Abdominal or “core” strength is essential to good posture, body coordination, and overall fitness. While you might be familiar with the standard “stomach crunch”— where the feet are flat, knees bent and head raises to contract the stomach muscles — you might not know that doing those isn’t enough.
They only strengthen the upper abdominals, which you don’t use as much as the lower ones.
The lower belly muscles, known as transverse abdominus, act like a belt that wraps around your waist area. This area is often overlooked, leaving people with tight upper abs and weak lower abs. This can cause you a lot of back pain and put a lot of strain on your legs and joints, too.
In today’s video, my friend Alan Orr will show you simple and more useful exercises to strengthen the lower abdominals. These will give you a stronger, tighter waist area and also relieve tension in the lower back.
Lie flat on the floor with feet flat and knees bent. Relax the lower back and abdominals. Then raise both knees up, keeping feet side by side, until lower legs are parallel to the floor, 90 degrees to the thighs. You want to press your lower back onto the floor, to really work the transverse abdominus.
To help, you want to pull your navel down toward your spine, as if pressing it to the mat. With the back flat and navel pulled down, you will be locked in and ready to go. You can also raise your head up off the floor, which helps tighten the abdominals generally, while also helping to lower the back to the floor. Place your hands behind your neck to support your raised head, if needed.
Single Leg Reverse Crunch
The easy way to strengthen the lower abs from the starting position is to slowly lower one leg at a time toward the ground and then back up. You have to retain the tension in the lower abdominals during the entire movement. Next, lower and raise the opposite leg. Repeat for as many reps as you can do, but 10 in one set is a good start.
Double Leg Reverse Crunch
When you can lower and raise each leg individually, then move on to lowering and lifting both legs simultaneously. Lower and raise them slowly, and with a steady cadence. You may only be able to do five reps successfully before you feel your lower back coming up off the floor. When this happens, return to the single leg version. It is better, and safer, to do one leg at a time correctly, than to do these with simultaneous leg action but incorrectly.
The key is to do as many crunches as possible without losing that tension in the lower abdominal region. Try for 4 sets of 10 reps as a good exercise routine. Remember, move up to simultaneous legs when single leg crunches becomes too easy; but return to single leg crunches in the midst of the set if your lower back raises up.
Working the entire abdominal core is essential for fitness and overall physical health. Don’t forget to add these lower ab crunches to your upper ab crunch routine to round out strengthening the area.