Rectus Abdominis Function Exercises

The muscle that extends from the top of the pelvis to the sternum is called the rectus abdominis. This is the primary abdominal muscle, which when properly developed (assuming that the person has low enough body fat levels) will give the illusion of a six-pack. Its function is to pull the upper torso towards the hips when the body is only slightly flexed at the waist.

This is the reason why if you are doing a sit-up, any additional torso movement done past the initial 30 degrees from the floor will not stimulate the abs; instead the hips will be the ones that will complete the movement. Because of this, partial sit-ups performed with the torso moving up to 30 degrees and crunches are great allies in our quest to achieve great abs.

However, if you really want to maximally stimulate the abdominals, prevent lower back problems and get the most "bang for your buck" so to speak, then you need to also consider the fact that the anatomy of the rectus abdominis is such that if you do not bend your torso backwards by around 15 to 20 degrees then you won't be able to accomplish these things.

Since the floor only provides a flat surface, not only your abs will not get maximal stimulation, but also they will not learn how to properly contract and protect your back when your body is bent backwards (as is often the case when advanced bodybuilders perform exercises like standing military presses).

Copyright Hugo Rivera 2007

The only way to get around this is by investing in a swiss ball (also known as exercise ball). A swiss ball is a great small investment (they run for about $13—$15) as this apparatus will allow you to get the necessary backwards bend that your torso needs in order to maximally stimulate your abs. So because of this, crunches performed on an exercise ball are the way in which I recommend you perform this exercise.

Since the rectus abdominis also has muscles in the lower region that help maintain proper postural alignment, it becomes necessary to include reverse crunches performed on the swiss ball (make sure that you hold to a stationary sturdy object) as this exercise will allow you to go below the neutral (flat) position. Another good lower abdominal exercise is the hanging leg raises. The key for maximal stimulation in this exercise is to roll the pelvis slightly backwards at the beginning of the movement.

Fire Up Your Core

Fire Up Your Core

If you weaken the center of any freestanding structure it becomes unstable. Eventually, everyday wear-and-tear takes its toll, causing the structure to buckle under pressure. This is exactly what happens when the core muscles are weak – it compromises your body’s ability to support the frame properly. In recent years, there has been a lot of buzz about the importance of a strong core – and there is a valid reason for this. The core is where all of the powerful movements in the body originate – so it can essentially be thought of as your “center of power.”

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