Demystifying Ab Exercises: How to Make the Most of Your Workout
Many people who embark on a fitness programme either with a personal trainer or by themselves are keen to tone up their abs. There are many different exercises which are designed to target specific muscles, so it is important to understand why you are doing these exercises and how to do them for maximum benefit. Here is our guide to two of the most popular ab exercises, and how to perform them correctly.
Abdominal crunches are a great exercise for toning the rectus abdominis muscle, which forms the centre of the abdomen. It is important to clarify than an ab crunch is not a sit up, and so you should not rise all the way up off the floor. The correct method for ab crunches is to only lift your upper body about three to four inches off the floor, engage your abdominal muscles throughout the exercise, and do not tuck your neck into your chest. To get maximum benefit from your ab crunches, all the work should come from the abdominal muscles.
With crunches, it is better to follow the ‘quality over quantity’ motto. You will see much better results if you begin with a few crunches and increase the number of reps as your strength and fitness grows than to attempt 100 crunches straight away and execute them with poor technique. If exercises are not performed properly, you will not see the benefits you were expecting, but you might still find yourself physically exhausted. Common mistakes that people make when doing crunches include rising too high off the floor, tucking the chin into the chest and not keeping abs contracted throughout the exercise.
The plank exercise has its roots in yoga, and involves a long-hold muscle contraction. Planking helps build your deep inner core muscles and tones the rectus abdominis, as well as other muscles in the back, shoulders and legs. It is easy to make mistakes while planking which can cause injury or prevent you getting maximum benefit from your exercise. To be effective, proper plank position must be maintained throughout the exercise. This position involves assuming a press up shape and keeping the body in a straight line from toes to head, then placing elbows directly beneath shoulders and resting forearms flat against the floor. When planking, many people end up arching their back, lowering or raising their hips, or straining the neck by not looking down at the floor. Plank is effective when held for an extended period of time, so again it is better to start with a duration of 20 seconds or less, then begin planking for longer as you get stronger.
Performing plank properly requires a good awareness of your own body and its positioning in order to sense when something slips out of line and correct it. Some people find helpful to plank accompanied by a trainer who can correct their position and ensure they are getting maximum benefit from the exercise. These are two of the most popular exercises for toning abs, and there are many variations of these activities which work different muscle groups in the abdominal region. It can be tough to get it right so enlist the help of a friendly, approachable personal trainer to guide you through the best exercises for your unique goals and how to get the most benefit out of your work out.