Of the four abdominal muscles, the rectus abdominis tends to get the most attention since it is the one responsible for the proverbial six-pack appearance. The muscle also has functional purposes, such as spinal column flexion, side bending and stabilizing the torso when lifting from a prone position. The length of the rectus abdominis, extending from the ribs to the pelvis, means that you can target the upper and lower portions with specific exercises. Those that require your legs to lift can help to build your lower abs.
Warm up before performing any abdominal exercises -- complete at least 10 minutes of cardiovascular activity, such as cycling, jumping rope or using the elliptical trainer.
Target your lower abs with the reverse curl. Lie on your back and place your feet flat on the floor with knees bent to 90 degrees. Lay your arms on the floor at shoulder height. Pull your abdominal muscles in toward your spine. Lift your feet off the floor and position your bent knees to be directly over your hips. Raise your hips up off the mat and curl your knees toward your head. Hold the contraction at the top of the lift for one count and then lower your hips to starting position. Complete three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions.
Lie on your back to perform the leg drop exercise for the lower rectus abdominis. Extend your legs in front of your body with the inner thighs and inner ankles glued together. Rest your arms on the floor alongside your torso, palms face down. Lift your legs toward the ceiling until they are perpendicular to the floor and in line with your hips. Lower your legs slowly toward the floor, keeping then straight, until your feet are 4 to 6 inches above the ground. Hold the contraction for one count and then lift your legs toward the ceiling again. Complete three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions.
Stretch your lower abs by standing tall with your feet together and shoulders, hips and ankles in alignment. Extend your arms over your head until they are straight, keeping the upper arms in line with your ears. Lift your chest to arch your back, allowing your upper back and shoulders to fall as far back as possible. You should feel a stretch through your abdominals. Hold for 30 seconds and release.
Tips & Warnings
- Perform abdominal exercises three to four days per week to maximize muscle growth. Leave at least one day between sessions for recovery.
- Consult with your physician before starting a new abdominal or core-strengthening program. Inform your doctor if you have any lower back pain or issues.
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