Abdominal exercises are an important part of any fitness and strength program. A strong core helps you perform better during athletic activity and can help prevent against many types of injuries, including those that affect the back. When starting an abdominal strengthening program, it’s safest to start with basic exercises. When you become stronger, you may then add more difficult variations.
The roll-up abdominal exercise is a staple in most Pilates workouts. It’s a fairly simple movement suitable for practitioners of all levels. Fitness magazine reports that when compared to standard crunches, the Pilates roll-up is 30 percent more effective because it incorporates a fuller range of motion. To do this exercise, Fitness magazine instructs to lie on your back, on the floor or on a mat. Extend your legs straight in front of you and your arms over your head, in line with your ears. Breathe in through your nose, and on the exhale engage your abdominal muscles and start to slowly curl up your torso. Your chin should stay slightly tucked. As you are rolling up, bring your arms forward until you’re in a forward bend with your hands touching your feet. Slowly reverse the motion to roll back down to the starting position. Repeat eight to 10 rounds.
The elbow-to-knee crunch is also a basic abdominal exercise that targets your oblique muscles, according to Women’s Health magazine. The obliques are the abdominal muscles that run along the side of your torso. They help your body move in twisting and side-to-side motions. Women’s Health instructs to lie on your back on the floor or on a mat. Lift your legs off the floor and bend your knees to a 90-degree angle; your shins should be parallel to the floor. Place your hands behind your head or at the side of your forehand. Engage your abdominals and lift your shoulders off the floor. Crunch up and twist your left elbow to your right knee. Return to the starting position but keep your shoulders off the floor for the duration of the exercise. Repeat to the other side by twisting your right elbow to your left knee. Complete 12 full rounds.
Stability Ball Pelvic Tilt Crunch
This exercise from Women’s Health can be completed with or without a medicine ball in your hands, depending on your fitness level. The basic exercise is done by lying face-up on a stability ball with your feet hip-width apart on the floor and your back and head resting on the ball. Cross your arms over your chest, engage your abs and crunch up, lifting your shoulders off the ball. Return to the starting position for one repetition. To do the advanced version, hold a 5-lb. 10-lb. medicine ball in your hands. As you crunch up, reach your hands and the medicine ball toward the ceiling. Lower the medicine ball back down to your chest as your return to the starting position. Complete 12 repetitions.
Article by Beth Rifkin, via www.livestrong.com