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Three great core strength exercises, according to www.bodybuilding.com, include abdominal sit-ups, incline sit-ups and what are called lying Superman raises. Add these to your core strength training for optimal results. Here's how to do all three:
Lie on your back on the floor. Roll up a towel or mat and slip it underneath your lower back, just above the waistband (the size of the towel affects your body position during this movement - use a fairly large towel).
Your knees should be bent about 90 degrees. Keep your feet close together and knees fairly wide apart. This prevents the hip flexors from having a direct line of pull, helping to minimize their involvement.
Do not anchor your feet or have someone hold them down. This automatically activates the hip flexors. You will get the most out of this exercise by minimizing their involvement.
The difficulty of this exercise depends on where you hold your hands. The hardest position is above your head at arms-length, then beside your head, then across your chest, then straight down between your legs or at your sides. Start with the easiest first then progress to the other positions as you get stronger.
You are now ready to begin.
Keeping your torso straight and stiff, start the sit-up by tightening your lower abs then lifting your upper body off the floor.
As you continue up, imagine trying to push your face up against the ceiling (think up, not around).
When you reach about 25 to 30 degrees above horizontal, hold there for a second or two and squeeze your abs hard.
Keep your lower back in contact with the towel at all times and always maintain tension in the abs.
Lower yourself down slowly and under control. Do not just drop back to the ground. The negative portion of this exercise is extremely effective.
Remember to adjust your arm position depending on the strength of your abs (see above).
Set an incline sit-up board to a slight incline. If you don't have an incline sit-up board, you can use an adjustable incline bench, a decline bench, a step platform with a riser under one of the ends or a flat bench with something under one end. You can even use a propped-up 2-by-6 board.
Your head should be on the higher end with your feet placed on the floor.
The execution is exactly the same. The only difference is that the tension on the abs is much less due to the greatly improved leverage in this position, allowing even people feel that their abs aren't strong enough to do the exercise.
Lying Superman raises:
Lie face down on the floor with your arms stretched out directly overhead (like Superman flying, hence the name).
Raise your left arm and right leg into the air at the same time, also raising your chest slightly off the floor. Hold there for a second and squeeze the muscles of your lower back. Lower your limbs back to the ground then raise your right arm and left leg and hold for a second.
You can push down with the hand that is on the ground to help raise your other arm and chest higher off the ground. This exercise, even though it only uses your limbs as resistance, provides an excellent way to strengthen the lower back muscles.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|