Updated: Feb 21, 2019
How many times over the past couple of years have I heard people talking or asking me about exercises that can improve their abdominal muscles?
"How can I get great abs’?” they ask.
Or, "What types of exercises, and how may should I do, to get stand-out abs'?"
Sometimes it really is all about the abs’!
First of all then, some core principles where working your abdominal muscles is concerned.
To begin with you should focus on localising your abs' before you can work them effectively (otherwise other parts of your body may step in and do the heavy lifting where exercising your abdominals).
So, how to achieve this?
Well, first of all understand what we are referring to when we talk about abdominal muscles.
In your midriff area you have the Rectus abdominis muscle (the main muscle, in the centre of your body). Then you have the External obliques (the muscles on the sides) which run up alongside the Rectus abdominis, while beneath the External obliques you have the Internal obliques and the Transverse abdominis beneath the Internal obliques.
It’s a little complicated (though clearer if you take a look at the diagram below).
That’s a lot of muscles!
So, let’s start with an exercise that will help you to tone that all-important belly area.
This leading starter exercise is commonly known as The Crunch (‘Le Crunch’!) - and I’m not talking about England versus France at rugby during the 6 Nations tournament here.
The main target area:
You should initially be focussing on your upper abdominal area as a first step with this exercise.
To achieve this, simply hold your head off the mat, touch your fingers to your temples, be careful not to pull on your neck, keep your feet flat on the floor, and your knees bent at a 90 degrees angle.
This should be your starting position.
Next, move your chest towards your knees and contract your abs' as you lift your shoulders off the mat.
And keep your lower back in contact with the mat during this movement!
Finally, pause when at the top of the move, squeeze your abs' together, and then lower yourself slowly back to the start.
If you do this exercise slowly enough, the movement also gives you the time to localise any discomfort that you may feel, to understand what is taking place during the exercise, and which abs' are being used during the exercise.
Aim to achieve a 4 x 12 repetitions set with this exercise, once you have built up your flexibility and strength with the exercise, and to work the routine into your exercise programme regularly throughout the week.
And then we can move on to complimentary exercises to help you focus on and improve your abs’.
In the meantime, enjoy the routine (and your journey to better abs')!