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Abdominal Strengthening Exercises

Exercises > Strengthening (Muscles) > Abdominal Strengthening Exercises

 

The following abdominal strengthening exercises are designed to improve the strength of the abdominal muscles (figure 1). You should discuss the suitability of these abdominal strengthening exercises with your physiotherapist prior to beginning them. Generally, they should only be performed provided they do not cause or increase pain.

Begin with the basic abdominal strengthening exercises. Once these are too easy, progress to the intermediate abdominal strengthening exercises and eventually the advanced abdominal exercises.

Abdominal Anatomy

Figure 1 Abdominals

Abdominal Strengthening Basic Exercises

To begin with, the following basic abdominal strengthening exercises can be performed daily. As your abdominal strength improves, the exercises can be progressed by gradually increasing the repetitions, frequency or duration of the exercises provided they do not cause or increase pain.

Transversus Abdominis Retraining 

The transversus abdominis muscle is a key stabilizing muscle often used as part of a core stability, Pilates or rehabilitation program. Learning how to activate this muscle and then applying it to other exercises and daily activities is an important aspect of core stability. Slowly draw the section of your abdomen situated below your belly button upwards and inwards "away from your belt line" whilst breathing normally. Your rib cage should remain relaxed and should not elevate during this process. You should be able to feel the muscle contracting if you press deeply 2cm in from the bony prominence at the front of your pelvis (figure 2). Practise holding this muscle at 20 30% of a maximal contraction for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times. As your activation and control of this muscle improves, practice activating it during all other abdominal exercises and as long as possible during everyday activity.

Abdominal Exercises - Transversus Abdominus Retraining

Figure 2 Transversus Abdominis Retraining

Prone Hold 

Begin this abdominal strengthening exercise propped up on your elbows and toes with your back straight as demonstrated (figure 3). Hold this position for as long as possible provided it is pain free and you are maintaining good posture. Repeat 3 times.

Abdominal Exercises - Prone Hold

Figure 3 Prone Hold

Side Holds 

Begin this abdominal strengthening exercise propped up on one elbow and foot with your back straight as demonstrated (figure 4). Hold this position for as long as possible provided it is pain free and you are maintaining good posture. Repeat 3 times.

Abdominal Exercises - Side Holds

Figure 4 Side Holds (left side)

Leg Holds 

Begin this abdominal strengthening exercise lying on your back in the position demonstrated (figure 5). Hold this position for as long as possible provided it is pain free and you are maintaining good posture. Repeat 3 times.

Abdominal Exercises - Leg Holds

Figure 5 Leg Holds

Abdominal Strengthening Intermediate Exercises

The following intermediate abdominal strengthening exercises should generally be performed 1 - 3 times per week provided they do not cause or increase pain. Ideally they should not be performed on consecutive days, to allow muscle recovery. As your abdominal strength improves, the exercises can be progressed by gradually increasing the repetitions, number of sets or resistance of the exercises provided they do not cause or increase pain.

Abdominal Crunch 

Begin this abdominal strengthening exercise lying on your back, with your knees bent and your hands on your head as demonstrated (figure 6). Keeping your neck straight, slowly lift your shoulders and trunk off the ground, tightening your abdominals. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Abdominal Exercises - Abdominal Crunch

Figure 6 Abdominal Crunch

Abdominal Crunch Hands to Ankles 

Begin this abdominal strengthening exercise lying on your back, with your hip and knees bent to 90 degrees and your arms straight as demonstrated (figure 7). Keeping your neck straight, slowly lift your shoulders and trunk off the ground, moving your finger tips towards your ankles and tightening your abdominals. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Abdominal Exercises - Abdominal Crunch Hands to Ankles

Figure 7 Abdominal Crunch Hands to Ankles

Reverse Abdominal Crunch 

Begin this abdominal strengthening exercise lying on your back, with your hips and knees bent and your arms straight as demonstrated (figure 8). Slowly lift your bottom and legs off the ground tightening your abdominal muscles and straightening your legs. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Abdominal Exercises - Reverse Abdominal Crunch

Figure 8  Reverse Abdominal Crunch

Oblique Crunch 

Begin this abdominal strengthening exercise lying on your back, with one foot resting on your other knee and your hands on your head as demonstrated (figure 9). Slowly lift shoulder and trunk in a twisting motion, taking your elbow towards your opposite knee as shown and tightening your abdominal muscles. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each side provided the exercise is pain free.

Abdominal Exercises - Oblique Crunch

Figure 9 Oblique Crunch (right side)

Side Raises 

Begin this abdominal strengthening exercise propped up on one elbow with your back and hips relaxed as demonstrated (figure 10). Slowly lift your hips off the floor tightening your abdominals. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each side provided the exercise is pain free.

Abdominal Exercises - Side Raises

Figure 10 Side Raises (left side)

 

More Intermediate Exercises

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Abdominal Strengthening Advanced Exercises

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Physiotherapy Products for Abdominal Strengthening Exercises & Rehabilitation

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