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Fitness and Facts



Abdominal Exercise


Why Abdominal Exercise is needed?

Many people regularly bust their guts doing sit-ups and crunches with one goal in mind: washboard abs.
But a rippled, rock-hard stomach is probably the least important and least realistic and the reason for working your abdominal muscles. The washboard look has more to do with the absence of belly fat than with bulging stomach muscles, and abdominal exercises aren't particularly effective at burning fat. For the same reason, you can't expect to trim inches from your waistline by crunching them away either.

But even if you never land a cover shot on a fitness magazine, you'll get a lot out of your abdominal workouts. Strengthening your stomach muscles can improve your posture, boost your performance in a wide variety of sports, and enhance your breathing.

Although strong stomach muscles can also help protect the spine during twisting and heavy lifting, many studies suggest that abdominal workouts only slightly reduce the risk of lower back pain. In fact, researchers found that several types of abdominal exercises including leg-lifts,put undue stress on the back and should be avoided.

Ways to strengthen

The abdomen are actually made up of four different muscle groups:

Upper rectus abdominus,
Lower rectus abdominus,
External oblique, and
Internal oblique

There's no single exercise that's best for all of them. To give your abdomen the best possible workout, you will have to find several exercises that you can perform comfortably. Whatever workout you try, keep a slow, steady pace and stop at the first sign of pain. If you're recovering from back pain or any other condition or injury, talk to your doctor about the exercises that are right for you.

Here is a brief list of exercises that can help you strengthen your abdominals:

Crunches. This deceptively tough exercise works your abs hard, but puts relatively little stress on your back. Lie on your back with your knees bent. With your hands behind your neck, lift your head and shoulders until your shoulder blades are about one inch off the ground. Don't tuck your chin into your chest. Hold the position for five seconds.

Chair sit-ups. Lie on your back and rest your legs on the seat of a chair. (You may need to have a partner hold your legs or strap them in place.) With your hands behind your head or folded across your chest, slowly lift your neck and shoulders off the floor and touch your elbows to your knees. To work your abs even harder, try swinging each elbow toward the opposite knee, without actually touching elbow to knee.

Side-ups. Lie on one side of your body with your feet anchored to the floor and your hands behind your head. Beginners should keep the bottom arm at the side and fold the top arm over the chest. Slowly lift your head and shoulder off the floor and then return to starting position. Then switch sides and try it again.

Two to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions is a good rule of thumb for all these exercises.But just as important as repetitions is performing them with good form, in a controlled and focused manner. Breathe out on the way up, breathe in on the way down.


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