The lo’ down on your tummy muscles
There are 4 abdominal muscles. One runs from your pelvis to your chest, two wrap around in criss-cross fashion, and the horizontal one, your “deep abs” is used only in pooping and throwing up. To work the other 3 effectively, you must bring the beginning and end of the muscle together. Therefore, crunches work, oblique crunches work. Double leg lifts don’t work, at least not for your abs (your hips are getting a great workout though!) Your tummy burns because you are holding it in, but not contracting it.
While we are on the subject of debunking myths, there is no such thing as “lower abs,” it’s all one muscle. Whether you store fat in your lower abdominal region is more than likely due to genetics and less likely to change with exercise. However, the plank, an isometric contraction exercise, has shown to be effective. Six-packs are also genetic. Don’t let any any trainer tell you otherwise.
The basic crunch:
1. Start lying down, knees bent, feet flat on the ground
2. Arms are crossed behind your head, finger tips should not touch.
3. Contract your abs by sucking your belly button in and up (imagine you are sucking in to fit into jeans fresh out of the dryer)
4. Breathe out as you crunch up- this is the essential part and why pilates exercises are so effective. Your breathing muscle, the diaphragm, is located on top of your abs, you must push out air from your stomach while contracting your abs to make the crunch effective. If you are doing this right, you will definitely feel it after 20-25 crunches.
5. While you are doing crunches, make sure your elbows are out of your peripheral vision. You want your stomach doing the work, not your neck, so keep your elbows out of sight.
As popular as many ab classes are, there is really no need to do 30 minutes of just abdominal exercises. You wouldn’t do 30 minutes of biceps curls, and your abs are a muscle just like any other in your body. What is important when working the front of your body is to pay attention to your back. Muscles work in opposition and I really believe that a lot of back pain stems from an imbalance between core/hip muscles. That being said, anytime you work your abs, show some love to your back as well. Lying flat on your stomach, arms bent with fingers on your forehead. Keep your feet on the floor while you lift your shoulders up off the floor. Unless your in a yoga class, your spine is not properly warmed up so no ‘supermans.’
You can work your core daily, try doing them during TV commercials or first thing in the morning to wake up your digestive region! You’ll improve your balance, core strength, and confidence in a bikini.