 2-3” below your belly button.
The reverse crunch is a great movement to develop low ab strength, and as you become stronger there are several modifications that may be added to increase the challenge.
To begin, lie face up on the bench and tuck your chin slightly so that your eyes look toward your thighs. Next, grasp the top of the bench with both hands, bend your knees, and place your feet at the end of the bench. With an exhale elevate your legs, so that your knees remain bent, and your shin bone lines up from knee to toe. Prepare your body with an inhale, and as you exhale again continue rolling your hips up and back towards your forehead until your butt lifts off the bench. On an inhale, return to your starting position of knees bent and shin bone lined up from knee to toe.
While these 3 movements are not the only options for shaping up your core, they are definitely some of the most effective at targeting all areas of your belly. AND remember, the front part of your torso is only part of your true core. Your back makes up the other part and that needs to be just as strong.
For more information, or additional exercises please contact Amy at: Amy@go2beyondmotion.com
~ Amy Lademann, Fitness Expert, Campus Calm