The most obvious place to start training is our abdominals. A few crunching exercises done at 3 sets each for 20-30 reps is where most people will begin. This is okay, but many times we are overworking our upper abdominals and neglecting our lower abs. Now, there is controversy over whether or not you can really the work lower abdominals (lower rectus abdominis) specifically, but most of the research shows that you can focus more on lower abs when doing a lower abdominal exercises like the reverse crunch. Many times these exercises are done incorrectly causing compensations by the hip flexors or the upper abdominal muscles. This is typically the cause of weak lower abs.
Most simply put, the lower abdominals are responsible for bringing your pelvis towards your chest. You can activate these muscles right now by just simply by thinking of tucking your tail bone slightly underneath you. Practicing this will allow you to communicate properly to your lower abdominal muscles and increase functionality.
There are many lower abdominal exercises, but I like to start clients off with a basic reverse crunch on the floor. In a reverse crunch you are bringing your pelvis in the direction of our chest and always focusing on maintaining “tight” activation in the lower abs. It is extremely important to focus on activating these muscles or we might cause our upper abs and/or hip flexors take the load.
In addition to the Reverse Crunch, other common lower abdominal exercises include:
- Knee raises on a Roman Chair or Hanging
- Leg lifts
- Hip Raises
- Knee tucks on the floor or on a ball
- Progression of the Reverse Crunch on a decline angle. (still a Reverse Crunch)
Be sure to choose exercises where you can maintain activation and control of your lower abs. Also, once these exercises become easy, make sure to increase the difficulty so you are continually increasing strength. After doing the same exercises 3 times a week for 2-3 weeks, move on to a more difficult exercise or progress to a more difficult version of your current one.
Get to it and you might be surprised how much stronger and healthier you will feel in just a few weeks.