Abdominal fitness: A core value for health

by Karl Lenser

Developing and maintaining a well-conditioned abdominal area is vital for your muscular and skeletal systems. The front abdominals and oblique muscles are part of your core muscular area that is essential for reducing the risk for injuries and improving physical performance. In addition, a flat stomach is visually appealing and more attractive than carrying a spare tire around your mid-section. Would you rather have a six-pack of firm abdominal muscles or have a keg of excess body fat circumventing your torso?

Your body needs to be in a balanced state. If you have strong back muscles, for example, and weak abdominals, you will be at a higher risk for injuries due to the imbalance. The same principle applies to your hamstring muscles (back of your upper legs above the knee). If your hamstrings are strong, but your muscles in the front of your legs are weak, you will be at a higher risk for injuries.

The great thing about training the abdominals is that you do not need a fitness center or any equipment to work them. If you are watching TV, you can get on the ground and do some crunches during commercials. How often should you do the exercises? At least three times a week would be a good starting goal. Many people that are motivated will do ab work daily.   Here are a few basic exercises that work and are safe:

Reverse Curl.

Lie on your back. Bend the knees and bring the knees in toward your chest. Place your arms at your side to help with balance. Pull the knees toward the chest, raising the hips and butt off the ground. Return to the starting position and repeat.

Basic Crunch.

Lie on your back with your feet resting on a bench or chair. Your knees should be at a right angle (90 degrees). Place hands at the base of your neck for support and comfort. Curl up until your shoulders come off the ground. Roll down to the starting position and repeat.

Reach for the Sky.

Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your knees at a right angle. Raise both arms so they are pointing up to the ceiling. Place your hands side-by-side and keep your arms straight. Reach up and point at the ceiling while your shoulders come off the ground. Rise up and point to the ceiling with shoulders coming off the ground. Return to the original position.

Prone Bridge (Plank).

Support yourself on the floor resting on your forearms and the balls of your feet. Keep your body stretched out and your back should be straight. Your elbows should be directly underneath your shoulders. Look straight down toward your hands. Do not arch your back. Breathe!!! Hold this position until failure. As your fitness increases, try to extend the time that you can hold this position. Always focus on maintaining proper form with your back straight and head down.


A Conway resident, Karl Lenser is the director of wellness programs at Hendrix College. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse. An accomplished runner, he can be reached at [email protected].