«

»

Aug
17

Six-Pack Abs Without Back Pain! Part 1 of 2 on Abdominal Exercises

Dr. Mackarey's Health & Exercise ForumThe Best Exercises to Strengthen the Abdominal Muscles Without Causing Back Pain 

Part 1 of 2

It may not be possible to pick up a health and fitness magazine without a plethora of articles on how to gain “six-pack abs!” However, for most people, before you begin your quest to find the “abdominal holy grail,” you need to be aware of the many fallacies related to abdominal exercises and how to get a flat stomach.

First, you cannot reduce fat in a specific part of the body over another. If you have belly fat, you must lose overall body weight in order to allow the underlying muscles to become more visible. If you lose 10 to 15 pounds, it is lost in all parts of the body that have excessive fat, not one area more than another. Second, performing 100 sit up exercises will not guarantee washboard abs. More often than not, those able to perform 100 sit ups are already in excellent physical condition. Furthermore, people often use poor technique and substitute muscles other than the abdominals such as the hip flexors, when performing 100 sit-ups. Most importantly, performing too many traditional “sit-up” exercises may actually be lead to lower back pain.

The purpose of this column is to provide abdominal exercise for three levels of participants; Part 1: Level One- Poor Fitness Condition (non exerciser), Moderate Fitness Condition (exercises 1-2 days per week). Part 2 will be dedicated to abdominal exercises for those in excellent physical condition (high fitness level). These exercises are designed to strengthen the abdominal and trunk “core” to protect the lower back.

All of the following exercises can be performed at home without purchasing any equipment except exercise bands.

LEVEL ONE – 5 Abdominal Exercises for a Poor Fitness Level

  • Isometric Belly Tuck (photo 1a) 
    • While lying on your back with your knees bent and feet on floor, tighten your belly muscles by tucking your belly and flattening your back into the floor. Hold this isometric contraction for 5 seconds, relax and repeat 10 times.
  • Isometric Belly Tuck With Heel Slide (photo 2a) 
    • Position same as above. While holding the abs tight, slowly slide one heel up and down along the floor and then the other. Repeat 3-5 times with each leg. Rest for 3- 5 seconds and repeat this sequence 5-10 times.
  • Isometric Belly Tuck With Hip Hike (photo 3a) 
    • Position same as above. While holding the abs tight, slowly lift one heel up (hike hip) and down to the floor and then the other. Repeat 3-5 times with each leg. Rest for 3- 5 seconds and repeat this sequence 5-10 times.
  • Chair Push – Ups (photo 4a)
    • Sit in a chair with arm rests. While holding abs tight, get out of chair using arm rests as little as possible. Hold the position for 3 seconds and return to sitting slowly. Repeat this 10 times. Focus on trunk core stabilization while performing this exercise by keeping trunk stable. Once strong enough perform this exercise without using your arms.
  • Trunk Rows/Lats in Chair (Photo 5 a)
    • Sit in chair and face door. Attach exercise band to inside door knob and hold in both hands. While holding abs tight, pinch shoulder blades together while performing a “row the boat” movement. Return slowly. Also, focus on trunk core stabilization while performing this exercise by keeping trunk stable.

 

LEVEL TWO – 5 Abd Exercises for a Moderate Fitness Level

  •  Abdominal Curl (photo 6a)  
    • Position same as above. While holding the abs tight, slowly curl your upper body as if you were to lift shoulder blades up and curl chest toward knees. Hold for 3-5 seconds and lower slowly. Repeat 5-10 times.
  • Isometric Belly Tuck With Bike Pedal (photo 7a) 
    • Position same as above. While holding the abs tight, slowly lift heel up like pedaling a bike while letting the heel tap the floor. Repeat 3-5 times with each leg. Rest for 3- 5 seconds and repeat this sequence 5-10 times.
  • Bicep Curls on Ball (Photo 8a)
    • Sit on exercise ball with both feet on exercise band. Hold band in both hands, tighten abd muscles and slowly bend elbows up toward shoulders. Lower slowly. Focus on trunk core stabilization while performing this exercise by keeping trunk stable.
  • Trunk Rows/Lats on Ball (Photo 9a)
    • Sit on exercise ball and face door. Attach exercise band to inside door knob and hold in both hands. Tighten abd muscles, pinch shoulder blades together and performing a “row the boat” movement. Return slowly. Focus on trunk core stabilization while performing this exercise by keeping trunk stable.
  • Standing Wall/Countertop 45 degree Planks (photo 10a)
    • Face a countertop and hold on with both hands. Tighten you abds while lower your body like a plank to a 45 degree angle. Hold the position of 10-20 seconds. Repeat this 10 times. Once strong enough try on one arm at a time and alternate. Focus on trunk core stabilization while performing this exercise by keeping trunk stable.

Photos: Jen Hnatko. Model: Samantha Snead

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum” in the Scranton Times-Tribune. Next Week: Part 2 of 2– Abdominal Exercises.  

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.