The abdominals are emphasized in the industry as a key component of a desirable aesthetic. However we often fail to appreciate their important role in functionality and performance.
The transverse abdominis is the deepest abdominal layer and wraps around the torso stabilizing the spine and protecting the back and pelvis. The stronger it is, the more effective it will be at performing these functions. Poor abdominal strength will inevitably lead to poor posture and often back pain because the lower back is working harder to compensate.
In addition to their role in posture, our abs stabilize our trunk whilst we move other parts of our bodies for functional movement. For this reason, increased abdominal strength will improve your capacity to do countless different movements.
Lastly, our abs help to protect our internal organs hence why boxers do a lot of core conditioning.
Below I outline some of my favorite exercises to target the abdominals.
Execution – Lie flat on your back with your hands and forearms pressed through the floor. Drive your knees up to your chest, push your hips up off the ground and exhale. Straighten your legs back out to return to the start position.
Comments and Tips – This movement puts emphasis on the lower abdominals. Exhale as hard as you can at the peak of the movement for the optimal contraction. When you straighten your legs out to return to the start position, avoid resting your feet on the floor. This will ensure maximum time under tension.
Execution – Raise your feet and shoulders off the floor keeping your neck in line with your body. From here reach across to your opposite knee rotating your torso to engage your obliques.
Comments and Tips – Of the 3 exercises listed, this is the most complete in the sense that it taxes all of the abdominals and the obliques. Having the shoulders and feet off the floor at all times keeps the abs under constant tension making it very efficient and one of my favorite exercises.
Execution – Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor, raise your shoulders up off the floor keeping your neck in line with your body and rotate from side to side tapping your heel each side.
Comments and Tips – This exercise primarily works the obliques which are either side of your abdominals and assist rotation of both the trunk and spine. The most common mistake on this movement is the tendency to tilt your neck down with blocks the airways. A straight neck will allow more oxygen to muscles enhancing your endurance. Once you are comfortable with tapping your heels, you can attempt to tap your toes to increase the range of motion and difficulty.