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If you’re a regular gym-goer, you probably won’t be a stranger to abdominal exercises, which for many will be incorporated into core workouts. Exercising and strengthening your core, which is made up of your lower back muscles, obliques, and, of course, abdominal muscles, has a whole host of benefits for your fitness levels, strength, and posture.
But it can often feel particularly difficult to target and strengthen the lower abdominals, and seem as though no matter how many crunches and medicine ball slams you do, you aren’t making the progress you want in this particular area. So what should you do if you want to focus specifically on your lower abs?
Well, if you want to strengthen your lower abs and achieve the well-rounded development of your core, it’s important to incorporate some movements into your workout that start from the lower part of the abdominal muscles. Emma Obayuvana and Alice Miller, fitness trainers and members of the Strong Women Collective, have given us their favourite exercises for doing just that.
One of Emma’s favourite exercises for working the lowers abs is knee tucks, and, according to her, such exercises can help to “alleviate lower back pain and improve posture”. To reap the full benefits though, you’ll need sliders, which are little discs you stand on during an exercise. They force you to fully engage your muscles throughout the movement, in order to stay stable and balanced.
To begin your knee tuck, get into a plank position on the floor, with your arms fully extended and body forming a straight line running from your head to your heels. Your toes should be on your sliders. Making sure you engage your core and keep your arms straight, slide both knees in at the same time, stopping when they are just shy of your forearms. Then, simply slide your feet back out to your starting position, and repeat ten times.
Emma also recommends slider pikes for strengthening the lower abs. Starting in the same high plank position as the knee tucks, slide your feet in towards your hands, but this time, keep your legs straight. At the same time, you also need to pull your upper body in towards your legs, so that your body forms an inverted V shape. Hold for a second with core engaged, and then return to your starting position and repeat.
Stir the pot
For improved core stability and spinal endurance, both of which will help your posture and reduce back pain, Alice recommends trying stir the pot. This exercise is done using a Swiss ball.
Start with your forearms resting on the ball and your feet out behind you on the floor, so that your body forms a straight line. Then, “tuck your hips under, squeeze your glutes, engage your core” and, using your elbows, “move the ball in controlled circular motions for 15 to 30 seconds in each direction”. Depending on your ability, the movement can be big or small; the important thing is that it is concentrated in the arms, and the rest of the body is kept stable using the lower abdominal and core muscles.
If you have access to a barbell and some weights, then these next two exercises are great to work into your fitness routine.
For a barbell rollout, Alice says you need to start on your knees, with your hands holding a barbell on the floor in front of you. To complete the exercise, “slowly roll the barbell away from you whilst keeping your knees in contact with the floor”, ensuring your hips are tucked under and your is core tight. This will help to ensure that your hips don’t go into what is called “anterior tilt”, which can cause the spine to over-extend. Then, once you have extended out as far as you can go, slowly roll the barbell back towards you, and repeat ten times.
Barbell front squat
The barbell front squat is another great exercise for working the lower abdominal muscles and building core strength, because it requires us to “create intra-abdominal pressure in order to lift the weight safely”, explains Alice. For this one, you will need to use a weighted barbell and a rack.
Using the rack, place the barbell across your shoulders in front of your body, with “your hands outside of the shoulders and the bar resting on your fingers, elbows up”. Stand back from the rack with your feet about shoulder width apart, and then lower into a squat position, “keeping your chest up, spine neutral and head forward”. Then, drive up through the feet to return to your starting position, and repeat.
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