The term abs may have you thinking about a flat stomach and bathing suit season, but there is more to this body part than just appearances. Your abdomen plays a part in good posture, rotating and bending your body and powering your extremities. Tight abs and a flat stomach can help you go faster, farther and longer in nearly everything you do.
No matter what sport you are doing, when you work out, all of your power comes from your core. Your core is made up of four muscles: the rectus abdominis, transversus abdominis, internal obliques and external obliques. These muscles connect to your pelvis, lower back, hips, glutes and legs to help your body transfer force to your arms and legs. The stronger your core is, the more balanced and stable your whole body becomes.
When it comes to targeting your entire core, nothing works better than the stability ball. Sure, you might be concerned that you’ll end up spread out across the gym floor if you lose control, but chances are that won’t happen. Core exercises on the stability ball target your abdominal muscles significantly more than traditional floor moves, according to a study published in the “Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research” in 2007. The best moves on the ball to target your rectus abdominis and external and internal obliques are the roll-out and the pike, according to a study by the “Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy” in 2010.
Every year it seems science changes its advocation of the best way to do a situp. To get the most out of the traditional situp, which engages the rectus abdominis and external obliques, you need to use the proper form. For this, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet firmly planted on the floor hip-width apart. Fold your arms across your chest. As you tighten your abdominal muscles, raise your head and shoulders off the floor about 6 inches and then return to the starting position.
By using a medicine ball, you not only tighten your abs but you also build power, flexibility, endurance and functional fitness. Medicine balls range in weight from 1 to 50 pounds. Select a ball that is heavy enough to slow down your exercise but not so heavy that you lose control or cannot maintain proper form. For a few examples of medicine ball moves, try holding a plank on the medicine ball or performing a pushup with it. For the pushup, start with both hands on the ball in a pushup position and then quickly move your hands off to the sides of the ball and lower into a pushup. Your chest should nearly touch the ball. Push back up and put your palms back on the ball.
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Electromyographic Comparison Of A Stability Ball Crunch With A Traditional Crunch
- Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy: Core Muscle Activation During Swiss Ball and Traditional Abdominal Exercises
- Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism: The Effects Of Different Sit- And Curl-Up Positions On Activation of Abdominal and Hip Flexor Musculature
- Mayo Clinic: Abdominal Crunch
- American College of Sports Medicine: Selecting and Effectively Using a Medicine Ball
- Mayo Clinic: Core exercises: Why You Should Strengthen Your Core Muscles
- Human Kinetics: Functional Anatomy of the Core: The Abdomen
- Stack.Com: Core Exercises to Boost Your Power
- Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images
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