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

 

 


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


Side raises

Side 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 raises represent a highly effective exercise for the oblique abdominal muscles. We could either work out freely or with fixated legs. In some variations the adductors and abductors can be trained as well.

Side raises

Side raises start in lateral position. With stretched hips and knees we lift our legs from the ground. Keep the entire body stable and your abdominals tensed. To intensify this exercise you could lift the upper body from the ground as well. With lifted legs and upper body it is hard to stabilize the body. Feel free to lean against a wall or similar, if necessary. Performing side raises isometrically already is very effective. To intensify the exercise stretch your arms above your head. Small up and down movements further intensify the workout.

Side raises free

Side raises free

 

The variation with raised legs and upper body combines the exercises adductor side leg raises, abductor side leg raises, and side leg raises.

Side raises variations

Side raises with fixated legs are the most effective variation of this exercise for the oblique abdominal muscles. Here, you could have your legs fixated by a partner, the wall bars, a suitable machine, bench, or chair at the gym, or similar. The hips should be stretched. Either hold the upper body on the horizontal line or move it smoothly up and down by a few centimeters. Intensify this variation by stretching your arms above your head.

Side raises fixated legs

Side raises fixated legs

 

In both versions, with free and fixated legs, the obliques as well as the abductors of the upper leg and the adductors of the lower leg are being activated. Please note that working out with high levers (entire body in a horizontal line) is the most intense way to perform side raises. Especially these versions bear the risk of press breathing (exhalation against closed airways) what should always be avoided. There are also less intense variations with the upper body on the floor. Here, we can work out with bent knees or bend and stretch the knees alternatingly. It is also possible to open and close the legs like scissors.


Antagonist: Lower back muscle

Stretching: Abdominal stretches

 

 


The side plank

The side plank


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

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

Focused muscle:   Oblique abdominals

Fitness level:   Advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Own body weight exercises


 

The side plank is a version of the front plank that is very effective for the oblique abdominal muscles. But also the abductors of both legs receive a very good workout with this exercise.

The side plank

We start in lateral position supported by our lower forearm. Either lay your feet one above or one in front of each other depending on what’s more comfortable for you. Keep your head in extension to your spine looking sideways like the rest of your body. Before we go in side plank position make sure all muscles are tensed to give your body a solid base. From that position lift your body from the ground so that just your lower forearm and your feet remain in contact with the floor.

The side plank – variations

The side plank becomes more intense by lifting up the upper leg or/and stretching the upper arm above the head. The side plank becomes easier by supporting your body with the upper arm to the front or/and by performing the exercise on your lower legs.

It is also possible to transform the static side plank to a dynamic exercise by moving the hips up and down or, just when we are on our lower leg, by moving the upper elbow and knee towards each other.

Never go in side plank position in fast or sudden movements but controlled and smoothly. Avoid press breathing (exhalation against closed airways). Please notice that the knee of the lower leg gets a lot of pressure in side plank position. Especially the outer knee ligament is stressed a lot. If you have knee problems solely perform this exercise on your lower leg.


Antagonist: Lower back muscles

Stretching: Abdominal stretches

 

Side plank

Side plank

 

Side plank lower intensity

Side plank lower intensity

 

Side plank dynamic versions

Side plank dynamic versions