A common mistake made when trying to work the abs is not flexing the spine. The main abdominal muscle, called the rectus abdominis or the six-pack muscle, mainly functions to flex your spine. If you are doing situps, do not raise the torso with your spine straight, because this would mainly target your hip flexors. Rather, flex your spine in addition to flexing your hips to engage your rectus abdominis. Doing situps and crunches also works your obliques, another muscle of the abdominals. If you perform these exercises correctly, you will surely notice improvements in your abdominal musculature.
Lie face-up on the ground or on the stretcthing mat.
Bend your knees past 90 degrees, and put the soles of your feet on the ground or mat.
Bend your elbows, and cross your arms in front of your chest.
Flex your spine until your upper back is off the ground or mat. Focus on the contraction of your abdominals, and exhale during this upward motion. Hold the contraction at the top of the motion for one to two seconds.
Extend your spine until your upper back is in contact with the ground or mat. Inhale while you execute this downward motion. If you have trouble keeping your feet flat on the ground, have a training partner press your feet to the ground. If you are training alone, put a weight plate over each foot to correct this issue.
Lie on your back on the ground or on a stretching mat.
Bend your knees past 90 degrees, and place your feet down on the ground or mat. Bend your arms, and cross them in front of your chest.
Raise your torso off the ground or mat by flexing your spine and flexing your hips. Keep elevating your torso until your chest is close to your knees. Exhale during this upward phase of the movement.
Hold the abdominal contraction for one to two seconds once you are close to your knees.
Lower your torso to the ground or mat by extending your spine and hips. Inhale during this downward phase of the movement.
- Do not use heavy loads while doing either the situp or crunch to avoid injury to your spine. Rather, use just your body weight if you are a beginner, and do 15 to 30 repetitions. If you are more advanced, hold a light resistance, such as a small weight plate in both hands or a light dumbbell in each hand, and do 12 to 20 reps. Regardless of your training experience, do three to five sets per abdominal exercise.
- Talk to your physician about performing spinal flexing exercises if you suffer from any back conditions prior to doing any of the aforementioned ab exercises.
Richard Choueiri is a fitness and nutrition expert and the author of "The Human Statue Workout." He began writing professionally in 2007 and his work has been featured in Bodybuilding.com and "Physique Magazine." Choueiri studied exercise science and nutritional science at Rutgers University. He holds an American College of Sports Medicine CPT, and a National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association CMMACC.