ABS Workout

Contributed by Cheryl Alker, physical fitness specialist and personal trainer

EDITOR’S NOTE: Looking for a good ABS workout? Want to learn and understand what abdominal muscles are really involved, what makes for a good workout, and why? And, be prudent and cautious to avoid injuring yourself?

Read this article by Cheryl Alker, which was originally published by AroundWellington.com, and is re-printed here by invitation of the author and AroundWellington.com.

*  *  *

Cheryl Alker, physical fitness specialist and personal trainerYou’ve just finished yet another set of abdominal crunches, you look down and “hey presto”……… no, you still don’t have a flat, defined set of abs.

So what are the key ingredients to achieving a perfectly toned midriff?

Firstly, you need to reduce your total body fat.  Even 1,000 sit-ups a day will not give you’re the flatness or definition you desire if your body fat is too high.

Secondly, you need to understand the function of the abdominals and the role each muscle plays.

There are six muscles within the group that extend from various places on the ribs to various places on the pelvis and spine.  They provide movement and support to the trunk as well as assisting in the breathing process.

All six muscles affect body posture.  The deeper the muscle is located (i.e. closer to the spine) the greater capacity it will have for creating and maintaining a healthy back.

From deep to superficial the abdominal muscles are:

  • Transverse abdominal – is not involved in any movement of the trunk, it plays an important function in forceful expiration of air from the lungs; as well as compression of the internal organs.
  • The internal obliques x 2 –flexes the rib cage and pelvic bones together, sideward bending of the trunk and rotating the trunk. Due to the fact that the lower fibers of the internal oblique muscles run horizontally, they are also strong trunk rotators. Their fan-like fibers extend all the way around the sides to the lower back in much the same way a corset fits a person.
  • The external obliques x 2 – as the internal obliques.
  • Rectus abdominis – flexes the spinal column, bringing the rib cage and/or pelvis towards each other, and assists in sideward bending.  It is also actively involved in stabilizing the trunk when the head is raised from a lying position.

For abdominal training to be effective you should include a variety of movements i.e.  shortening, lengthening and static work.

The exercises we have featured this month include all of the above.  Make sure you train at least 3-5 days per week, with a daily workout being permissible.  Unlike other muscles, you rarely fatigue the abdominals enough so that they need a day of rest.

The amount of repetitions per exercise will depend on your individual muscular strength and endurance in this area.  The key to success is to ask the muscles to work until overload i.e. fatigue and that will be different for each and every one of you. So listen to your body, it will tell you when enough is enough.

Ensure that your last repetition is as good as the first. You should be in control of every movement and SLOW DOWN! – Speed and momentum cause injuries.  Correct technique is the key to your success not how fast or how many you do.

Before taking part in the following exercises ensure you have been cleared by your physician or other

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Around Wellington, the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.


  • Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet on the floor.
  • Place your hands by your ears or support the weight of your head in your hands.
  • Draw your navel into your spine and pull your waistline in.
  • Lift the head and shoulders off the ground and lower.

Key tips:

  • Do not pull on the head as you lift.
  • Only lift your shoulder blades off the ground before lowering.  Research suggests that the abdominals flex the spinal column for about the first 30 to 45 degrees of movement.  Beyond 30 degrees the powerful hip flexors begin to take over.  Due to the potential pressure placed on the lower spine full sit-ups cannot be recommended.
  • Exhale on the lift.


  • Start on your elbows and knees.
  • Draw the navel into your spine and pull your waistline in.
  • Extend both legs out fully for the full plank or stay on your knees for the ¾ position.
  • Lower your body weight until your pelvis is below your shoulder line.

Key tips:

  • Ensure your elbows are underneath your shoulders.
  • Draw your navel into your spine and pull your waistline in throughout the exercise.
  • Do not lift the pelvis high into the air.
  • Breathe normally.


  • Start on your hands and knees ensuring the wrists are under the shoulders and hips over the knees.
  • Draw your navel to the spine and pull your waistline in.
  • Slide one leg out. When fully extended lift to hip height.
  • Once stable, extend opposite arm to leg.
  • Hold as long as you can keep good form.

Key tips:

  • Keep your pelvis in neutral.
  • If extending the arm is too intensive only extend the leg.
  • Ensure your navel is pulled to your spine and the waistline is drawn in throughout the exercise.
  • Breathe regularly.


  • Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet on the floor.
  • Draw the navel into the spine and pull the waistline in.
  • As you extend one leg draw the opposite knee into your chest and rotate your torso to the bent knee.
  • Repeat on both sides

Key tips:

  • Do not pull on your head.
  • Lead with your shoulders not your elbow as you turn.
  • Ensure your navel is drawn to your spine and your waistline drawn in throughout the exercise.

Exhale on the turn.

Cheryl Alker is a physical fitness specialist and personal trainer. According to AroundWellington®, she “specializes in flexibility training, facial exercises and postural alignment. Her 28 year career started as a group fitness and personal trainer, and she has lectured and directed fitness training programs in both Europe and the USA and was an advisor for a Governmental health promotion program.”

DISCLAIMER: The information linked or posted on this site is for information only. It does not constitute medical or professional advice, and must not be relied upon as such. You should always consult your doctor before embarking on any exercise program, reaching conclusions about any fitness program or advice, taking medications, or taking or refraining from taking any other action. HelpingYouCare™ and its owner, Care-Help LLC, do not endorse or recommend and are not responsible for the content on other websites or in other publications to which we may link, or for any content referred to or posted or linked on this site.

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