As much as women want a flat stomach men tend to want a 6 pack, for some men that means 6 cans of their prefered lager but for those who want to put in a bit of effort it means a lot of throwing themselves to the floor to knacker themselves out with sit ups at every opportunity. Now of course sit ups will help as they do work the (here’s the technical bit) rectus abdominis , however they also put a lot of pressure on the spine and that really is one area that you don’t want to be straining. If you do want to chisel out that six pack the right way then you need to be armed with the right exercises, exercises which will work your abs without damaging your back and causing future trouble.
Lower back injuries do not happen overnight. They are the result of gradual damage done over time, predominantly this damage is brought on by the continued overuse of core exercises such as sit ups which strain the spine. Here’s the science…12 common abdominal exercises have been analysed by Craig Axler and Professor Stuart McGill in the journal Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise. They have now pinpointed the best moves to challenge your abs whilst minimising stress to the spinal area. To do this they recorded the levels of spinal compression and rectus abdominis muscle recruitment, They then divided the levels of abdominal activity by the maximum spine compressing. With this information they have pinpointed the best exercise moves to allow you to challenge your abs whilst still minimising any strain on your spine.
Those exercises are as follows:
The Curl Up
Lying on your back bend one leg while leaving the other relaxed. You need to brace your abs as if you’re expecting to get sucker punched in the gut, by bracing the abdominal wall is neither pushed out hollowed . Curl up into the brace, breathing deeply in the up position. Ensure you maintain that tension and hold for the time it takes to inhale and exhale a few breaths. Return yourself to the start position, relax your body and then repeat.
The cross knee curl up
Lying on your back lift your feet off the floor bending both knees and hips to a 90 degree position. Bend your arms up so that your fingers are touching your facial cheeks (not the other cheeks). Now twist your torso by moving one elbow towards the opposite knee, you don’t need to touch elbow to knee just get as close as you can without actually touching.
The hanging straight leg raise
Moving on to something a little more advanced. Better for your back than both the bent or straight leg sit up whilst still great work on your abs is the hanging straight leg raise. Using a chin up bar to hang from keep your legs almost straight with a slight bend to the knee. Lift your legs up until they are horizontal to the ground , hold for a breath then return them to the start position and repeat. Just make sure no one is watching when you dismount and your tired jelly like legs lead to you landing face first on the floor, it won’t do much for your abs or back and it’s really not a good look.