Don’t Waist any Time!

By Joy Karley, MA, CPT

Beach weather is fast approaching, and with it the dreaded prospect of donning a swim suit.  Whether you choose a 1-piece or 2-piece swimsuit, your body will be on display.  Instead of hiding under an oversized t-shirt, whittle your waist and tone your abs with these exercises.  Strengthening these muscles can also help you improve your posture and  may help prevent back injuries!

To tone your mid-section, we’ll target the following muscles:

Core-muscles

Rectus Abdominis:  This is the “6-pack” muscle that runs down the front of your body from your rib cage to your pelvis.  It bends the spine forward, bringing the ribs and hips together, as in a curl, or “crunch” exercise.

Obliques:  Underneath your “6-pack” you have two layers of oblique abdominals.  The outer layer runs down on a diagonal forming a “V” shape, the inner layer runs upward on a diagonal forming an “A” shape.  These muscles move the ribs and hips in twisting and side-bending movements.

Transverse Abdominis:  This is the deepest layer of abdominal muscles.  It runs horizontally, and helps pull the stomach in.  It also works when you laugh, or cough.  If you’ve ever laughed or coughed so hard your abs are sore, that is your transverse muscle you feel.

Erector Spinae:  These are your spinal extensors.  They run up and down your back from your skull to your pelvis, helping to hold you upright, straight and tall.  They also help you do back-bending, or spinal extension movements.

Pelvic Floor:  These are sometimes known as your “Kegel” muscles, which literally form the floor, or base of your pelvis.  It may sound odd, but using these muscles when you train your abs will help you intensify your abdominal work and target the lower abdominal area.  This is the big secret of Pilates-based programs.  Using these muscles helps you target the problematic “pooch”!  To engage the pelvic floor, pull in and up as if you really need to use the toilet.  If you place your hand on your lower abs, you should feel them tighten when you do this.

Roll out your mat and let’s go!  There’s no time to waist!  For each exercise, aim for up to 3 sets of 10-15 reps with good form.

th (3)Plank Twist (no band):  Begin in a full plank position, hands under the shoulders, legs extended straight behind you.  Think of pressing down into the mat with your hands, as if you are trying to hold the mat on the floor.  Pull your head and upper body back from the floor, so the ears are lined up with the shoulder.  Keep looking straight down between your hands as you pull your abs in and pull the pelvic floor muscles in and up to stabilize your hips and lower back.  Exhale as you lift your right foot and pull the knee forward to touch your left elbow.  Exhale as you stretch the leg back to the starting position.  Repeat on the other side.  Allow your hips to twist a bit, but try to keep them level with your shoulders.  Do 10-15 reps on each side.

Targets:  Obliques, Rectus Abdominis, arms, shoulders, legs, Transverse Abdominis

best-exercises-for-achieving-hot-abs-209681414-may-21-2012-600x600Ab Curl (no band):  This old standby can be made more effective with a little attention to form.  Lie face up, feet flat on the floor, hip width apart, hands behind your head, elbows in your peripheral vision.  Align your pelvis in a “neutral” position, with the 2 hip bones and the pubic bone forming a triangle that is parallel to the ceiling.  This will create a small tunnel under your lower back, which you want to maintain throughout the exercise.  If this is difficult to do, roll up a small towel to fill the space and place it under your low back for support.  Inhale to prepare, then exhale as you pull the pelvic floor up and in and curl your head and shoulders up off the floor.  Keep the lift small, only curling the shoulder blades off the floor.  Inhale as you return to the starting position.  Look down toward the abs and thighs as you curl, to keep the neck aligned and to make sure your abs are flattening as you curl up.  Repeat 10-15 times.
Targets:  Rectus Abdominis, Obliques, Transverse Abdominis

Untitled-1Criss-Cross (no band):  Lie face up, hands behind your head, elbows in your peripheral vision.  Bring one leg at a time up to a “chair” position, hips and knees bent 90°, shins parallel to the floor.  Align your pelvis in a “neutral” position, with the 2 hip bones and the pubic bone forming a triangle that is parallel to the ceiling.  Inhale to prepare, then exhale as you pull the pelvic floor up and in and curl your head and shoulders up off the floor.  Inhale again, then exhale as you twist your upper body to the left at the same time you stretch your right leg straight out on about a 45° angle, keeping your left leg bent.  Reverse the legs and twist to the other side.  Continue alternating in a “bicycle” motion 10-15 times, thinking of wringing out your abs as if you are wringing out a towel.
Targets:  Rectus Abdominis, Oblique, Transverse Abdominis

superman-exerciseSwimming (no band): Lie face down, with legs parallel, knees facing down, hip width apart, arms stretched straight overhead, palms on the floor.  Pull your abdominal muscles up as if you could lift them off the floor (you can’t, but this is the action you want to support the lower back) and pull your pelvic floor muscles up and in.  Lift your arms and legs off the floor and float the head up slightly, but keep looking down.  Lift your right arm and left leg slightly, as you slightly lower your left arm and right leg.  Continue alternating in a swimming motion, breathing in-2 and out-2 as you go.  Do 10-15 reps on each side before lowering back to the floor.
Targets:  Spinal Extensors, Transverse Abdominis     |     photo source: flattentummy.com

th (4)Hip Rocks (no band):  Lie face up, arms on a low, wide diagonal, and bring one leg at a time up to a “chair” position, hips and knees bent 90°, shins parallel to the floor.  Align your pelvis in a “neutral” position, with the 2 hip bones and the pubic bone forming a triangle that is parallel to the ceiling.  This will create a small tunnel under your lower back, which you want to maintain throughout the exercise.  If this is difficult to do, roll up a small towel to fill the space and place it under your low back for support.  Pull your naval in toward your spine without pressing your back into the floor to support your back.  Inhale as you tip your hip 45° to the right, allowing your left hip to lift an inch or two off the floor.  Exhale, pull your pelvic floor up and in as you roll your hips back to the starting position.  Use your arms / hands for stability.  Reverse to the other side.  Repeat 10-15 times on each side.
Targets:  Obliques, Transverse Abdominis     |     photo source: mytntplan.com

l_FI040107WWFAL005Forearm Plank Ski (no band):  Begin in a forearm plank position, elbows under the shoulders, forearms parallel to each other, legs extended straight behind you.  Think of pressing down into the mat with your forearms, as if you are trying to hold the mat on the floor.  Pull your head and upper body back from the floor, so the ears are lined up with the shoulder.  Keep looking straight down between your hands as you pull your abs in flat and pull the pelvic floor muscles in and up to stabilize your hips and lower back.  Exhale as you slowly bend your knees, twisting the legs and hips to the right, gently touching the left knee to the floor.  Inhale as you straighten back into the plank, then repeat on the other side.  Repeat 10-15 times on each side.
Targets:  Obliques, Rectus Abdominis, arms, shoulders, legs, Transverse Abdominis     |     fitnessmagazine.com

 

 

 

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About the Author

Joy Karley, MA holds a Master’s degree in Biomechanics and Athletic Training from San Diego State University and a Bachelor of Science in Modern Dance from Kent State University. Her background includes extensive training in classical ballet, jazz, tap, Latin, and theater dance. She studied at the School of Cleveland Ballet and has performed with companies in Ohio, California, Washington DC, New Jersey and New York. Joy is also a Pilates Method Alliance Certified Pilates Teacher (PMA, CPT) and an AFAA & IFTA Certified Fitness Instructor & Personal Trainer. She teaches Pilates, fitness and dance classes throughout New York City.

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