It can seem like the whole world is obsessed with abdominal exercises, but in some circumstances -- such as in some stages of pregnancy and when nursing a muscle injury -- challenging your abs is the last thing you want to do. The abdominals are hard to completely avoid because your body uses them in nearly every movement, but there are ways to minimize their use. The trick to exercises that don't use stomach muscles is finding low-impact solutions and ways to isolate your other muscles.
Use a wall for balance when performing standing exercises. Abdominals are engaged when you balance hands-free, so place a hand or two on a wall to help you keep your stomach relaxed. Do pushups against a wall to exercise your chest without forcing your abs to balance.
Use a ballet barre to balance when doing leg exercises like calf raises. If you do not have a barre at home, hold onto the back of a chair so you do not need to use your abs to keep your balance.
Isolate areas during free weight exercises by concentrating on one muscle at a time. Avoid doing lunges while you curl those biceps, and instead sit down on a bench and keep the rest of your body still while you curl a dumbbell with one arm. Keeping it simple will prevent engaging the abs to balance.
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Isolate non-abdominal muscles by using weight machines at the gym. Many weight machines keep your body still while a targeted group of muscles is used, but often abdominal muscles still engage during the exercise. Try using the cable machines for leg lifts, rows and pull-downs to keep your stomach out of it.
Reduce the range of motion on an exercise to prevent engaging your abs. The further you lift your leg, the more likely you will need to pull in your core to balance. Use heavier weights that you move in a smaller range of motion to keep your stomach relaxed.
Work your lower back to give your stomach a rest. When your biceps crunch, your triceps behind them relax. Similarly, when your lower back engages, like with the superman lower back lift, your abs stretch out and relax on the front of your body.
Use resistance bands to do seated exercises. Sit on a chair and place your feet over the middle of a resistance band. Positions like these allow you to do rows without bending over.
Try brisk walks instead of jogging or running. Low-impact cardio can keep you healthy without straining your abdominals.
Avoid lifting weights over your head. Stretching out like this causes your core to pull in to balance and aid your body. This can put pressure on both your abs and your lower back.
- Listen to your body and stop if any movement causes you pain.
- Avoid overexertion and breathlessness, which causes your abs to work hard to get oxygen into your body.
- Always check with a doctor before beginning any type of exercise program, particularly if you are avoiding an injury.
Meredith Berg received her B.F.A. in directing from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Now living in Los Angeles, she works as a film and television writer, comic-book editor and director of plays and films. In addition, she loves tackling paleo recipes, workout routines and DIY projects.