To get your abdominals in to shape is difficult!
If you want to see the definition of your rectus abdominis (the paired square-looking muscles that run down your abdomen), not only do you have to work them hard – like the other muscles in your body, you also have to have quite a low level of body fat.
I think may people now understand that you can’t sport-reduce. In this context, this means the Michelin Man could do sit-ups and crunches all day every day and not develop a visible 6-pack. You need to drop your level of body fat through other exercise to rid the layer of fat over the abdomen to see all your hard work.
If you’re there already – well done! And if you’re not, don’t despair. Muscle conditioning isn’t just important for aesthetic reasons, muscles help us to maintain a good posture, stabilise our joints and protect us from injury.
Gone are the days of 10os of straight leg sit-ups. Fortunately now it is understood that we should vary the way we train our core in order to condition the different muscles. The abdomen contains many muscles (including rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, internal obliques; external obliques) and they each have different roles. I’ll save you the lecture for next time! In this post I wanted to respond to a reader comment and show you how to develop and condition the lower part of the abdominal muscles.
Got a 2-pack? Great! Try these 4 exercises to train your lower abdominal muscles.
The key to all of these exercises is to make sure your lower back is in contact with the floor.
Do this by trying to ‘hollow’ your tummy by tilting you pelvis towards you. Keep these muscles contracted throughout the whole exercise.
You can check if you’re doing it right by placing your hands on your hips; you can feel underneath your fingers when you tense your lower abs.
1. Lower abs – easy
Keeping your back in contact with the floor, raise your legs off the floor to create a 90 degree bend in hips and knees (See picture).
Keeping this position put your hands at the side of your head and slowly lift your upper body off the floor. Hold. Then lower. One repetition should take around 5 seconds.
Do as many repetitions as you can before you lose form. Too easy? Do 20 and go straight on the next exercise:
2. Lower abs – advanced
As in exercise 1, although this time, extend your legs out further. This will increase the work required by your lower abs. Remember to keep your lower back flat to the floor!
3. Slow cycling
A combination of exercise 1 & 2 – back flat to the floor, head and shoulders lifted slightly.
Starting position as pictured in exercise 1, slowly lower one leg extending hip and knee until heel almost touches the floor, then slowly return to starting position. Swap legs and repeat. One repetition should take around 8-10 seconds.
Concentrate on keeping the lower back always pushed in to the floor
4. Piking plank
Adopt the plank position (back slightly flatter than in picture 1!). Tense your abs to keep the position.
From here (abs still tensed), push your bum up in to the air, hold and lower. Keep your abs tense throughout. If you feel your back sagging it’s time to stop. Start to finish, one repetition should take around 5 seconds.
For a really challenging work-out, pick two exercises and super-set them, e.g. perform 20 repetitions of exercise 1, followed immediately by 20 repetitions (or as many as you can do) of exercise 4.
Too easy? Add on another exercise to your superset…
Happy training! Post your comments – how did it go?