Tag Abdominal muscles

Abdominal exercises

Abdominal exercises


Muscle group:   The abdominal muscles

Trained muscle:   All parts of the abdominal muscles

Focused muscle:   Rectus abdominis (straight abdominal muscle)

Fitness level:   Advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Own body weight exercises


 

Abdominal exercises are very popular and exist in many different variations and intensity levels. Basically, we can distinguish between abdominal crunches and sit-ups, leg lifts, stabilization exercises like planks, and ab exercises with equipment. The following article explains the workout for the stomach using a ball.

Abdominal exercises with ball

Abdominal exercises with ball are very intense. They all represent versions of the abdominal crunch what trains the straight abdominal muscle (musculus rectus abdominis) as well as the obliques decently. The training with a ball (or other tools) gives more variety, increases the motivation, and distracts us from the real nature of exercising, which is work.

Especially for the training in groups, like in sports clubs or classes at the gym, abdominal exercises with ball are very suitable. The basic execution and form is similar to the abdominal crunch (please read this article first). Keep the head straight in extension to the trunk, press the lumbar spine (lower back) onto the ground, keep the belly tensed at any time, and avoid press breathing (exhalation against closed airways).

Abdominal exercises with ball in hands

Examples for abdominal exercises holding the ball in your hands can easily be realized. You could perform straight crunches with the arms stretched to the back, overhead, or to the front. Also twisted crunches are possible. Work out with stretched arms switching from one side to the other. You can also rotate your legs within the movement.

We can also practise isometric crunches passing the ball from one hand to the other either directly or rolling it on the floor. Choose to pass it under your head or under the buttocks.

Abdominal exercises

Abdominal exercises

 

Also pass it behind your legs or between them. Or cross one leg on top of the other and pass the ball between.

Abdominal exercises

Abdominal exercises

 

Abdominal exercises – ball switches between hands and legs

In another abdominal exercise the ball can switch between the hands and the legs. Start the straight crunch holding the ball in your hands. Your legs are raised. In the end position you should be able to reach your feet and place the ball between them. In the following repetition you pick up the ball again with your hands and start over. Alternatively you could roll the ball up and down on your lower leg.

Also train with bent legs. In the end position you would place the ball on your lower leg and pick it up again in the following repetition.

Abdominal exercises

Abdominal exercises

 

Abdominal exercises with ball between legs

Another isometric abdominal exercise would be holding the ball between your hand and legs. Here, the legs have to pull closer toward the body. Please do not practise this version if you have complaints in your cervical spine.

Also place the ball between your bent knees and perform the twisted crunch as described above. Or move your legs up and down. Your heels approach the floor and your knees remain bent. Feel free to have your arms support on the floor.

With the ball between your feet you could stretch and bend your legs alternately. Also have your arms support on the floor if necessary. Please be careful with your back and work against a hyperlordosis (hollow back).

Abdominal exercises

Abdominal exercises

 

There certainly are many more variations we can choose from in our stomach training. But most important is to have fun in your workout in order to stay motivated in the long run. More abdominal exercises can be found under the following link: abdominal exercises


Antagonist: Lower back muscles

Stretching: Abdominal stretches

 

 


Side leg raises

Side leg raises


Muscle group:   The abdominal muscles, the leg muscles, the butt muscles, complex exercises

Trained muscle:   All parts of the abdominal muscles, Adductors, Abductors, butt muscles

Focused muscle:   Oblique abdominals

Fitness level:   Advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Own body weight exercises


 

Side leg raises are a very intense and effective exercise for the oblique abdominal muscles that combines the lying versions of the abductor side leg raises and the adductor side leg raises. In accordance, significant training effects can also be achieved for the abductors and adductors of the leg. In its basic version the exercise also represents a variation of the side raises.

Side leg raises

Side leg raises are performed in lying position. We get in lateral position with our hips and knees stretched. Feel free to have your arms support on the ground. Tense the abdominal muscles and stabilize the rest of your body. Raise your legs from the ground and remain in that position (isometric execution). Please avoid press breathing (exhalation against closed airways) at any time.

Side leg raises variations

Side leg raises variations

 

Side leg raises variations

The isometric version of the side leg raises already is quite intense. You can increase the intensity by performing small upward impulses with your legs (end contraction). It is also possible to work out dynamically. You could bend and stretch your legs alternately or open and close your legs like scissors. The dynamic versions are less intense than the isometric ones.

Side leg raises with bent knees

Side leg raises with bent knees


Antagonist: Lower back muscles

Stretching: Abdominal stretches

 

 


Ab exercises with equipment

Ab exercises with equipment


Muscle group:   The abdominal muscles

Trained muscle:   All parts of the abdominal muscles

Focused muscle:   Rectus abdominis (straight abdominal muscle)

Fitness level:   Beginner, advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Machine exercises


 

Ab exercises can be performed in many different ways with various tools. Such equipment helps us to develop more motivation and vary our training. But within the ab training we also have many very intense exercises that do not require any equipment, like the abdominal crunch, the plank, or leg lifts. The following selection gives you an idea of different pieces of equipment that can be used for your abdominal training.

Ab exercises with equipment

For all ab exercises it is important to start with low weights or intensities. Otherwise there would be the risk of overcoming the resistance mostly with the strength of the hip flexors instead of focusing on curling the trunk. As your training level increases it is quite recommendable to more and more work out in the area of highest muscle tension (best form of exercise). Especially for this training method it is important to avoid press breathing (exhalation against closed airways) at any time.

Ab exercises on the cable machine

Ab exercises on the cable machine can be performed in sitting or kneeling position using a rope. For the seated version we use an incline bench. Incline the seat cushion of the bench on the first or second level. Take a seat with your back facing the cable machine and the cable coming from behind. Your feet fixate under the foot of the bench. Hold the rope with both hands on your chest. From that position curl your trunk without bending your hip joints.

For the kneeling version we use a gym mat, a cushion, or similar. Kneel in front of the machine right below the cable. Fixate the rope with both hands on your chest. Curl your trunk to the front using your abdominal muscles and avoid the activation of your hip flexors

Ab exercises on the cable machine

Ab exercises on the cable machine

 

Ab exercises on the machine

There are different machines for the abdominal training. Most of them work with a similar motion sequence curling the trunk. Sit down inside of the ab crunch machine and fixate your feet in the respective fixture (cushion rolls, footrest, etc.). Also fixate the upper body by grabbing the respective handles. Curl your trunk solely with the power of your ab muscles and try not to activate the hip flexors. Also try not to pull down the handles with your arms, what would activate the latissimus.

The ab twister represents a machine with a quite different motion sequence. Here, we rotate the legs especially using our obliques. Investigations performed by Buskies W., Boeckh-Behrens W. (2010) showed that the intensity of this exercise is extremely low. It is recommended to not use this kind of machine for the training of the abdominal muscles.

Ab exercises on the machine

Ab exercises on the machine

 

Ab exercises with the ab roller

Ab exercises with the ab roller are quite popular because of the comfortable neck position. Lay down with your head on the respective cushion and try to relax your neck. Your hands grab the bow right above your head. Have your heels press into the floor or lift your legs from the ground. From that position curl your trunk with the power of your abs. Try not to use your arms pushing the bow to the front, what would activate the latissimus and decrease the intensity for your abdominals.

Ab exercises with the ab roller

Ab exercises with the ab roller

 

Ab exercises with the ab slider

Ab exercises with the ab slider are well-known from commercials. We don’t necessarily need the slider for the workout. On plain ground we could easily use a towel as well. We start in kneeling position. It is recommended to use a gym mat or cushion to protect the knees. Grab the ab slider (or the towel) with both hands and start sliding forward in a smooth and controlled movement. Don’t go all the way down but stop approximately on the half of the way. Pull back to the starting position.

This ab exercise has to be taken with care. Especially in the end position the lower back is strained considerably what could worsen or even cause back problems. There also are extreme versions of this exercise that slide all the way to the front or even lift the knees. In these variations the lower back is strained even more what makes this exercise a no go for health-oriented athletes.

Ab exercises with the ab slider

Ab exercises with the ab slider

 

There certainly are many more ab exercises that use other pieces of equipment. Important for you to know is that there actually is no need for tools and machines when it comes to the workout of the abdominals. Exercises using the own body weight can be very intense and offer a large variety at the same time.


Antagonist: Lower back muscle

Stretching: Abdominal stretches

 

 


Hanging leg raises

Hanging leg raises


Muscle group:   The abdominal muscles, the leg muscles, complex exercises

Trained muscle:   All parts of the abdominal muscles, thigh front

Focused muscle:   Rectus abdominis (straight abdominal muscle), Oblique abdominals

Fitness level:   Experienced

Type of training:   Own body weight exercises


 

Hanging leg raises represent one of the most effective exercises for the abdominal muscles. It can be performed on the wall bars or pull-up bars. A variation would be on the bars with our forearms supporting.

Hanging leg raises

Hanging leg raises are most effective when performed with longest lever. This can be realized by stretching the legs horizontally. This version is quite difficult and requires a well pronounced musculature. Easier variations would be practised with bent legs or by raising the legs not as high (shorter lever). Shorter levers can also be applied toward the end of the set when a complete repetition with long lever no longer is possible. This would exhaust the muscle in an optimal way.

Hanging leg raises with a free back are more intense than with your back resting on a wall. Leg lifts in lying or sitting position are far less intense in comparison with the hanging version. This is due to the large amount of stabilization work our muscles have to perform in hanging position to keep the pelvis erected.

Hanging leg raises – execution

Get in a hanging position, tense the abdominal muscles, and erect the pelvis. Raise your stretched legs without momentum in a controlled and smooth movement to the horizontal line. Hold this position as long as possible. With the increasing exhaustion you can start to bend your legs. Please abort the exercise when you are no longer able to keep the pelvis erected. At the end of the set please lower your legs smoothly. Too much momentum can harm the lower back.

You could also work out dynamically lowering and raising your legs in small amplitudes. Even more intense are small impulses in the area of highest muscle tension (longest lever). The exercise becomes easier with bent legs. Here, we don’t have to work on the horizontal line only. Feel free to further raise your legs.

Hanging leg raises variations

Hanging leg raises variations

 

Hanging leg raises with twist

Hanging leg raises with twist are less intense since we work out with shorter levers. We take a similar starting position. The abdominals are tensed and the pelvis is erected. From that position we raise our bent legs and start twisting them without momentum smoothly and controlled from one side to the other.

Hanging leg raises, twist

Hanging leg raises, twist

 

Hanging leg raises on the bars

Hanging leg raises on the bars are actually not performed from a hanging position. Our forearms support on the bars. The execution stays similar. Keep the abdominal muscles tensed and the pelvis erected. To ensure highest intensity make sure to not have the buttocks move toward the back too far.

Leg raises on the bars

Leg raises on the bars

 

All versions of the hanging leg raise activate the hip flexors. Athletes with complaints in the lower back, pronounced hollow back, or shortened hip flexors should not practise this exercise. If back problems occur during or after the training please switch to other exercises for the abdominals. Also avoid press breathing (exhalation against closed airways).


Antagonist: Lower back muscles

Stretching: Abdominal stretches

 

 


Reverse crunch

Reverse crunch


Muscle group:   The abdominal muscles

Trained muscle:   All parts of the abdominal muscles

Focused muscle:   Rectus abdominis (straight abdominal muscle)

Fitness level:   Advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Own body weight exercises


 

Reverse crunch is an exercise that belongs to the family of the abdominal crunches. But instead of the upper body we lift up the legs and especially the pelvis to activate the abdominal muscles.

Reverse crunch

The reverse crunch is a moderate exercise for the abdominals. Compared with the (regular) abdominal crunch the activation of the lower ab muscles cannot be increased with its reverse version. But it helps us to actively practise the erection of the pelvis.

Reverse crunches begin in supine position. Our legs are raised from the ground with our knees bent at approximately 90°. We actively erect the pelvis pushing our knees upwards. The pelvis slightly raises from and moves back to the ground alternatingly. Make sure to lift up the pelvis solely with your muscle strength. Avoid fast or sudden movements as well as working out with momentum.

To intensify the reverse crunch hold the pelvis at the highest position performing very small up and down impulses. Keep breathing calmly and avoid press breathing (exhalation against closed airways).

Total crunch

The total crunch refers to the combination of the abdominal crunch with the reverse crunch. Again, compared to abdominal crunches, with its total version unfortunately the intensity will not be increased. But with the focus on lifting upper body and pelvis to the same time, it allows us to improve our coordination.

Performing total crunches we could either roll up the upper body and raise the pelvis simultaneously. Or we could keep the pelvis lifted moving up and down with the upper body and vice versa. Please never hold your breath and keep breathing calmly.


Familiar exercises represent the bicycle crunch, variations of the ab crunch, sit-ups, and as mentioned the abdominal crunch.

Antagonist: Lower back muscles

Stretching: Abdominal stretches

 

Reverse crunch variations

Reverse crunch variations

 

Total crunch variations

Total crunch variations

 

Total crunch variations

Total crunch variations