How to correctly exercise your abdomen

There are countless articles and tips on how to get the ideal abs and how to exercise them. The number of articles written on this topic is one of the most often demands to get rid of the fat in the abdominal area, and ideally get a six-pack.

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But is this the ideal of perfect abdomen with sharp muscles a proof of correct exercising?

It is important to note that we all have a six-pack from birth. But the visibility of these muscles depend of the percentage of fat beneath the skin and the volume of the muscles. So if we want these muscles (m. rectus abdominis) to be visible, we either can keep a low fat percentage or increase the volume of the muscles.
However, by an average person, it is not optional to increase the volume of the muscle to the extreme. Because the function of this muscle is the flexion of the trunk, which means it moves the chest towards the pelvis. If we imagine our average body posture, it becomes clear why you don’t want to exercise this muscle too much, because it will make you slouch your back even more.
It is true that abdominal muscles are part of the abdominal press (increased intra-abdominal pressure), which is often mentioned in connection with core muscles or deep stabilization system. The function is performed with the lower part of the abdominals (closer to the attachment on the pubic bone), which leads to isometric contraction, the muscle doesn’t changes its length only tension. In the end it results in stabilization of the whole trunk.
If we imagine how many times we bend down to reach something, such as putting shoes one, we do this kind of movement countless of times. During these activities we always shorten the upper part of the abdominal muscle. If we add to it the incorrect sitting position with round back, it is clear that we spend in the position a lot of time, because the part of the abdominals is shortened. And that is the reason why is the abdominal muscles shortened and overloaded. Therefore any further exercising with incorrectly chosen exercises leads only to health problems.
But it is not the abdomen pain that bother us, but back pain. The pain is caused by the dorsal hip muscles, which are also shortened and affecting the spine in incorrect position.
But how to deal with it?! We often hear that if our back hurts, we need to exercise our abdomen. To a certain extent it is true, but here we are getting to the core of the problem. The abdominal muscles should be exercised, but in a different way, than doing classical crunches and other “ideal” exercises.


  • Tilted bench for exercising the abdomen - in this case you will feel burning in the area of the abdominal muscles, so the inner hip muscle will be the most active one, especially if you fix your legs.
  • Exercising equipment - most of the equipment is for exercising the legs or abdomen when we lift some weight through a pulley.
  • This way you will basically do classic crunches, which leads again to exercising the abdominal muscles and the inner hip muscle.
  • Leg lifts - it doesn’t matter in which position you do leg lifts. People who are not in the best condition should avoid this exercise. Muscles such as inner hip muscles are involved and there is a significant pressure on the lumbar spine.
  • Typically the abdominal muscles will burn (pain) in the area of the groins and high tension in the lumbar spine if you exercise incorrectly. This is caused by the abdominal muscles, because they are not sufficiently prepared for the specific exercise, and muscles of the hips and spinal erectors are joined instead, which only deepens the incorrect movement stereotype, which in final result can cause the back pain.

CLpaní rozkročená


In order to prevent the mentioned problems we should try to exercise the core muscles, so that we could stay in a healthy condition, than just having an eye pleasing abdomen.
One of the most important muscles in this group is abdominal muscle (m. transversus abdominis). Even in this case we cannot focus on the isolated exercising of this muscle. Without optimally working diaphragm, pelvic floor and other aspects which are participating on the stabilization of the trunk it becomes practically impossible to reach any significant success.
Therefore during exercise we try to induce the cooperation between the muscles of the abdomen, in order to secure the support for a correct body posture. The peak of our trying should be, that we would use every situation to use this activation.
We exercise the same way during sport. No matter what exercise or activity you will do, try to keep the abdominal wall active.


  • How to exercise the intra-abdominal pressure
  • Strengthening the center of the body on a gym ball
  • Strengthening the deep stabilization system - balanced sitting position on a labile pads
  • Exercising the buttocks, back side of the thighs and deep stabilizing system - with suspension system

Author: FYZIOklinika physiotherapy Ltd., Prague, Czech Republic
Source: ŽIVNÝ, V. Zdravotní aspekty posilování – perfektní břicho vs. zdravá záda. In: [online]. 2014 [cit. 2015-09-23]. Dostupné z:

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