Exercises for the Lower Abdomen
Strengthening the lower abdominal and stomach muscles can help the body in ways that go beyond that pleasing washboard look, researchers at Battling for Health.org report. The lower abs and lower back are part of your core and both stabilize the lower torso. Because the abdomen is a large muscle group, stronger and larger lower abdominal muscles consume more energy, helping the body burn more energy and maintain a healthy weight.
Lie on the back with the hands at the side or under the buttocks. With the knees slightly bent, lift the legs until they are at a 90-degree angle to the floor. Make sure the lower back is held flat against the floor while raising the legs in order to prevent injury to the lower back, physical therapist Dr. Charles Inniss says. The abdominal muscles will help keep the back from arching. The straighter the legs are held the more challenging this exercise will become. Inniss says this exercise can be hard on the lower back if not performed properly. He recommends that anyone experiencing lower back pain go back to the basics and practice using proper form.
Decline Leg Lifts
This exercise is a slightly more advanced progression to leg lifts. Lie on a board with one end propped up on a sturdy surface. The larger the angle the more challenging this exercise will be, Inniss says. With the head on the elevated end, hold the arms over the head and grip the board. With the upper body still and the knees bent, curl the lower body and bring the knees toward the chest. Hold this position for a moment before slowly lowering the body and extending the knees to provide more resistance for the abdominal muscles. Inniss suggests trying to raise the pelvis off the board with the abdominal muscles while raising the legs.
Hanging Leg Lifts
This is one of the most advanced lower abdominal exercises, and is performed while hanging from a pull-up or exercise bar, lift the legs to the front and hold the contraction at the top of the motion before lowering the legs to the resting position. One variation of this exercise can be performed by lifting the legs toward each side to ensure the contraction of the entire lower abdomen. Inniss suggests keeping a slight bend in the knees to relieve pressure on the lower back. These hanging exercises should only be performed by people with adequate abdominal strength because they put a lot of stress on the lower back. Inniss recommends leg lifts or decline leg lifts as an alternative until the abdominal muscles are strong enough for this exercise.
Keith Strange spent more than a decade as a staff writer for newspapers in the southeastern United States, winning numerous awards for his work. He has a B.S. in wellness/sports medicine from Averett University and completed graduate work in exercise physiology. Strange is a former competitive martial artist and holds a third-degree black belt in tae kwon do.