By Principal Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist Zaki Hairodin, Physio and Sole Clinic
Abdominal exercises are a vital component to any exercise regime. Not only are they fantastic to get your body in great shape, they are effective in protecting your lower back and preventing injuries in your upper and lower limbs. In our increasing sedentary lifestyles, prolonged sitting in front of the computer greatly increases the stress on the joints and the discs in the spine of our lower back. Strong abdominals will help you maintain a good posture and offload the stress on the spine, preventing back pain.
However if you think you can ‘spot reduce’ your love handles and spare tires through abdominal exercises, think again. Abdominal exercises work by strengthening the muscles underlying the fats and not by burning away the layer of fats above it. You are better off getting rid of the belly fat by cutting down on your calories, sleeping well and performing regular moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise such as walking or jogging.
The abdominals consist of four main muscles. The rectus abdominus or the ‘six pack’ muscleruns vertically along the front of the abdomen. This muscle is responsible in bending the trunk forward. The external and internal obliques are diagonally directed muscles located at the sides of the abdomen. As the name suggests the external obliques forms the outer layer while the internal obliques the inner layer. Their primary function is to allow rotation of the trunk, sideways and forward bending. The transverses abdominus forms the deepest layer of muscle of the abdomen. It has horizontally directed fibres that wraps around the trunk similarto a corset. It plays a stabilising role for the spine and supporting the internal organs. Here are 3 basic exercises you can do at home for an all-round abdominal workout. If you have an existing back condition, it is advisable to consult your physiotherapist to determine whether the exercises are suitable for your condition.
Begin with lying on your back, arms pointing upwards and hips and knees bent to 90 degrees. Pull your belly inwards to activate your transverses abdominus. Slowly straighten one leg and take the opposite arm overhead as demonstrated. Return to starting position and repeat with the other arm and leg. Keep spine and pelvis still and breathe normally. Perform 10 repetitions one each sided till fatigue.
Begin with lying on your back, arms at the sides, hips and knees bent to 90 degrees. Pull your belly inwards to activate your transverses abdominus. Slowly lower both legs to one side, allowing the opposite pelvis to lift off the mat slightly. Return to starting position and repeat to the other side. Perform 10 repetitions to each side or till fatigue.
Begin on your side, propped up on one elbow, hips relaxed and your knees bent 90 degrees as demonstrated. Slowly lift your hips off the floor tightening your abdominals. You can progress this exercise by straightening your knees. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions or till fatigue.
Zaki Hairodin was previously practicing at Tan Tock Seng Hospital Physiotherapy Department where he had an extensive experience in sports, musculoskeletal injury management and post-operative rehabilitation, including managing conditions such as total knee replacement, Anterior Cruciate Ligament(ACL) reconstruction and shoulder rotator cuff repair. He firmly believes in adopting a collaborative and patient-centred approach with his clients in order to achieve successful outcomes. He highly values the need to educate his clients on identifying movement impairments that contribute to their symptoms, and prescribe individualised corrective exercises to improve their function and prevent recurrence.