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The Abs & More Important Than You Think ( Best Abs Exercises & Lower Abdominal Exercises)

What comes to your mind when I say the word "abs"? Do you think of the infomercials advertising "6 second abs" or the latest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue? Most people focus on training their abs to look thinner or sexier. But, do you realize the importance of your abs in everyday activities? Most yoga instructors do. And that's why one of the focuses of yoga is to build your core abdominal strength.

Important for posture

Your abs attach to your spine and pelvis, helping balance your back in good posture. Often times, when your back is not supported in the correct posture by your abdominals and back muscles, back pain occurs. Did you know that back pain accounts for approximately 50 billion dollars in health care costs each year. This is not something to be taken lightly -- so remember -- one of the best ways to prevent back pain is to strengthen your abs.

It often takes a conscious effort to sit in good posture. But, even if you get into a good sitting posture, you will need the abdominal and back endurance to maintain it! How are you sitting at your computer right now? I would bet most of you are sitting in a slumped posture?.some more than others. To sit in good posture, you should have a slight inward curve in your back with your ears directly over your shoulders.

One way to strengthen your abs while working on your computer is to use an exercise ball as your chair. Yes, you heard me right! In fact.

Important for balance

Without abdominal strength, you will have difficulty sitting, standing and walking. Your center of gravity is located at your sacrum or roughly just below your belly button. Therefore, your abs play an important part in keeping you balanced at your center of gravity.

Think about someone who is a quadriplegic or paralyzed from the neck down. They are not able to sit by themselves because their back and abdominal muscles are paralyzed. In other words, they are no longer able to balance themselves. In contrast, a paraplegic, someone paralyzed from the waist down, is able to balance and sit by themselves because only their legs are paralyzed leaving their abdominal and back muscles intact. This proves that our abdominals are important for our balance.

If you are now sitting on your exercise ball, you can practice some balance exercises and strengthen your abs simply by rolling your hips forward, backward and side to side. Make sure to pull your stomach inward during these motions.

Exercise your abs

Now that you know the importance of your abs, you need to integrate abdominal strengthening into your regular strength training. Abs should be trained like any other muscle ? 8 to 12 repetitions, 3 times per week.

I have several suggestions for where you can start.

The 4 Best Abs Exercises

1 Best Ab Exercise

The Captain's Chair

This ab exercise is often overlooked. It is an advanced abdominal exercise, therefore it is very important that you keep your lower back stable. Do not arch your back during this exercise. If you can't do it correctly, then you shouldn't do it at all.

Stand on a chair and grip the handles to stabilize your upper body. Press your back against the pad and slowly lift knees towards your chest. Again make sure to keep your lower back firmly in place - otherwise you won't be strengthening your abs, but your hip muscles.

You should also feel the tightening and burning in your abs after a few reps. If you don't, you're probably not doing the exercise properly.

2 Best Ab Exercise

The Bicycle Maneuver

Good News! No special equipment is needed for this top notch ab exercise. You need to lay on the floor. If you can afford to invest in an exercise mat that would be the best option.

However, you can also use a towel or lay on your carpeted floor.

While lying on your back, press your lower back to the floor. Place your hands beside your head, bring your knees to 45-degree angle (halfway between straight up toward the ceiling and level with the floor) & begin a pedal motion by touching opposite elbow to opposite knee, alternating each side. You will definitely feel the tightening and burning in your abs with this exercise! Start with repetitions of 10-20 at first.

3 Best Ab Exercise

Cable Crunch

The cable crunch is one of my favorites because it’s weighted and targets the entire rectus abdominis.

You can use it to hit the obliques as well by doing twisting reps where you touch your right elbow to your left knee, following by a regular straight rep, followed by one where your left elbow touches your right knee, back to the middle, and so forth.

4 Best Ab Exercise

Dragon Flag

Find an anchor to hold onto with arms extended overhead—like a chair, bench, or closed door. (We used a floor anchor in the photo above.) Lie faceup with knees bent. Shifting weight into shoulders, engage core and lift feet overhead (think shoulder stand). Try to keep legs as straight as possible. Lower legs, without allowing them to touch floor, then repeat. Do 3 to 5 slow and controlled reps.

Note: Do not perform this exercise if you have preexisting shoulder issues. Once in shoulder stand, look straight ahead, never side-to-side, to protect your neck from injury.

 Lower Abdominal Exercises

The 3 Best Abs Exercises

Reverse Curl Ups

The 'number one' best exercise for the lower abs is reverse curl ups. This very same exercise helps recruit the pelvic floor muscles which act as a contractile sling across the base of the abdominal cavity. The pelvic floor muscles are often forcibly weakened by the bearing down effects of excessive sit up exercises. In later life, this can lead to incontinence.

With the action of bringing the knees to the chin with reverse curl ups there is an associated 'overflow action' that helps incorporate the anterior pelvic floor into the overall action. The idea, when drawing up the knees towards the chin, is that you also draw up the pelvic floor, scrinching the pelvic floor muscles around the urethra (the tube that brings the urine from the bladder to the outside of the body) to tighten through the contractile sling.

The reverse curl ups exercise is a small scale action, where initially it may be difficult to get any sense of movement and rounding of the lower back in attempting to lift the bottom off the floor. With continued effort over the weeks and months this will change, although at all times it's important to localise the action to the low back, instead of flexing and extending at the hips. Reverse curls ups are the Step 3 of the BackBlock routine. Ideally, in a lower abs strengthening session, you should perform 30 reverse curl ups in one go.

2 Oblique Twists

The other very effective best exercises for the lower abs are the obliques twists. This exercise specifically targets the internal oblique muscles, which are the primary lower abdominals.

The arms at shoulder level should not rest upon the floor, as this makes it all too easy to use counter-pressure through the arms to raise the very heavy legs. Ideally, the arms should hover approximately 10cm above the floor at all times, so that you have to use your oblique muscles and pelvic floor muscles alone, as strenuously as possible. Not having your legs crossed at the ankles also recruits a stronger action of the pelvic floor during oblique twists.

The oblique twists are supremely effective a reducing a slack and protruding lower belly. They principally activate both the internal and external oblique muscles and in so doing, also nip in the sides of the waist creating the enviable hour-glass figure.

The hardest part of the oblique twists action is changing direction and pulling the legs back the other way, and this is when it's tempting to push into the floor with the arms, that must be resisted. It is also important to keep the thighs together and not lift one leg at a time when swinging the legs up and over the body the other way. Ideally, you should perform 15 oblique twists to both sides in one lower abs strengthening session.

3 Legs Passing

The final best exercise for lower abs is legs passing. This is a disarmingly complex exercise, made simple in the doing. The legs going up and down reciprocally requires both concentric (pulling in) and eccentric (paying out) control of opposite sides of the abdominal musculature. This dual action strengthens the abdominals but also in a sense 'tricks' over-active back muscles into switching off. At the same time, this third best exercise for lower abs helps restore a more relaxed swinging action of the hips during walking. Free swing hips often disappear when you've had a back problem for any length of time.

You should initiate the legs passing exercise by pressing the whole of the low back into the floor and keeping it there. This stabilises the spine and makes it safe to lift the legs.

Legs passing is often done badly, at the risk of making a back problem worse. The usual mistake is straightening out each leg as you take it to the floor, as in a sort of bicycling action of the legs. At all costs this should be avoided as it can can cause shearing strains across the lumbar spine which will feel like a strain and could make the back very painful - and set you back! Ideally, you perform 15 bilateral legs passing in each session.