Abdominal and Core Exercises
- Lie on your back on the floor.
- Lift feet off the floor, knees should be bent and over your navel.
- Place hands behind your head as you would to do a crunch.
- Straighten one leg out close to parallel to the floor, keeping other knee in.
- Twist your torso and cross elbow to bent knee keeping elbows wide and lifting shoulders off the floor.
- Cross to other side as your legs switch positions, like you are “bicycling” your legs.
Variation: Exercise can be done rapidly with exhales with each cross-over. Do not allow your low back to arch off floor.
Crunches can be done on the ball as a more challenging version of a traditional crunch on the floor.
- Sit on ball and slowly walk out until ball is under the spine, from the low back to the upper back.
- Head and shoulders are off the ball, so place your hands behind your head like you would be doing a crunch.
- Feet are hip width apart and are directly under your knees at a 90 degree angle.
- As you exhale, lift head and shoulders in a crunch, keeping elbows wide.
- Lower to start position, noticing that your head and shoulders are slightly lower than your navel.
- You can lift up into more of a sit-up position, working the hip flexors too.
- You can work your waist muscles, the obliques, by performing the same movement but with rotation of the torso as you lift. In other words, as you lift, your right shoulder turns towards left knee. You may alternate sides with these crossovers. See positions for crossover variation below.
- Obliques can be worked by crossing elbow to opposite knee in a crossover.
- Lie on the floor on your back, with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
- Lift both legs up slowly keeping knees over navel, legs straight in air with knees slightly bent.
- Reach arms up pointing finger tips towards the ceiling, but not lifting shoulders off floor yet.
- Inhale while on floor, and exhale through pursed lips as you reach arms up towards toes, lifting shoulders up and tucking chin into the chest. At same time, lift buttocks off floor slightly in reverse curl (picture the dead bug in the Raid™ commercial).
- Next, inhale again in this position and exhale very hard through pursed lips pulling lower abs in towards spine. You should feel the deep abdominals draw in.
- Lower arms and legs to rest, and repeat dead bug 3-5 times.
Variation: As you get stronger, you can move shoulders/arms and legs in opposite direction to work obliques and lateral back muscles.
- Kneel with the physio ball in front of you—about 6 inches away from abdomen. Keep your back perfectly straight, chest up and shoulders relaxed.
- Place fists on ball, but do not rest forearms on ball yet.
- Keeping your body straight and your buttocks tight, slowly roll ball away from you allowing forearms to rest on ball as arms extend away from body.
- Your body leans forward at an angle as forearms and shoulders feel the weight of your body.
- Hold abdominals very tight, and without bending at the hips, roll the ball back towards you with a perfectly straight back.
- Lie on the floor on your back.
- Lift your legs up over your hips, and place a small physio ball (45cm or 55cm) between your ankles, squeezing the ball with your inner thighs.
- Reach up with your arms, lifting your shoulders and grab the ball.
- Lower the ball over your head with straight arms until it almost touches the floor behind your head while, AT THE SAME TIME, lowering the legs towards the floor.
- Keep your abdominals tight, avoiding an arch of the low spine.
- Exhale and lift both legs back to start, while lifting the ball back towards your legs.
- Grab the ball with your feet, and, as before, lower both your arms and legs to the floor simultaneously.
- You will be passing the ball from your legs to your hands each time. It is not necessary to lower the arms and legs all the way to the floor.
Tip: How far you lower your arms and legs towards the floor depends on how well you maintain your core stability (can do the exercise without arching the back). Start with lowering to a point that feels comfortable and presents a slight challenge. Gradually decrease the distance between the floor and your limbs to increase your challenge and core strength.
- Kneel on floor as if you are about to do a push-up.
- Place forearms on floor with elbows directly under shoulders. Elbows are at a 90 degree angle.
- Curl toes under and lift knees off floor so that your body is in a straight line—like a “plank”. If your buttocks is lifted higher than your back, move your feet back slightly to achieve the desired straight alignment.
- Keep abdominals very tight, buttocks tight and upper back straight without hunching.
- Hold this position for 10 seconds up to one minute, breathing continually despite the abdominals drawn in.
Variation: Once you've mastered this form of plank hold, challenge yourself by trying the more advanced form, the side plank hold.
- Lie on the floor on your back with arms at your side, palms down, and knees bent.
- Lift legs up over hips so that knees are over navel, slightly bent. Legs are together, but, not crossed.
- As you exhale, slowly “curl” hips and navel towards chest using the lower portion of your abdominal muscles.
- Return hips to floor and repeat until you feel fatigue in the muscles of the belly.
- Use your arms to push into the floor to assist with the curl.
- If your back feels strain, limit the exercise to only a few reps and stretch your hamstrings and low back, as inflexibility of these muscles can make your back uncomfortable initially.
- Step 2: If this is difficult to start, cross your legs to gain more control. As the exercise becomes easier, do the exercise as described above.
- Increase your challenge: Reverse Curl with crunch
- Reverse curl can also be performed while simultaneously lifting upper body as in a crunch. Make sure that you do not pull excessively on the neck itself, and remember to exhale as your lift your hips and shoulders upwards.
Russian Twist is a V-Seat variation that requires good back health, but is quite excellent for building core strength. This variation uses a medicine ball to challenge core and specifically the obliques. It is often called a Russian Twist.
- Sit on the floor with chest lifted, knees bent and back very straight.
- Hold medicine ball in hands with outstretched arms, choosing a ball that can be held for extended periods of time. Women may want to start with 3-4 lbs., men 5-8 lbs.
- Lift feet off the ground balancing in V-Seat if possible., and twist torso, moving medicine ball (or light dumbbell) from chest to hip to chest to opposite hip. Try to turn entire upper body as you twist.
If you cannot keep your feet off the ground, perform exercise with feet on ground initially, again keeping torso twisting, but not lumbar spine. Whether your feet are on or off the ground, you may move legs in opposite direction if necessary to balance the twist.
This is a more difficult variation of plank hold which works the lateral muscles of the abdominals and back as well as the shoulder complex.
- Lie on your side, knees slightly bent and prop yourself up on one elbow with chest and ribcage lifted and shoulders down. Elbow is directly under shoulder at a 90 degree angle.
- Split legs so that one foot is in front of the other as you rest on sides of the feet.
- Using your legs to push into the floor, lift hip upwards until hip and back are in a straight line and body is off the floor except for feet and forearm. Do not tilt body forward or back and keep chest pointing straight ahead.
- Hold position for 10 seconds or more, breathing consistently.
- Lower slowly and repeat on opposite side.
This exercise requires a partner.
- Person performing exercise sits on floor with knees bent in front of them.
- Partner throws a medicine ball (start with a light medicine ball, 1-3 pounds to begin with) over the head of the exerciser, and the exerciser grabs the ball over their head and lowers back to the ground with the ball held straight over their head.
- Keeping the ball over their head, the exerciser “sits-up” and throws the medicine ball back to his/her partner, using core strength of the abdominals and shoulders and back.
Variation: As core strength improves, partner throwing the ball should get good speed on the ball.
This is an excellent exercise for any racquet sport, golf, or baseball and softball.
- Place an elastic tubing at waist height in a door with the fit loop.
- Stand facing sideways to the door.
- Grab both handles together in both hands with arms straight in front of your body.
- Stand with a wide stance, and move far enough away from the door so that there is tension on the elastic.
- Pull the elastic across your body, as if you were swinging a baseball bat, using your obliques (waistline muscles), and turn torso so that chest now faces away from the door.
- The foot closest to the door should pivot so that hips can turn with the spine.
- Do both right and left sides.
- Sit on the floor with knees bent in front of you and feet flat on floor.
- Lean back onto arms which are behind your back, fingers pointed towards spine.
- Lift chest up and press shoulders back and down (try not to slouch) while keeping low spine straight.
- Lift legs off floor and straighten knee in a “pike” position.
- Keep your chest up as you hold this position for 10 seconds or more.
Variation: As you become stronger, you can move your arms to reach out towards toes so that you are balancing on your “tailbone” in a pike position. Once you can balance in that position, challenge your core by slowly moving your arms and legs in opposite directions to work your lateral abdominals.
Another variation is the Russian Twist with Medicine Ball
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