Exercise! - Easy abdominal recommendation please

05-25-2011, 10:10 AM
I have approached my entire "lifestyle change" by baby steps. I am only now, 2 years in, starting to do any strength training exercises. Luckily doing cardio with extra 100 lbs resulted in pretty strong legs and upper body is gradually increasing.

The trouble is abdominal exercise. I have a lifelong problem with cramping muscles, not related to weight and when I attempted to follow along in my Muscle class at the Y I get "charlie horse" so bad in this area that it actually worried the instructor. She's not sure how to have me modify those exercises so I can slowly build up. I figure there are folks on this forum who were as unfit as I am in this area, any suggestions?

What's the gentlest abdominal exercise you can think of?

05-25-2011, 10:16 AM
Joannie Greggains makes a fabulous and fun 10 min ab video. WARNING: It's really old (ergo..music sounds like bow chicka bow wow!) Almost no floor work and most ab work is done standing up.:)

Really though...flat abs are made in the kitchen. The exercise stuff is good if you need to build up your ab muscles.;)

05-25-2011, 12:35 PM
Planks, planks, planks.

I have read so much lately about how crunches, situps, etc are bad for the spine. The job of the abs is to hold the spine erect. Planks seem to fit the bill for that.

05-25-2011, 12:40 PM
Can you modify a plank? That was the exercise where I cramped up so bad she thought I had herniated something!

05-25-2011, 12:42 PM
Oh the many ways to do a plank, like ddc said! You can also do a pelvic push down. Lay face up and notice the arch of your spine, then press your spine down to the mat so there's no longer a gap and hold for a minute. Your knees will naturally rise up a bit. Repeat.

Stability ball: legs on ball at the shin, hands on floor like a straight arm plank. Bend knees in, out, side to side. This takes a few tries to learn and get used to balancing.

05-25-2011, 12:57 PM
Hmm. Are you cramping in your abs? I sometimes cramp in my lats while holding a plank.
I just stop, rest, and then go at it again.
Keeping the body straight is key. If you sag in the lower back you can cause more damage than good.

Another exercise I recently learned is an ab isometric.
Lying on the back, hold dumbbells in each hand and stretch your arms out above your head and hold the weights an inch or two off the floor.
There's a drawing about half way down this page: http://www.drbookspan.com/AbsArticle.html

05-25-2011, 02:18 PM
ddc how heavy of weights do you do that with? I can't wait to try it! I'll add it to my list of core moves and I'll be sure to give you credit. :)

05-25-2011, 02:27 PM
Oh, I only use 5 lbs in each hand.
I have wonky shoulders and don't want to risk messing them up again :(

05-25-2011, 06:58 PM
Thanks all for the advice.

Yes, any muscle that I "tense" will suddenly cramp up. For example, as a 7-8 year old taking swim lessons I learned the hard way NOT to point my toe. I have the oddest swim kick you've ever seen but if my mind drifts and I let the toe point, I'm seized by intense pain and can't swim another inch, have to float my way with a bit of doggy paddling until I get to shallow water.

05-25-2011, 07:20 PM
hmmmm, I wonder if you might have a deficiency, like maybe magnesium pops into my head. Maybe look into what deficiency will cause muscle cramping. Magnsium citrate is a great natural muscle relaxant. Just don't take too much, or it can help you go #2

You can modify planks by going onto your knees, or even by doing walking planks where you go up and down on your elbows

05-26-2011, 10:11 AM
hmmmm, I wonder if you might have a deficiency, like maybe magnesium pops into my head. Maybe look into what deficiency will cause muscle cramping. Magnsium citrate is a great natural muscle relaxant. Just don't take too much, or it can help you go #2

Thanks for the recommendation. As a child (1960s, 70s), doctors had me supplementing calcium. No help. As a young woman (80s, 90s) potassium was going to be the answer. Nope. Haven't even brought it up to my current doctor, but going to try this as most nights I am awakened with them when I stretch in my sleep and activate one of these stinking cramps!

05-26-2011, 10:41 AM
ddc, I did that exercise yesterday with my class. I had 5 lb weights the others varied with 2 and with 8 lbs. The consensus was that it was too easy. If I had to fatigue the muscle this way, I'd have to hold that pose for 2 minutes and repeat 5 times! That just takes too long.

05-26-2011, 12:10 PM
Well, the OP asked for easy.

I found it in a book for relieving back pain. So, maybe not considered what someone might want for a 'workout' but enough to help tighten the abs and hold the spine more erect.

05-26-2011, 12:39 PM
As ddc has said, many researchers say do NOT do crunches or situps anymore.

One recommendation from one of them is:

Lie on your back, one leg bent. Put hands under your lower back/hips so that you do not have an arch in your back. Merely raise your head a bit off the ground and you will feel your abs tense. That is enough. It is simple, but you will be amazed that you WILL feel it.

05-26-2011, 02:47 PM
ddc, yes, I suppose that was the original question but I guess in the fitness world I equate "easy" with "not enough". If exercising were easy, there'd be no need for 3FC in the first place. I think it's a good exercise to start with, though. I wouldn't want to add weight for fear of damaging the shoulder so when this exercise gets too easy, move on to something else.

I just want to make sure that anyone embarking on this lifestyle change doesn't think doing easy exercises will bring about a large amount of change in a short amount of time.

Let's not confuse "easy" with "safe", either, like tejas said. There are some downright irresponsible examples of exercises out there on places like youtube. Always monitor injury-type pain and stop the exercise.

As far as crunches go, I have a hard time believing that moving the body in a manner it was designed to move will cause harm to your spine. I believe crunches can aggrivate back injuries but how does doing them correctly cause spine injuries? I mean, if that were the case, then just getting out of bed we would all be injured!

That said, there are miriads of ways to work the core without doing a single crunch. So to each her own.

05-26-2011, 04:26 PM
Video from Dr Stuart McGill on crunches:

05-26-2011, 06:12 PM
Video from Dr Stuart McGill on crunches:

See new thread. I didn't want to take over this one. :)

05-29-2011, 08:44 PM
Here's another physical therapy exercise for the abs that might work for you (not cause cramping of the muscles)--the dead bug