About Those Crunches…
Strong abdominal muscles do more than make us look better. Since our abdominal muscles are involved in stabilizing most of our movements, it’s important to spend time on ab work. In order to avoid the disappointment of effort spent with a low return, it helps to understand the structure of the abdominal muscles.
A common misconception is that there are upper and lower abdominal muscles. In reality, the abdominal muscles are layered, running the length of the abdominal area. The three abdominal muscles include the rectus abdominus, the obliques, and the transverse abdominus. To get the most for your efforts, you can work the upper portions and the lower portions of these muscle groups. A good plan includes crunches for the rectus abdominus, crunches that include a twist of the torso at the top of the movement for the obliques, and reverse crunches for the transverse abdominals. Pre-set your abdominals by scooping them in before you begin each crunch. Hold the hollow abdominal position throughout the crunch. Exhale as the movement begins, feeling the ribcage slide downward to reinforce the scooping of the abs. Tighten the pelvic floor muscles as well. These are the muscles that one would use to hold in urine. They are activated when the transverse abdominus muscles contract. Throughout all crunches, place the hands at the back of the head and keep elbows wide. Be sure the movement originates from the flexing of the abdominals and not the pulling of the hands at the back of the head.
Five minutes of abdominal work during each workout is a good plan for stronger abs. You can mix-up the plan, varying the focus to the upper portion of the abs one day and the lower portion of the abs the next. Five minutes a day isn’t much to get a toned mid-section. The rewards are multiple: better posture, a slimmer waist-line, and less trouble with back pain.
- Pam Brooks