Regular readers of this blog know that I am not a big fan of abdominal crunches/sit-ups/curls (see post http://wellerbodiespersonaltraining.blogspot.com/2010/11/can-crunch-and-save-your-back.html). Briefly, it is for two reasons:
- Most of us spend too much time in forward flexion (the rounding of the spine achieved by crunches); in fact, many back specialists believe that performing multiple crunches will eventually lead to back problems.
- Unless you have a job working for royalty (doing a lot of bowing), the main function of your abdominals is to support your spine, not to move it. Therefore, it makes more sense to strengthen your abs in the way we need to use them.
These two exercises will work your abs in just this way. (And yes, they will help them look good as well). They work best with a stability ball, but you can use any type of ball, a pillow will work as well, but to advance you will need to progress to a ball. Do not try to "suck your stomach in", but do keep it "braced" (as though preparing for a punch), and make sure to breathe.
1. Place the ball shoulder height against a wall and stand sideways to the ball. Place your palms together and the back of one hand in the center of the ball with your arms straight. Try to relax your shoulders, but use your arms to place pressure into the ball. Hold the ball still and alternate tapping your feet back. You will feel the muscles of your core (especially the waist area) work as you fight to keep the ball in place. Start with 15 seconds each side, gradually increase the length of time to one minute.
2. Place the ball shoulder height against a wall and place your forearms and elbows against the middle of the ball. Keep your shoulders relaxed, knees slightly bent and angle your body into a plank. Once you can hold this easily for 15 seconds add leg movements by alternately tapping the feet back.