The Series “Hit all Muscle Fibers” continues! Make sure you read the Lower Body and the Upper Back and Lats – Editions, if you haven’t already.
Now, let us get to the next part of the body we need to properly activate: The Abdominal Muscles.
Anatomy of your Abs
I have written in earlier posts that a strong core is crucial for proper posture, prevention of back pain, hip joint injuries … the list goes on. Also, if you want to burn more fat and thus lift heavy weights, you need a strong core to protect your spine and joints. Even if you are reading this just to attain nice looking Abs, you need to properly engage those muscles and this is not done with hundreds of crunches!
Ladies, do not fear to build your Abdominal Muscles. I do not use any weight for these exercises, as I do not desire to attain a six-pack (in fact, I would have to lean down significantly for that and my hormonal system does not like low body fat percentage…). You can work out your abdominal muscles like any other muscle. As long as you burn the fat on top of it, you will not get a thick waist from doing these exercises!
How to start
If you are just starting out or have difficulty in feeling your abdominal muscles activate during certain exercises, start with Pilates exercises. They build a strong base and mind-muscle connection.
I have already shared my favorite Exercises in my “Tighten the Lower Body Series” but I did not explain each exercise in detail. Today, I would like to share my tips to really feel the right muscles to the motion.
10 Exercises to hit all your abs
1. Toe taps
This is an extremely difficult exercise if you do it right. Lying on your back bend your legs in a 90 degrees position. Press your lower back against the ground and touch your abdominals with your hands. Breathe in – out and simultaneously lower your leg towards the ground. Tap your toe and immediately bring your knee back to the 90 degrees position. Try not to contract your neck muscles.
Keep one arm behind your neck for protection. Only lower your legs as much as you can press your lower back on the ground. Deep breaths are very important here.
3. Flutter kicks
This exercise works the legs and core. Your lower back is pressed against the ground, your legs are contracted, your hands lie on your belly to feel the contraction of the abs. Raise your head or let it rest, that is your decision. Only lower your legs as much as you can hold the contraction on the ground. Breathe in and out.
4. Bird dogs
You can do this exercise either from your knees or your toes. Raise your left arm and right leg and really stretch into the opposite position. Keep your body parallel to the ground and your leg and arm should form a straight line with your body. Do not raise your leg too high, make sure to posteriorly tilt your pelvis to engage the glutes.
5. Side Plank
To really activate the obliques, I recommend doing the “Baby get up” exercise. Watch the video and try this exercise. You will feel it in your obliques and quadratus lumborum. Strengthening the QL is important for core stabilization.
It is important for this exercise that you squeeze your glutes and again posteriorly tilt the pelvis. You will feel your whole body tighten. Make sure to push the shoulders down to decrease pressure on the shoulder joint.
6. Reverse crunch
This is an excellent exercise for the transverse abdominis. Do not use your hands for this. Rest them on your belly to feel the muscles activate. Now contract the lower part of your abdominals and your glutes to raise your legs towards the ceiling. Make sure not to use bouncing movements and control the motion.
7. Plank RKC
This is a variation of the traditional plank that engages your whole body. This video demonstrates the exercise perfectly. The difference is the posterior tilt of the pelvis which leads to higher glutes activation. Simultaneously, push your arms and feet towards each other. Push your shoulder blades down and keep your body in a straight line. You may only be able to hold this position for 20 seconds or 10 seconds. That’s alright, as this exercise is not comparable to the traditional plank.
8. Push up Position oblique climber
This is a great exercise to activate the obliques. In a push up position, squeeze your glutes, push your shoulder blades down and keep your body in a straight line. Now slowly raise one foot and bring the knee to the opposite elbow. Do not round your back and squeeze your obliques. Breathe out when you bring the knee to your elbows.
9. Crunch Tips
To say the truth, I rarely utilize crunches in my own workouts. After the first state examination of med school I suffered from chronic neck pain for a year. I know that many people who live a stressful life suffer from that as well, so here are my tips to prevent neck strain when doing crunches:
- Always support your head
- Engage your glutes and contract the whole pelvic muscles when doing a crunch
10. Ball exercises: pike, plank, ball roll-in
Ball Pike up
Exercise Balls are an effective equipment for advanced abs training. Personally, I can feel my whole abdominal-wall activate with the following exercises. Make sure to contract all muscles in your body, keep your body in a straight line at all times.
Burpees/ Squat Thrusts, Jumps, Plank jumps
Finally, to burn off some fat of the midsection, we need to include some HIIT style plyometric exercises. Especially burpees leave my abdominals very sore.
Remember, none of these exercises will give you the definition you desire, unless you put in some effort.
Building a mind-muscle connection takes some time and you might be frustrated at first. However, do not give up and keep working hard and you will see results.
Do not get discouraged and think “this is all too complicated I just want to get in shape”. You may be young now but in the future you will thank yourself for pushing through and building a strong base that protects you against back, hip and knee-joint problems!
I hope you enjoyed today’s tips!
What are your favorite exercises for the abdominal muscles?