Everyone wants a stronger, leaner and toner stomach for the Summer. So, what is the best way to get there? And what are the best exercises?
Before discussing some helpful exercises it is helpful to understand the anatomy of the stomach and what the abdominal muscles are and their function. There are four abdominal muscles:
- Transversus Abdominis – this muscle is the deepest ab muscle layer and its main role is to stabilize the torso, or trunk, and it acts like a corset holding everything in.
- External Obliques – these are on each side of the rectus abdomens and allow the trunk to twist.
- Internal Obliques – these muscles are below the external obliques and are located along the side of our bodies. They operate in the opposite way to the external obliques.
- Rectus Abdominis – this muscle is located between the ribs and the pubic bone at the front of the pelvis, commonly called ‘the six pack’.
The following three Pilates exercises will work all of your stomach muscles and give you that “sexy” summer stomach we are all looking for:
- Plank – main focus in the transverse abdominis. Your hands should be directly beneath your shoulders, and your body should form a straight line from your head to your feet. Hold the position for as long as you can while holding your muscles in and tight. Repeat three times.
- Criss Cross/Bicycle – main focus is the external and internal obliques. Lie on your back with your hands behind your head. Your elbows should be pointing out to the sides. Bend one knee to your chest and the other leg hover right over the ground. Curl up and across towards the bent leg then switch sides, alternating legs and sides throughout the exercise. Start with three sets of ten.
- Single Leg Stretch- main focus is the rectus abdominis. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your shins parallel to the floor, this is tabletop position. Pull your abs in, taking your bellybutton down toward your spine, as you curl your head and shoulders up to the tips of the shoulder blades. As you curl up, your left leg extends at a 45-degree angle.The right leg remains in tabletop position with both hands on your shin. Then switch, holding for a few seconds on each side. Maintain your upper-body curve throughout the exercise. Be sure to keep your shoulders relaxed and your abdominals deeply scooped. Start with three sets of ten.
With all exercise programs, make sure you are healthy enough for exercise and scale or modify exercises as necessary.