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What are abdominal exercises?

Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics

"Abdominal exercises" are any exercise or movement that challenges the muscles in your entire stomach area, your stomach muscles include several muscles that collectively wrap around your entire abdomen. Crunches and sit-ups are the most common known abdominal exercises. However any exercise that involves contracting your mid-section, even if for proper form is a type of abdominal exercise.

Abdominal exercises are exercises that strengthen the abdominal muscles.  These exercises consist of more than just crunches.  A good program will address all musculature of that region (the core), on both the front of the body and the back of the body.  Here are some good exercises to start:

1.  Draw in maneuver:  Practice slowly pulling your belly button in toward your spine, and holding it there. Do this repeatedly throughout your day. This can be done while you are sitting, standing, driving, and moving.

2.  Floor Bridge: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, about hip width apart.  Perform the Draw in maneuver (above) and slowly lift your hips until there is a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.  Keep your belly button pulled in while you lower your hips to the floor.  Start with 12-15 lifts about 3 times per week.

3.  Prone Iso-Ab:  This is also known as The Plank.  Lie on the floor with your toes tucked under and your body resting on your forearms.  Practice the draw in maneuver again, and squeeze the muscles in your butt.  In a controlled manner, raise your body off the floor so the only parts touching the floor are your forearms and your toes.  Keep your belly button pulled in the entire time.  You should not feel any pain or discomfort in your low back.  If you do, lower your body to the floor, draw in your belly button again, and try another plank lift.  Start with holding your plank for about 10 seconds, and gradually increase the time to 30 seconds or more.  Do 3-5 Planks about three times per week.

These exercises will help to create stability in your "core" and lessen your chance of developing low back pain.  A strong and stable core will also improve your posture and allow you to breathe more effectively. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.