How are your lower abdominals? Part 4 of 4: Exercise
In the first three parts of this series we discussed the importance of body fat, gut health and stress to lower abdominal appearance. In this part we will discuss the role of exercise.
If you’ve taken action on the first three parts of this blog chances are you will develop a flat lower abdominal region. However in order to “tone up” the area or improve the definition further some specific exercises will help.
Before embarking on specific lower abdominal exercises you should consult with a qualified exercise professional. The lower abdominals help flatten out the lower back and when they get too strong relative to the muscles that counteract their low back flattening effect like the hip flexors, rectus femoris (one of the quadriceps) and the low back muscles, then strong lower abdominals can actually cause low back pain.
A good starting place for lower abdominal strengthening is the lower abdominal series of exercises as taught by Paul Chek.
Figure 1. Lower Abdominal 1 Start Position
These exercises are best done using a blood pressure cuff under your back. However you can use your hand placed under your back to start with. The hand should be placed under your back at the belly button level. Then flatten your back down on the hand, so that your low back touches the thick portion of your hand above the knuckles.
To start with just hold this position for 30 seconds, rest for 15 seconds and repeat 6 times. Progress to 45 seconds/ 15 seconds rest for 4 times, then a 60/15 for 3, then 90/15 for 2 and then 180 in one hit.
The exercise can then be progressed to having the knees bent to 140 degrees instead of 90 degrees and then to fully straight. At each of these positions you can start again at 30/15 x 6 and then progress up to the full 3 minutes hold.
Once you have these mastered you can progress on to moving the legs. In the same position as in figure 1 lift one leg up to 90 degrees at the hip and then return to the start position. Then do the same with the other leg. Repeat for between 8-10 times per leg whilst maintaining a constant light pressure on your hand under your back. Once you can do three sets of this comfortably you can straighten the knees out to 140 degrees and then fully straight again.
This same process can be applied to alternately lowering the legs and then to raising and lowering both legs simultaneously. Eventually you should be able to raise and lower both legs fully straight without a change in the pressure on your hand.
At this point your abdominals will be ready for some advanced conditioning!
You can do these exercises up to every other day. But ensure they are balanced with sufficient strengthening of the counterbalancing hip flexors and low back muscles. Ideally it is advisable to seek guidance when designing an exercise program.
Hopefully this blog has given you a little understanding on how to get started with lower abdominal strengthening. If you would like to discuss any of these details in more depth please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or check our website at www.virtusclinic.com, facebook page or twitter, just search for virtusclinic.
Kieran Macphail BSc (hons), MCSP, MACPSM, Dip PT, NM, IIST, CHEK III, HLC II, CMTA