This article include exercises that use the abdominals in a variety of modes. The exercises focus particularly on strengthening the abdominals in their action of spinal flexion and also developing the skill of using the abdominals for stabilization.
1. One Leg Stretch
Initial position. Lie on your back with the head and shoulder blades off the mat in chest lift position and one knee pulled towards your chest. With the hand on the side of the bent knee hold the shin just above the ankle. Bent the other arm and place the hand on the knee. The straight leg is placed at a height at which the lower back can maintain contact with the mat. Keep both feet gently pointed:
- Inhale and begin to bend the outstretched leg and straighten the bent leg;
- Exhale and complete the leg switch, using an exhale as the leg fully straightens and the hands switch to the other knee as shown in the illustration. Just like before, the hand on the side of the bent knee grasps the shin above the ankle, and the other hand holds the knee that is pulled into the chest. Repeat the sequence 5 times on each leg for a total of 10 times, concluding each switch of the legs with an exhale.
2. Leg Circle
Initial position. Lie on your back with the arms by the sides and the palms facing down. Place both legs outstretched on the mat. Bend one knee to the chest, and straighten that leg in the air so that it is in a 90 degree angle to the mat. Gently point the foot. Make sure the leg resting on the mat is flexed in ankle–foot dorsiflexion. Now:
- Breathing out, circle the raised leg around the midline of the body as anchor, allowing one side of the pelvis to lift off the mat, continuing to circle the raised leg down and across the other leg as the back of the pelvis returns to lie evenly on the mat;
- Breathing in, circle back the raised leg to the same side as it was originally raised from to return to the starting position. Repeat the same pattern with the other leg, alternating the legs with each circle. 5 circles should be done with each leg.
Initial position. Lie on your back on an exercise mat, legs straight and together with the toes gently pointed outward. Arms are extended straight overhead and in line with the shoulders with the palms facing up:
- Inhaling, draw the abdominals inward toward the spine, lift the arms toward the ceiling and bring the chin toward the chest while lifting the head and shoulder blades off the mat. At the same time flex the feet in an ankle–foot dorsiflexion;
- Exhaling, continue to curl up, passing through a sitting position until the upper body is over the legs, with the fingers reaching toward the toes. If flexibility allows, the palms can touch the sides of the feet or be placed on the mat as shown on the End of Phase 3 on the illustration;
- Inhaling, begin to roll down until the lower back starts to establish contact with the mat;
- Exhaling, finish rolling back down to the starting position, bringing the arms back overhead. Repeat the sequence 10 times.
Initial position. Lie on your back with the head and shoulder blades off the mat in a chest lift position and one leg lifted towards your head, both of your hands grasping it just above the ankle. The other leg is suspended above the mat at a height at which the lower back can maintain contact with the mat. Both knees are straight and both feet are gently pointed outward:
- Exhale and pull in the abdominals slightly closer toward the spine while pulling the top leg closer to the forehead with two gentle successive movements coordinated with two percussive exhales;
- Inhale and, without bending the legs, switch the legs moving your hands to the ankle of the opposite leg;
- Exhale and repeat the process for the other leg, pulling it closer in the direction of the forehead, with one percussive breath for each of the two movements. Repeat the sequence 5 times on each leg, for a total of 10 times, switching the legs on the inhale and stretching the muscle on the exhale. When finished, return to the initial position.
Initial position. Lie on your back with the legs straight and raised at about 60 degrees (or higher if necessary to maintain pelvic stability). Gently point the feet and keep the arms resting on the mat beside the body, with the palms facing down:
- Exhaling, draw the abdominals inward toward the spine and lift the upper trunk into a chest lift position. Take the arms forward to some 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) above the thighs, palms still facing down;
- Inhale and drive the arms slightly down and then up on each count for a total of 5 counts with active breathing (described in the Make Sure You section below). See the illustration;
- Exhale and drive the arms slightly down and then up on each count for a total of 5 counts with active breathing (described in the Make Sure You section below). Repeat this cycle 10 times or for 100 driving motions, as long as good form can be maintained. Lower the torso and bring the arms back down to the initial position.
6. Double Leg Stretch
Initial position. Lie on your back with the head and shoulder blades off the mat in a chest lift position, both knees bent and pulled toward the chest with one hand on each shin. The other leg is suspended above the mat at a height at which the lower back can maintain contact with the mat. Both knees are straight and both feet are gently pointed outward:
- Inhale and move the arms down to the sides of the legs while at the same time you extend both legs to a height at which the lower back maintains a solid contact with the mat (consult the illustration);
- Exhale and bend the legs back in toward the chest while the hands return to the starting position on the shins. Repeat the sequence 10 times.
Initial position. Lie on your back with the head and shoulder blades off the mat and the abdominal wall drawn in toward the spine. Raise your legs at an approximately 60 degrees off the mat, if stability can be retained, and keep them together, with the knees straight and feet pointed. Now move your arms forward, palms down, with the hands parallel to the legs:
- Inhale and bend the upper trunk forward and upward until you feel the body balanced on the buttocks, as shown in the illustration. Try to keep the arms parallel to the legs;
- Exhale and bend the trunk back down to the initial position. The sequence is repeated 5 times.
Initial position. Lie on your back with the head and shoulder blades off the mat in a chest lift position; legs are in a tabletop position with knees slightly closer to the chest and, as usual, both feet gently pointed outwards. You arms are bent with the fingers interlocked behind the head and elbows to the sides:
- Exhale and straighten one leg while simultaneously rotating the trunk toward the opposite bent knee (as in the illustration above);
- Inhale and begin to straighten the bent leg and bend the straight leg while the upper torso rotates back to center;
- Exhale and remember to rotate the trunk toward the opposite side while switching the legs. Make sure to fully straighten the one leg and bend the other toward the chest. Repeat the movement 5 times on each leg for a total of 10 times, finishing each switch of the legs and chest rotation with a percussive exhale;