The traditional sit-up or crunch is not the most effective or safe way to tone your abdominal muscles. For Moms especially (even not-very-new mums), these ab exercises are a big no-no, on the basis that they increase intra abdominal pressure and can make diastasis recti (abdominal separation) or pelvic floor disorder or weakness worse.
Planks and push up positions will also not benefit a core that is not strong and fully functional.
SO HERE’S 10 GREAT AB EXERCISES FOR DIFFERENT STAGES OF CORE STRENGTH
The first 4 exercises help teach you to engage your deepest core muscles and need to be mastered before you progress to the harder ones. They offer a small taster of the engagement principles you will learn in the MUTU System programs.
The next 6 exercises are NOT for a still-compromised or weak core!
If your abdomen bulges outwards or domes when you attempt ANY exercise, do not move on to the next ones until you have mastered full control.
Planks and push ups require A FULLY FUNCTIONING AND STRONG CORE – do not attempt until you know you have achieved this.
Full instructions for each exercise below the video
BTW if you don’t see the text, click the speech bubble at the bottom of the video screen
- HEEL SLIDE | Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Drawing belly button to spine and pelvic floor in and up, slide one heel slowly away until that leg is flat to the floor. Keep core engaged throughout the movement. Relax and inhale, then engage the muscles again and slide the foot back. Alternate legs, 10 each side.
- CAT | This is a bit of yoga with a bit of Pilates with a bit of ‘zipping up a diastasis’, a pelvic floor exercise AND a great stretch for your upper and lower back. A true multi-tasker! From hands and knees, shoulders over hands, hips over knees. Breathe in, take your chest forward (don’t throw your head back) and relax your abs. Then breathe out, draw belly button back to spine, lift the pelvic floor and arch your back as your pelvis tilts. Work with your breath, coming back to neutral spine on the next inhale. This is a fabulous exercise first thing in the morning to get you going, or after a day of feeding, computing, stress or sitting at a desk!
- BRIDGE with Leg Extension | Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips and tuck your chin to your chest. Engage your core muscles (draw belly button to spine and lift pelvic floor) and hold. Imagine ‘zipping up’ your rectus muscle (the vertical one at the front) form pubic bone to breast bone. Lower and repeat 10 times. When you have mastered this you can try lifting one leg straight out in front as you lift.
- BALL ROLLOUT | Kneel in front of the Swiss Ball (balance ball) and lean forward onto it, resting on your forearms. Push the ball away from you, and then pull it back in under your chest. Your lower body doesn’t move, just your arms with your abdominals doing all the work! The more of your bodyweight you drop forward onto the ball, the harder it is, so kneel up on your haunches at first or if you have a wide diastasis.
Once diastasis is 2 fingers or less, connective tissue is firm and shallow and abs can be activated without bulging,… (and ONLY THEN!) Try these. These exercises require your core muscles to be able to hold the weight of your body and support your back – if your back sags or there is any pain at all, please do the easier version! More about how to know when you’re ready HERE. You will be able to progress to these after completing the MUTU System 12 Week Program.
IMPORTANT: THE FOLLOWING EXERCISES SHOULD ONLY BE PERFORMED AFTER FULL CORE RECOVERY + WHEN FULL STABILITY + STRENGTH HAS BEEN RESTORED
- PLANK | An ab classic, this works your Transverse Abdominis (deep core muscle) as well as your pelvic floor (provided you remember to lift it) and strengthens your lower back. From elbows or with straight arms (straight arms is slightly easier), from knees (easier) or toes. Find the one you can do, hold it for a minute, when that’s easy, make it harder!
- BALL GLUTE and HAMSTRING PULLS | This tones your butt and the backs of your thighs, as well as your abs! Lie on your back with the backs of your heels resting on the ball. Lift your hips and engage your core as you bend your knees and pull the ball in underneath you. Push away, and then pull back in. Try 15.
- PUSH-UP | You may not think of a press-up as an ab exercise – but if you engage your core muscles correctly, this really works! Exhale as you push up, engaging core and pelvic floor. Start from your knees, work up to your toes… 10-20 total, whatever you can do, just keep improving!
- BALL TUCKS | With your feet balancing on the ball, hold a dead straight plank position. Don’t bend your knees till you can hold a straight line and if you can’t hold a straight line, you’re not ready for this exercise! Bring your knees to your chest, working your abs and holding steady, then push back. Repeat for 10.
- SIDE PLANK | This is a plank for your obliques (the sides of your waist). You can go from your knees or with straight legs, just like the standard plank. Prop yourself up on your elbow and lift your waist and your hips. Don’t lean forward or back and don’t forget to breathe! Hold for 30 seconds each side if you can.
- DYNAMIC PLANK WITH MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS | This really works the side of your waist! From a plank position, bring alternate knees out to the side towards your chest. Hold your abs tight!