Situpsthe Right

Here is a test to see if you are ready for situps. You must be able to flatten your back against the floor while keeping your legs straight on the floor. (Fig. 25) If you cannot, either your abs are still too weak, and/or your hip flexors are too tight. Lacking the intermuscular coordination could also be a problem.

Keep Pavelizing your budding six-pack with Janda situps, practice pressing your back into the floor from a crunch position, (Fig. 26), and stretch your hip flexors. I do not need to remind you which book has the flexibility know-how, or, as one confused Russian engineer would say, 'go-home'. He also called his green card 'green peace', in case you care.

Conventional situps (Fig. 27) have to be modified to be made safer and more effective. First, the hip flexors should be worked through a longer range of motion to avoid adaptive shortening and consequent back and posture problems. Your hips and torso should be in a straight line at the starting point of a situp as in straight-legged situps. (Fig. 28) However, if your lower back and hamstring flexibility is poor, you will not be able to perform straight-legged situps properly. Practice the stretch described in conjunction with the Ab Pavelizer™ and do your situps with your knees bent to relax your hamstrings.

Exercise on a situp board (Fig. 29), or you can use a table and anchor your feet around its legs. Having a training partner hold your feet down is also fine. If you use a decline bench (Fig. 30A), you will be able to overload your abs even better.

Fig. 29

Fig. 29

Fold your hands on your chest, with an extra weight if possible, inhale, and flatten your back against the bench as you have in the situp test. Maintaining this back alignment, sit up smoothly (Fig. 30B) all the way to the top. Semi-relax, make sure your lumbar spine is flat or rounded—it is very important!— and lower yourself all the way down. Exhale, relax for a moment, repeat.

When you work up to a heavy weight, barbell plates or dumbbells will be too awkward to use. Holding a barbell near your collar bones will work better. (Fig. 30C)

Prof. Anatoly Laputin of the Kiev Physical Culture Institute in the Ukraine recommended a simple yet highly effective variation of the straight-legged situp. I was told that Pilates practitioners perform a very similar exercise.

Lie on your back with your arms along your body. (Fig. 31) Inhale, flatten your back by squeezing your butt, and slowly roll up your spine starting with your neck and working down to your thoracic, and finally lumbar spine. (Fig. 32) You may visualize wrapping your head in your torso in the beginning of the movement. Reach out to your toes with your pointed fingers as you are curling up. Go as far as possible (Fig. 33) working against the increasing resistance of the hamstrings, spinal erectors, and the viscera. In addition to strengthening the abs, this drill improves your flexibility and provides a healthy massage of your inner organs.

Relax when you reach your flexibility limit. Inhale, tense your glutes, and reverse the movement. You may use bungee cords for extra resistance but not weights. (Fig. 34-36) By the way, you may employ bungee cords in the same fashion with other situp variations.

"It is not a difficult exercise," comments A. N. Laputin, D. Sc., "But a highly effective one; its frequent repetition assures very rapid development of the abdominal muscles.1

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