As the weather gets nicer, we are reminded that bikini season is fast approaching. And what do we all want to show off most while wearing our bitty bikini?… great abs! Our guest blogger, Scott Wiess, is the clinical director at the physical therapy clinic, Bodhizone in NYC. Learn how he suggests to strengthen your abs effectively.
The first concept you must understand is that the cornerstone to a solid trimmed gut is one’s diet. The second is training, aerobic fitness would be third, and body symmetry is the last key to overall appearance. To really achieve an understanding of the abdominals, it is imperative to have a good functional understanding of the anatomy. In essence, the anatomy will dictate the workout.
Before you get on the floor to start exercising, I recommend knowing your initial functional strength level. I have been using this test for years with both professional and Olympic athletes. To perform the first test, which tests the upper abs, we start in the traditional hook lying position or bent knee position. Do not brace your feet on anything.
- If you can cross your arms on your chest and perform a full sit up, you have 60% of your upper ab strength.
- If you perform the same sit-up with the arms clasped behind your head, with elbows open, you have 80% strength.
- Now try this sit-up with your arms extended over your head (biceps near your ears) – you have 100% of your upper abdominal strength.
Try squeezing a small pliable ball between your knees while doing a sit up or crunch. Squeeze the adductors consistently throughout the entire exercise. This applies a downward and outward force on the pelvis and it forces your abs to contract against an opposite force, thus making it harder.
Another approach to the crunch is to place the hip flexors in the active insufficient position. This is so they can’t assist. To try this technique, lay on your back in the traditional crunch position with the feet unanchored on the floor. Place the bottoms of your feet together, so your knees aim out to the sides as if you were doing the butterfly stretch. Now try to perform crunches.
Anatomically, the hip flexors (HF) are known as an external rotator. If we bring the legs into full external rotation it cannot contract or be used in the crunch from this position. This is the idea of active insufficiency. The muscle is actively insufficient. By understanding the principles you may find you can apply them to different exercises.
What is your favorite workout for great abs?