When it comes to abdominal exercises, I’m sure that we can all agree that there’s a right and wrong way to go about it. Working out the wrong way can easily lead to serious injuries and hinder your results. You should always seek the advice of your physician prior to starting a new workout program. The saying “Better be safe than sorry” truly applies here in case you already have a health of physical limitation. Having said this, let’s move on to the topic of abdominal exercises and provide you with some helpful tips.
Keep Your Knees Up
When doing crunches, it may be safer to keep your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. This will assist in helping to Keep your back flat by decreasing the level of arch in the lumbar region. Try to keep your knees pointed up and not towards one of the body. Many point their knees towards one side while performing a crunch in order to work the obliques. The reason being is that the obliques greatly assist in twisting movements. For this reason many prefer to perform twisting movements to work them. The problem is that when doing crunches with both knees pointed to one side, you then risk compressing your discs/vertabraes. Flexion of the spine while under load, with your lower vertebras twisted is asking for trouble. You should consider going online and search for safe oblique exercises that doesn’t place your lower back at risk.
Traditional sit-ups actually do very little for the abdominal muscles. Even when done properly, the strain is mostly on the hip muscles. There is also the tendency to pull the torso up with the arms, which of course is not the point of the exercise. Further, when sit-ups are done very quickly, as people have a tendency to do, it is momentum that mostly forces the torso up and down, rather than any muscle groups. This does not mean that sits up doesn’t work, they do, but the range in which the abdominal works is very limited. What do we mean by this? Imagine this, if you were to lay flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Next you slowly crunch your abdominal muscles by lifting your upper torso off from the floor, you will quickly realize that you’re unable to go higher. The reason being is because you spine is fully flexed. The job of your abs is to fully flex your spine, once it reaches it’s maximum range, you will not be able to lift any higher. The only way to lift higher is by using your hip flexor muscles, or by throwing yourself, which means your abs are no longer creating movement. Once your hip flexors take over, your abs maintain an isometric type of a contraction. Problem with is that the lower back is greatly stressed in a negative way by doing this.
Straight Leg Lift
Another traditional “stomach exercise,” this move actually works the lower back more than any muscles in the midsection. This is also another way to put strain on your back, possibly leading to injury. If you speak with most people, a greater percentage will tell you that they feel it in there back. The problem with leg lifts is that the further away you straighten out your legs, the harder it is to keep your back flat. The lower back arch increases dramatically forcing your discs to compress and your lumbar muscles to contract intensely, which can really injure you. You’re better off creating a ninety degree bend at the knees and hips, then lift your hips towards your belly button for a good abdominal contraction.
Too Many Reps
Our abdominal muscles are involved in most of our daily body movements. This makes it hard to fatigue them. It’s for this reason that most can perform many crunches non stop. Talk about non-stop, this practice is not the best for results. Just like any other muscle group, the abdominal muscles need to be challenged, they require a variation of challenging exercises, yet it needs to be safe movements for proper results. If you’re doing a lot of repetitions than it’s obviously too easy. Yes, you may feel a burn but in time you’ll find that not much was results. The key is to find exercises that truly fatigues you between 15 – 20 reps max (per set)and no higher.
All stomach exercises need resistance to be effective, whether it comes from a resistance band, an exercise ball, or just gravity. Exercises that do not use any resistance, such as the standing broomstick twists, will not be beneficial for your midsection. The good news is that this particular exercise will not do any harm because it doesn’t provide a lot of vertical pressure onto your spine. It’s actually a great warm up for your trunk. Just do not expect it to flatten out your stomach.
These were just a few tips to help you avoid wasting your time and getting injured. There are tons of videos, articles, books that can be helpful in assisting you to reach your goals. Take some time, do your research, educate yourself, and then get out there and perform. You’ve got this!