Strong Abs = Strong Back
Most of us walking around on two pins need to address the weak retaining wall of our underbelly. Our sedentary lifestyles - with perhaps more hours of sitting than ever before in the history of man - predisposes us to weakening of the lower abdominal wall. This allows the abdominal contents to fall forward, creating an unsightly spherical shape, particularly with a big belly below the navel. (The modern western diet also causes an accumulation of (pro-inflammatory) visceral fat around our internal organs which adds inches to the girth.)
The typical picture of modern wide-girth obesity from accumulated visceral fat and weakness of lower abdominals/pelvic floor
Quite apart from providing structural support for the spine, optimal abdominal and pelvic floor tone facilitates all the basic functions of the human body in subtle but critically important ways. For example, heightened intra-abdominal pressure brought about by raised abdominal/pelvic floor tone creates back-pressure against the bowel to add force to the wave-like smooth-muscle action (peristalsis) that drives the food through the tubes of the gut. This critical assistance with digestion is even more important in this age of low-fibre junk food diets. A similar back-pressure against the diaphragm makes breathing and coughing more efficient and the same with the circulatory system where the raised intra-abdominal pressure assists the heart in pumping blood through the arterial and venous systems.
Yes, that's right! A simple regimen of the best abs exercises to create a stronger abdominal retaining wall and pelvic floor will make all of these important systems function better - breathing, circulation and digestion - all of which become less efficient as we become more sedentary. Not only will you have a better back, you will genuinely become fitter and healthier by following a simple regime of the best abs exercises!
With 'reverse curls ups' try to draw up the pelvic floor as you bring your knees to your chin
Reverse curl ups are done by bringing knees-to-chin (the opposite of chin-to-knees as with traditional sit-ups) and the simple effort of doing this creates 'overflow recruitment' of the nearby pelvic floor. It's true to say that reverse sit-ups are less satisfactory to perform than the traditional sit-ups because the movement is somehow more meagre. Also, it's often quite difficult to lift your bottom off the floor with a rounding action of the lower abdomen. Even so, this exercise only does good as there is no ballooning of the pelvic floor by the unwanted bearing down pressures of traditional sit ups. Repeat 15 times.
The urology world now discourages voluntary interruption of flow when passing urine as an exercise to strengthen the pelvic muscles, since it may facilitate urinary retention. However, this is still one of the most effective ways to re-educate pelvic floor control if you have absolutely no idea - and important if you are to build up any strength of your lower abdominal muscles.
Reverse curls ups, are done by rounding your lower back as you bring your knees towards your chin, head staying on the floor. If you have a neck problem, clamp your hands on the front of your forehead (this helps to take the neck out of action). Keep your ankles crossed to make the legs less unwieldy and keep your knees wide so your hips don't pinch.
Make sure your legs go up and down at the same speed since it is common to fling the knees up and then let them go. It is much more difficult to lower the knees slowly with eccentric control from your lower abdominals. Lower your thighs to vertical only; any lower and you will strain the lower back. It is also important not to hold your breath, just as it is to stop tension from the effort travelling up to your neck. Try and keep your neck long and let your head float free, Creasing your abdomen transversely at navel level as the knees go up.
You can download the video to see this exercise demonstrated and explaining how it feels in-the-doing. There's nothing like straight from the horse's mouth.
this Legs passing exercise re-educates the lower abdominals and discombobulates over-active erector spinae muscles at the back
Legs Passing is another best abs exercise Although it is more complex, with one side of the abdomen/pelvic floor working concentrically to pull the leg up and the other side working eccentrically to lower that leg down. The duality of the muscle effort makes this exercise highly effective at switching off over-active erector spinae muscles at the back - a very important first step in getting rid of acute back pain . Legs passing is very good at getting your hips swinging as you walk, if your spine has become locked and rigid with pain.
Before you start, make sure your lower back is pressed hard flat into the floor and your lower abdominal wall is tightly pulled in. With knees bent and both feet flat on floor, raise your right knee towards your chest - without letting your lower back leave contact with the floor - bringing it as close to the right armpit as possible. Then while this one is returning towards the floor, you lift your left leg, so that both legs literally pass in mid-air.
Please note that you do not at any stage straighten either leg, as in the bicycling action, as this is a great strain on the lower back. Rather, keep the legs fully bent at all times. Always start off by pulling your tummy in hard to lift the leg and don’t ever let the lower back lift away from the floor. On your way down, each foot should just brush floor, touching with the heel rather than the big toe, before the return journey. As with the ‘reverse curl ups’ 15 back-and-forths for each leg.
Have a look at 'Back Pain Exercise Videos' to learn more of the best exercises to strengthen your back and abs and relieve pain
Best to be clear, right now, on what the worst abs exercises are - especially if you have a bad back.
With your best intentions, let's be sure you're not doing more harm than good. There are three particularly worrying abdominal exercises, which often make up the core of gymnasium and Pilates regimes.
Refs: O’Sullivan et al 2002
The effect of different standing and sitting postures on trunk muscle activivties in a pain free population
Spine 27 (11):1238
Richardson C A, Hides J A
The rationale of a motor control programme for the treatment of spinal muscle dysfunction, Chpt 31
Grieve’s Modern Manual Therapy
3rd Edition Elsevier Churchill Livingstone
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