You may have a friend who hurt her shoulder from throwing a ball or a co-worker who has lower back pain. Strong and flexible shoulders and abs are necessary to keep your body moving in its full range of motion. Flexion exercises can be part of your workout to reduce your risk of injuries. If you have pain, check with your physician before starting any exercise program.
Abdominal flexion is essentially a situp, and there are several variations of situps you can do. This exercise works primarily your outer abdominal muscles, such as your external obliques and rectus abdominis. The standard situp -- the ones you see in gyms -- is where you lie on the ground on your back and lift your shoulders off the ground. You can do them with your feet on the ground or with your back on a stability ball. You may add a rotation and flexion together by turning your torso to your left and right as you sit up.
Shoulder flexion is raising your arms in front of you, working primarily your front deltoids, serratus anterior, trapezius and parts of your chest. You can move them as high as your shoulders or over your head like you're doing the wave at a ballpark. An example of a shoulder flexion exercise includes front raises with dumbbells or a resistance band.
Front swings are the power version of shoulder flexion exercises. Doing them teaches you how to generate force using your lower body, and improves core and shoulder stability, body awareness and balance, says athletic coach Vern Gambetta, author of "Athletic Development." You can do swings using a kettlebell or a medicine ball. To do a basic medicine ball swing, stand with your legs about shoulder-distance apart, and hold a six-pound medicine ball with both hands in front of your chest. Bend your knees slightly and your torso forward, swinging the ball between your legs at the same time. Exhale while you push your hips forward and swing the ball over your head quickly. Do not round your back. Swing the ball back down between your legs and repeat the exercise as fast as you can. Do two to three sets of 10 to 12 reps.
Don't just stick with one plane of motion. Your shoulders and abdominal region moves in different directions, such as rotating in the horizontal or diagonal patterns and moving laterally. Try doing various movement directions as if you're sampling different foods at a buffet. This will help you move better and keep your workouts from getting boring. Sample exercises for your shoulders and abs include lateral raises with dumbbells, horizontal rotations with a resistance band and diagonal chops with a medicine ball.
- IDEA Fitness Journal: Kettlebell Comeback
- Athletic Development; Vern Gambetta
- IDEA Fitness Journal: The Shoulder Complex, Part II
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.