Everyone wants great abs, like those six-packs you see on some athletes and celebrities. To get abs that you can be proud of you need to exercise and eat right. Whether or not you want great abs to show-off, abdominal training can yield great health benefits. It strengths the stomach muscles, helps in weight loss and improves your over all fitness level.
Functions of the abdominal muscles
Abdominal muscles are the stomach muscles, they are found between the thorax and the pelvis. There are four different muscles that make up the abs: the upper rectus abdominus, lower rectus abdominus, the internal oblique and the external oblique. The abdominal muscles support our back and spine when we bend and lift objects. They assist us to breathe properly as well as serve a most basic function, keeping our intestines and organs located in the abdomen securely place.
Types of abdominal exercises
If you are overweight, the first step to getting great abs is not abdominal training or spot reduction (which many in the health and fitness field to believe does not work), but fat reduction. You must get rid of the layer of fat around your middle if exercise is to help define and build your abdominal muscles. Once you have dealt with the fat, you can now really get into your abdominal training routine, just bear in mind that no single exercise can work all the different abdominal muscles.
The best types of abdominal training exercises are those that push the sternum (breastbone) towards your pelvis, thus the popularity of crunches, sit-ups and leg raises in abs training.
Some abdominal exercises worth trying are:
There are many different types of crunches that can be used in abdominal training. Some of the most common ones are: incline crunches, floor crunches, reverse crunches and cable crunches (both one arm and two-arm). The simplest crunch is this:
Lie flat on your back on the floor; bend your knees; place your hands behind your neck to provide support for your head; lift your head and shoulders off the ground, about one or two inches is good; hold for five seconds and lower yourself. Repeat
- Hip and Leg Raises
Leg and hip raises are great for abdominal training because they work the muscles of the stomach. Some variation of leg raises are hanging leg and knee raises and medicine ball leg raises. The lying leg raise is easy to do:
Lie on your back on the floor; support your buttocks with your palms; now raise your legs ten to twelve inches off the floor; hold this position; try to lift your legs another six or so inches using only your lower abdominal muscles.
(This exercise is easier and less stressful on the back for persons who are not extremely overweight)
while there is controversy about the benefits of sit-ups for abs training doing some variations, such as a chair sit-up does work the abs.
Abdominal training summary
For most abdominal training exercises you only need to do two or three sets of around ten to fifteen repetitions. To safely do most abdominal training exercises you should not arch your back, as this can result in injuries. Try to use the natural bend of the spine instead of forcing it to arch unnaturally. Like with all other exercises, once you begin to feel pain it is time to stop as pain is an indication that something is wrong.