All of the previous comments are of value. I had a bad back as a teenager, used traction for 5 years, and as an adult always had some back problems. However, from everything I have read and experience lately my advise would be to: Use core workouts on the gym ball, Pilates, yoga, etc. However, for just abs, the latest surveys I have read include the following as the top ab exercises: Situps using the gym ball, bicycle & keep shoulders off the floor to keep tension on the abs, roman chair, lay on the floor, legs at 90 degees to the floor, and slowly press the legs toward the ceiling. An all contractions, suck the stomach as tight toward the spine as possible. Someone mentioned the Vacuum. Anyplace, anytime, suck your stomach in as tight as possible against the spine and hold for as long as possible. According to some articles, the old timy straight leg sit up is of value. Just don't lose form during the motion. Do all exercises slow and methodical. You can use the gym ball for most all exercises: press, flyes, curls, back, etc. Using the ball will make your core work, and it also helps balance. Buy a book: Core Performance: Mark Verstegen, ISBN # 1-57954-908-x.
I intermix a tape by Rodney Yee called Yoga Abs. It's untraditional abs strengthening and it is effective for me. It includes streching of abs and back. Also would try some basic back strenghening excersices to get those back muscle in tune, your muscles may be out of balance.
I recently acquired a number of DVD's titled Cyclo-CORE and Cyclo-ZEN which utilize yoga and some really excellent core routines. They are created by a cyclist whose name is Graeme Street and are geared toward cyclists and improving core fitness and flexibility. I have been utilizing the stretching and it has helped with my flexibility and plan to utilize a number of other routines starting next week. I think they are the way to go as my lower back has problems at about mile 75-80 on century rides and this last Sunday I did the Breast Cancer Century Ride in Havre de Grace, MD and it kicked my butt. I plan to kick it's butt next year after utilizing Cyclo-CORE and Cyclo-ZEN.
A lot of information is being sent your way. Much of it from fitness professionals. Everything they are saying is all correct with different items to do or add to your training. As a Personal Trainer who has been studying Sports Conditioning one fact stands out can you perform functionally? In sports conditioning I have found that if you can't perform a series of functional tests than all the core work you do will be okay, but may not be your only problem. I think an excellent book is +Athletic Body in Balance+ by Gray Cook, who is a Physical Therapist, and Certified Strength Coach. In reading his book, if you can't perform seven specific movements to the proper level your body will be out of balance. My advice is find someone who can train you functionally and you will develop a balanced body, which includes a strong core. I have worked in Physical Therapy as a Personal Trainer with strength programs and found if you have any type of muscle imbalance, pain and injury may not be far behind.
Hal R. Simons
C.P.T., NCSF, SFC (Ret)
I would suggest you start with a physical exam and have your physician rule out any problems such as bulged or herniated disc. If your physician gives the ok then I would find a certified pilates instructor and begin working on your core strength not just the abdominal muscles. Not only will it improve your core strength you will become a stronger swimmer,cyclist, and runner.Plus, you'll look 2 inches taller and 10 lbs. lighter. Best of luck from a certified personal trainer and pilates instructor
hey, did you run cross country for carlisle, pa. you were good. i ran for mechanicsburg, pa. i was not. anyhow, hey! all i know is that it it is good to strengthen both the abs and the lower back to keep balance if you plan on running much. i think that is right.
I agree w/the above statements...and what I would add is this: YOGA!!! I have started doing (Bikram) Yoga over the last year, and my core muscles are stronger now then they have ever been! Also, duboisa4 gave some good exercises, and there is one that I do at the gym sometimes which is similar to one of them...I use a fitness ball, laying on my stomach, hands on the ground in front of the ball, I pull myself forward on the ball (not doing much abdominal work YET, apart from starting to create a bridge by engaging my core muscles) and then I bring my knees forward (which rolls the ball towards my body) all the while maintaining that bridge with the core muscles.