When most people are asked how to strengthen abdominal muscles, they respond by answering ‘crunches’ or ‘sit-ups’. Both of these answers are correct. Crunches are basically a refinement of the sit-up, allowing for better isolation of the muscle with fewer low back (lumbar spine) complications. The good news is that these exercises are effective at strengthening your “upper abdominals”. The bad news is that both of these exercises are ineffective in strengthening some of the most critical abdominal muscles for maintaining proper posture and stability of your lumbar spine. The often forgotten abs can be categorized into two areas – your “oblique abdominals” and your “lower abdominals”, and they can be strengthened by adding two exercises to your abdominal routine.
Start by lying on your back with your arms across your chest and your knees bent (for more advanced you can put your arms behind your head, but be sure to never pull with your arms for momentum as you can strain your neck)
Raise your upper trunk off the ground aiming your right shoulder towards your left knee, leaving your low back in contact with the floor
Return your upper trunk to the floor and then repeat #2, only this time bring your left shoulder toward your right knee
Repeat 15 times each side or until fatigued
Start by lying on your back with your arms by your sides
Press your low back onto the floor and lift your bent legs up so that your hips are at a 90°
Lower one bent leg until your heel lightly touches the ground, then raise it back up making sure to keep your low back from arching away from the floor throughout the exercise
Repeat #3 with the other side
Repeat 30 times each side or until fatigued
Always exhale with exertion during exercises. Holding your breath is tempting when the exercise gets hard, but it can raise your blood pressure temporarily and can have detrimental affects on your health.
As it is with most exercises, there are many variations on these same exercises, but these two exercises can get you started. Strengthening your obliques will help you to stabilize your lumbar spine, and strengthening your low abs will help to maintain proper pelvic positioning, and therefore assist you in maintaining good posture.