Abs exercises: Beginner part 2

Single leg stand

Body part: Abs

Equipment: No equipment

Step 1

Starting Position: Stand with both feet together or spread a few inches apart (2-3″), but parallel with each other. Depress and retract your scapulae (pull your shoulders down and back) while simultaneously engaging (contracting) your abdominal muscles to avoid any excessive arching in your low back. Bend your knees slightly and keep your abductors and adductors under tension (contract your inner and outer thigh muscles). This will help control against excessive hip adduction (sideways shift) during the single-leg stand.

Step 2

Movement: Slowly lift one leg 3-6″ off the floor, stabilizing your body on the stance (supporting) leg. Avoid any sideways tilting or swaying in your upper body and try not to move the stance (supporting) foot. Hold for 10-15 seconds before returning the raised foot to the floor. Perform an equal number of repetitions with each foot.

Step 3

Exercise Variation: Increase the intensity of this exercise by going through the following progressions (1) lift the one leg higher off the floor (illustrated) to further raise your center of mass, (2)raise both arms overhead (3) lift one arm to your side, (4) tilt your head, (5) close your eyes then finally (6) close your eyes and tilt your head.

Try to perform this exercise in front of a mirror initially so that you can watch and control the degree of hip adduction (sideways shift) over the stance (supporting) leg. Always try to minimize the degree of hip adduction as it places excessive stresses on your knee joint. While balancing on the stance leg (the foot on the ground) think about pressing your foot into the floor and squeezing your glutes (butt muscles), this will help reduce any sideways tilting.

Most of us can lift one leg, but the question of the quality of movement is important. Perform your movements slowly and under control, avoiding any sudden positional changes. Perform each progression until you can execute them with good control and form.

Supine hollowing with lower extremity

Body part: Abs

Equipment: No equipment

Step 1

Starting Position: Lie supine (on your back) on an exercise mat or firm surface, bending your knees until your feet are positioned flat on the floor 12 – 18″ from your buttocks. Extend your arms out to your sides, palms facing either up or down (illustrated) at, or near shoulder level. Breathe deeply for a 30 seconds relaxing your body and allowing gravity to gently pull your lower back and shoulders towards the floor.

Step 2

Depress and retract your scapulae (pull your shoulder down and back) without increasing the arch in your low back or lifting your hips off the mat / floor. Hold this position throughout the exercise.

Step 3

Hollowing Movement: Breathe normally and at the end of your breaths (end-tidal volume), perform the following actions individually at first, then combine them together:

  1. Perform a gentle “kegel” contraction without moving your hips or ribcage (the kegel contraction of the pelvic floor is the same contraction your would perform when resisting the urge to urinate).
  2. Draw your belly button towards your spine without moving your hips or rib cage (visualize narrowing your waist circumference without taking a deep breath). Any movement of the hips or rib cage indicates activation of your larger abdominal muscles (e.g. rectus abdominis).
  3. Combining both 1 and 2 above.
  4. Combining 1 and 2, but counting out loud while breathing normally (i.e. holding the contractions through normal breathing)

Step 4

Exercise Progressions: Once your have spent time learning how to co-contract the muscles of the pelvic floor and core, independent of breathing, progress the exercise complexity by adding small movements in the lower extremity:

  1. Lift one leg 3 – 6″ (no more) off the mat and hold this position briefly (illustrated) without moving your torso (hips, shoulders or increasing your low-back arch).
  2. Heel slide, lifting the toes in one foot off the floor and slowly sliding the heel of one foot 3-6″ away from your body. without moving your torso (hips, shoulders or increasing your low-back arch)

This series of exercise movements activate your core muscles that are often neglected. Good core activity (independent of your larger, more superficial abdominal muscles like your rectus abdominis) helps stiffen your torso and stabilize your spine against injury. Try performing this exercise adjacent to a mirror that will allow you to monitor any undesired movement in the hips, ribs, shoulder or low-back.

Cobra

Body part: Abs

Equipment: No equipment

Step 1

Starting Position: Lie prone (on your stomach) on an exercise mat or floor with your hands by your sides, positioned directly under your shoulders and hands facing forward. Extend your legs and plantar flex your ankles (toes point away from body).

Step 2

Upward Phase: Gently exhale and press your hips into the mat or floor and pull your chest away from the ground while keeping your hips stable. This will arch your low back and stretch the muscles in your chest and abdominal region. Hold this position for 15 – 30 seconds

Step 3

Downward Phase: Gently relax and lower your upper body to rest back upon the mat or floor.

Step 4

If you experience any pain in the low back with this movement, stop the exercise immediately and consult with your doctor.

As the length of arms differ, individuals may often lift their hips off the mat or floor as they fully extend their arms. In this case, limit the extension in your arms to keep the hips on the mat.

Side plank – modified

Body part: Abs, butt/hips

Equipment: No equipment

Step 1

Starting Position: Lie on your right side on an exercise mat with your left leg lying directly over your right leg and bend your knees to a comfortable position. Raise your upper body to support yourself on your right arm, your right elbow should bend to 90 degrees and be positioned directly under your shoulder. Align your head with your spine and keep your hips and lower knee in contact with the exercise mat.

Step 2

Upward Phase: Exhale, gently contract your abdominal / core muscles to stiffen your spine and lift your hips off the mat, but keeping contact with your knee, and head aligned with your spine.

Step 3

Lowering Phase: Inhale and gently return yourself to your starting position.

Step 4

Exercise Variation: You can increase the exercise intensity by increasing the length of time you are in the raised position.

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