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If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may remember that I have experienced back problems from time to time. My last episode occurred five months ago (it was a bit of a doozy). The recovery has been slow but steady.

My recuperation started with a slew of stretches and for the past month I have been working on strengthening exercises.

One of the leading ways to maintain a healthy functioning back is to keep the abdominals strong.

Below is one of a handful of abdominal exercises that I perform 3-4 days a week. Regardless if you have back issues or not, abdominal exercises should be a part of your weekly workouts.

Muscles Used: rectus abdominis, internal/external obliques, transverse abdominis

abdominal-muscles-anatomy

Starting Position: Lie on back (supine position) with hips at 90°. Legs are elevated toward the ceiling, knees are bent or straight (work towards keeping them straight) and feet/toes are flexed, not pointed. Aside from the position of feet, your form should resemble a right angle. Hands can be at your side, across the chest or behind the head. If you choose to keep hands behind your head, you can hold on to a medicine ball, heavy weight or the end of a bench.

Movement: Hips and knees are kept in one position throughout the exercise. Neck is in line with the spine. Contracting the abdominal muscles, tilt the pelvis, curl the lower torso up and lift the balls of feet toward the ceiling. Exhale as you lift.
As you exhale, try to hollow out the lower area of the abs. This works the transverse abdominis, the deepest abdominal muscle. Referred to as the compression muscle, the transverse helps to stabilize the spine and is thought by many as the key to a flat belly.
Inhale on the return.

Common Mistakes:
– bringing legs/knees toward head instead of straight towards ceiling
– using momentum to lift legs straight
– holding breath during movement, also called the valsalva maneuver
– pressing hands/arms into floor while lifting – it may help to keep hands supinated (palms facing up)

Need advice on abdominal exercises? Please leave a comment…

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