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Abdominal Exercise Explanations

Muscle of the Month - June 1996

Abdominal Muscles


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You will see several different people demonstrating abdominals. No matter what your body type or body situation is everyone can benefit from strengthening their abdominals. The areas made up by the abdominal muscles are upper, lower (rectus abdominus) and sides (internal/external obliques). While abdominals seem a small part of our muscular system, they truly play an important role to our overall muscularity and strength. They help pull the trunk of our body toward the lower body and are involved in every exercise we do. It is the center of our strength. There are many types of abdominal exercises. We have some of the more common and some of the more fun ones to do in this column. By selecting any three abdominal exercises (include one upper, one lower and one internal/external obliques) and super-setting each of the abdominal movements several times through, you will achieve a firmer and stronger base to work your other exercises. It is not necessary to work abdominals more than 3-4 times a week.

HINT: Work abdominals with slow and intense (not painful) contractions, maintaining continuous tension. Be specific and work smarter-not harder.

Abdominal Floor Crunches (Upper and Lower)

Areas worked: Crunches work upper and lower abdominals. The general movement for uppers involves bringing the upper body (ribs or shoulders toward pelvis). The general movement for lowers involves a slight rocking of the front pelvis or pubis toward the ribs.

Rhonda is demonstrating the starting position for an upper abdominal floor crunch.

Starting Position- Lie on the floor on your back and bend your knees so that your legs are at an approximately 90 degree angle. (Some adjustment can be made for varying body types and sizes. The object being that we feel the crunch in the proper place. ie the area we are working) At a 90 degree angle we can catch our upper and some lower. If we wish to work more lower, we can pull our heels in closer to our buttocks. Fold hand behind neck only for support. Do not pull on neck.. Slowly curl your body up, using only shoulders and abdominals.

Rhonda is demonstrating the ending position for abdominal floor crunch.

Ending Position-Rise only high enough so that your full shoulder area is lifted of the floor. Do not go higher. Slowly lower yourself to starting position and without resting, so as to maintain tension throughout exercise, repeat movement.

Notes: This exercise can also be done with your legs crossed and placed over a flat exercise bench. For uppers keep legs perpendicular to floor. For lowers move buttocks in to for more of a 45 degree angle.

Remember: Visualize your abdominals being formed. This will help you get the workout on the muscle you are trying to strengthen. Breathing out on the actual crunch will apply more resistance to the muscle. Most important is to not hold your breath. Breathe naturally!!

Repetitions: AMAP-Start out with as many repetitions that can be done comfortably and increase with each abdominal training session.

Abdominal Floor Crunches (side seratus-external obliques)

Areas worked: Side seratus-external obliques. General movement involves twisting (shoulder/rib to opposite knee.

Rhonda is demonstrating the starting position of external oblique floor.crunch.

Starting Position- Lie on the floor on your back and bend your knees so that your legs are at an approximately 90 degree angle. (Some adjustment can be made for varying body types and sizes. The object being that we feel the crunch in the proper place. ie the area we are working) Place one leg over the other so that ankle is resting on thigh, just below knee. Slowly raise torso as you twist torso.

Rhonda is demonstrating the ending position of external oblique floor crunch..

Ending Position- Raise high enough to bring entire shoulder off the floor as you twist shoulder/rib to the opposite knee. Slowly lower yourself to starting position and without resting repeat the movement until you have completed as many as possible (AMAP). Then repeat the same procedure on opposite side.

Notes: This exercise can also be done with your legs crossed and placed over a flat exercise bench.

Remember: Visualize your abdominals being formed. This will help you get the workout on the muscle you are trying to strengthen. Breathing out on the actual crunch will apply more resistance to the muscle. Most important is to not hold your breath. Breathe naturally!!

Repetitions: AMAP-Start out with as many repetitions that can be done comfortably and increase with each abdominal training session.

One Arm Cable Crunches (side seratus-internal obliques)

Areas worked: Side seratus-internal obliques. General movement involves crunching the rib towards the same side hip.

Keith is demonstrating the starting position for one arm cable crunches.

Starting Position- In kneeling position, with upper body erect and one side of body facing cable machine and holding handle attachment in one hand, start crunching down toward same side hip..

Keith is demonstrating the ending position for a one arm abdominal cable crunches.

Ending Position- Using you abdominal to pull you toward your hip, slowly pull in downward direction. Slowly raise yourself to starting upright position and without resting repeat the movement until you have completed as many as possible (AMAP). Then repeat the same procedure on opposite side.

Note: Weight can be added to this exercise, but is not necessary for toning abdominals.

Remember: Visualize your abdominals being formed. This will help you get the workout on the muscle you are trying to strengthen. Breathing out on the actual crunch will apply more resistance to the muscle. Most important is to not hold your breath. Breathe naturally!!

Repetitions: AMAP-Start out with as many repetitions that can be done comfortably and increase with each abdominal training session.

Two Arm Cable "C" Crunches (with rope or towel)

Gypsy is demonstrating starting position for two arm cable "c" crunches.

Areas worked-Internal obliques-once again general movement involves crunching ribs toward hips.

Starting Position-In kneeling position, with upper body erect and both hands holding rope or towel attachment,with elbow pointed toward knees start crunching downward using your abdominals for pulling, rather than your arms..

Gypsy is demonstrating ending position of two arm cable "c" crunches.

Ending Position- Ending Position- Using you abdominal to pull you toward your hips, slowly pull in downward direction until your elbows touch your knees. Slowly raise yourself to starting upright position and without resting repeat the movement until you have completed as many as possible (AMAP). Then repeat the same procedure on opposite side.

Note: Weight can be added to this exercise, but is not necessary for abdominal toning.

Remember: Visualize your abdominals being formed. This will help you get the workout on the muscle you are trying to strengthen. Breathing out on the actual crunch will apply more resistance to the muscle. Most important is to not hold your breath. Breathe naturally!!

Repetitions: AMAP-Start out with as many repetitions that can be done comfortably and increase with each abdominal training session.

Abdominal Bench Sit-ups

Areas worked: The upper half of the abdominal muscles(above the waist)with slight stresses of lower abdominals (below waist).

Gypsy is demonstrating starting position for doing abdominal bench sit-ups.

Starting position- While in an erect seated position on abdominal crunch bench and feet placed under roller pad, keep knees slightly bent and arms crossed in front of you. Some people prefer the arms behind head position.

Gypsy is demonstrating ending position for doing abdominal bench sit-ups.

Ending position-Slowly let yourself move toward a prone position, until you feel a tension in your abs. You do not need to lower yourself all the way. Without hesitation slowly return to starting position and repeat this movement until you have completed the number of repetitions desired. Make your moves slow and deliberate. Going all the way back and forth will not help your abs. Small intense movements are all that are necessary. Maintain a constant resistance on abs for the most productive results.

Note: Weight can be added to this exercise by holding a weight to your chest, but again this is not necessary for abdominal toning.

Remember: Visualize your abdominals being formed. This will help you get the workout on the muscle you are trying to strengthen. Breathing out on the actual crunch will apply more resistance to the muscle. Most important is to not hold your breath. Breathe naturally!!

Repetitions: AMAP-Start out with as many repetitions that can be done comfortably and increase with each abdominal training session.

Torso Twisting Sit-ups

Areas worked: External Obliques (sides) This is a more advanced exercise and takes a bit of balance. So only if you have strong back to begin with should this exercise be done.

Linda is demonstrating starting position for a torso twisting sit-up.

Starting Position: From a seated position on floor, with arms at sides for support and balance and knees bent, prepare to slowly twist your torso to one side. Then bend and straighten legs (pulling knees toward side of body).

Linda is demonstrating ending position for a torso twisting sit-up. Ending Position: With legs and feet together move legs over to opposite side again twisting torso. Repeat same straightening and bending of legs on other side Return to starting position and without repeat on opposite side.

Torso Twisting Sit-ups with medicine ball

Areas worked: External Obliques (sides)

The following abdominal exercises are demonstrated by Keith, Gypsy, Tiffani, and Bessie. These exercises are a fun way of doing abdominals with a friend.

Gypsy and Tiffani are demonstrating another abdominal exercise for the external obliques.

With one person sitting down in front and one standing close behind, a medicine ball (the one in the picture is a 12# ball) is handed from one to the other over the shoulder as pictured. The person standing moves back and forth to one side then the other of the seated person.

As the person standing moves back and forth she or he should move further away so the seated person must throw rather than hand the ball over their shoulder.

Bessie and Gypsy are demonstrating another abdominal exercise for the external obliques. Standing back to back each person hands the ball over their shoulder, alternating each move from side to side.

Medicine Ball Sit-ups

Areas worked: Upper abdominal with some work on lowers.

Keith and Gypsy are demonstrating with a 12 pound medicine ball sit-ups for upper/lower abs.

This exercise is started with one person standing and another lying flat on back with knees bent and standing person lightly placing their feet on top of partners toes. The standing person tosses ball down onto prone person's abdominals The person lying on the mat brings the medicine ball over their head till ball is resting behind them. Then as they come into a sit-up they throw the ball back to the standing partner. The person's ending position is to come to a full sit-up at the end of the throw. Remember when doing abdominals that slow intense work is actually more productive than fast and loose.


You may send your comments and suggestions to Gypsy --- The Gift of Youth via electronic mail by sending email to:

gypsy@dreamagic.com (Gypsy)


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