Lower abs strengtheners, lying

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This is a ‘Body MOT’ exer­cise. Click to find out why

What it’s good for Strengthens your lower abs muscle (called TVA), which is one of the body’s key “core sta­bil­ity” muscles. Everyday reas­ons for strength­en­ing this muscle include:

  • Better sup­port for your lower back, redu­cing back pain and help­ing you to sit upright for longer
  • Support and pro­tec­tion for your back whenever you are car­ry­ing loads or bend­ing to pick things up
  • Better bal­ance
  • Better pos­ture, includ­ing shrink­ing your tummy bulges
How often to do it Daily
Equipment you’ll need A mat, rug, car­pet, towel or any­thing else you can lie on com­fort­ably on the floor

Lying face down, activating lower abs muscle for basic strengthening

  • Lie face down with head rest­ing on your arms, legs hip-​distance apart and spine neut­ral, no ten­sion in your back
  • Draw up your lower abs muscle away from the ground, in towards your spine
  • Hold the con­trac­tion for a count of 10 while you breathe nor­mally
  • Relax, rest briefly then repeat

Aim to do 3 repeats, hold­ing for 10sec each time

♦ Once you’ve pulled in your abs, switch your atten­tion to breath­ing for 5 seconds, then switch back to see if you have still got your abs held. If not, relax and start over. As you get more famil­iar with it, you won’t need to con­cen­trate so much on breath­ing

Can’t find the right muscle? Try the sit­ting ver­sion of this exer­cise instead

Varying the exer­cise for more chal­lenge

The trans­versus abdominis (TVA) lower abs muscle is an “endur­ance” muscle, used to sup­port us dur­ing nearly every move­ment we make in daily life. So we want to develop low-​level strength that lasts for a long time. The pro­gres­sions below con­cen­trate on mak­ing the muscle con­trac­tions longer in ever-​harder pos­i­tions. As you man­age to achieve one, move on to the next. Remember to keep breath­ing through­out!

The pro­gres­sions

1. Longer holds
As the muscle strength of your abs improves, try to hold each con­trac­tion for longer: 20, 30, 40 then a full 60 seconds – always breath­ing nor­mally through­out

On all fours, lifting lower abs muscle to increase strength

2. Box pos­i­tion

This is an all-​fours kneel­ing pos­i­tion, with your wrists dir­ectly below shoulders and knees below hips. Turn your hands out slightly and check that your back is neut­ral [BMM10]. Now lift your lower abs and hold, breath­ing through­out. You are lift­ing against a big­ger pull of grav­ity, so it’s harder. Drop back to 10–20 seconds and build up again

3. Half-​plank

Resting on feet and elbows on all fours, lifting knees just off ground Support your­self on elbows and knees, with toes tucked and feet together. Keep your head low, fore­head to hands. Switch on your lower abs and lift both knees just a frac­tion (couple of cen­ti­metres) off the ground, and hold. Now your abs muscle has to work hard to sup­port your spine in neut­ral: if you lose your con­trac­tion, your back will start to sag. At this point bring knees back down again and rest. Gradually increase the length of hold from 10 to 60 seconds

4. Classic plank

Body supported on toes and elbows for lower-abs strengthening

This is a fam­ous exer­cise for lower abs strength. Done prop­erly, it is tough, but many people cheat – usu­ally by col­lapsing their shoulders and stick­ing their bot­toms too high in the air! Support your­self on elbows and tucked toes, with feet together and legs long. Contract your lower abs and lift your body just off the floor, aim­ing for a straight line. Keep your head aligned and your bot­tom low through­out. If your back starts to sag or feels as though it is bend­ing or col­lapsing, you must bring your knees down. At first you may only last a few seconds. Build up to 60 seconds.

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