Lately our abdominal and other deep core muscles have gotten a lot of press in the rehab and fitness world. But did you know that we have several layers of abdominals and they do not all function the same way?  

Our deep abdominal muscles work to protect our back during day to day activities.  Working with a group of 4 other deep muscles (multifidi, pelvic floor, hip flexor and diaphragm) that form a cylinder in our trunk, our transverses abdominis also helps provide stability to our low back, hips and pelvis. 

The next most superficial layers of abdominal muscles are your internal and external abdominal oblique muscles. In addition to providing stabilization, our obliques help us move from lying on our back to sitting up as we do when we are getting out of bed.  

A popular exercise that mimics this functional movement and utilizes these muscles is the Abdominal Crunch.  This basic exercise allows us to learn correct alignment and isolate specific movements to ensure proper muscle activation.  

The key to getting the most out of your crunch is starting in a relaxed, neutral posture and, just before the movement is initiated, engage your lower abdominals to provide stability at your low back and pelvis.  

Holding your head in your hand is optional, but it is usually a good idea for beginners.  Often the neck gets tired before the abdominals do with this exercise

Check out the following video with cuing to learn this exercise today! 

Exercise Cueing 

Start position –  Lay on back with knees bent and feet hip width apart.  Head, spine, pelvis, hips and scapula in neutral with one arm straight with hand resting by side, and one hand cradling the base of head and upper neck as shown.   Let your head relax in your hand. Tuck chin so eyes focus on knees during exercise. Keep muscles in neck and shoulders, jaw, buttock and toes relaxed.

EXHALE: Gently pull in and up at lower abdominals and use obliques to curl rib cage off the mat.  Visualize connecting the the lower ribs to your hip bones and bring your shoulder blades off the mat.  Keep your head and neck in line with the spine. If possible, do not flatten your lower back – maintain a slight natural curve to stay in neutral.

INHALE: stay

EXHALE: return to mat

Prop – Band around thighs to add stability.  

Tip – When you pull your lower abdominals in and up visualize your hip bones pulling toward each other.

Tip – Initiate the motion from your lower ribs, your head and neck should stay relaxed and in neutral follow your spine.