When beginning any new exercise program, it’s important to approach the regimen with a sufficient measure of caution and planning. And this includes abdominal exercises.
Many novices make the mistake of rushing into a workout program too quickly, taking on challenges above and beyond their physical capabilities. This results in quick fatigue, excessive soreness. And sometimes even serious injury, which can bring even the best of intentions to a screeching halt.
If you’re beginning a brand-new abdominal routine, we recommend following the below guidelines to help ensure the safest, most effective exercises possible.
1. See a doctor:
It’s a good idea to get a routine physical before beginning a regular exercise program, to determine your physical limitations and identify any pre-existing conditions that could make exertion dangerous.
2. Consider a personal trainer:
If your budget allows, a physical trainer can help you to fashion a custom abdominal routine tailored to your goals and lifestyle. He or she can also monitor your progress and ensure that you’re performing each exercise correctly to achieve the maximum benefit.
3. Start out slowly:
Enthusiasm is admirable, but to avoid injury and reap the maximum benefit from your exercises, you should begin with an easy to moderate routine and gradually work your way up to more challenging exercises.
4. Do crunches, not sit-ups:
Overall, the safest and most effective abdominal exercises are crunches. The correct form is to lie on your back on a mat or bench with your knees bent and the soles of your feet flush against the floor. As you slowly raise and lower your torso, make sure your lower back remains relaxed. Traditional sit-ups are not recommended, as they can cause muscle strain and do not provide as much benefit.
5. Focus on quality, not quantity:
Your goal right out of the gate shouldn’t be to do 500 crunches in a day. After a certain number of repetitions, your body will become fatigued and less efficient, so you’ll ultimately get less out of the later crunches. Start out with a realistic number, perhaps between 20-50, and concentrate on slow, deliberate movements.
6. Don’t neglect the rest of your body:
When the muscles surrounding your midsection are strong and healthy, you’ll get more out of your abdominal workouts, and the chances of muscle strain and injury are lessened. Plus, the more muscle tone you have, the higher your metabolism will be, so you’ll burn more fat calories. Pair your crunches with walking, light jogging, stepping or elliptical machines, or another form of full-body cardiovascular exercise.
7. Let your body call the shots:
Pay attention to the warning signs. If you experience sharp pain or dizziness during your abdominal workout, take a break. A little soreness and fatigue are normal—and even expected—but acute pain is the body’s way of telling you to slow down.
8. Rest in between exercises:
When beginning a new abdominal regimen, we recommend taking off every other day. This allows your stomach muscles to repair themselves and ultimately increases the effectiveness of your exercises.
9. Modify your abdominal exercises during pregnancy:
Women who are expecting will need to follow a special set of guidelines for safe stomach exercises. While it’s generally okay to perform abdominal routines during the first trimester, alternate exercises should be substituted later in the pregnancy that does not require the woman to lie on her back.
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Following these precautionary measures will help ensure that your new abdominal plan is safe, effective, and injury-free. Thus increasing the chances that it will become an ingrained part of your everyday routine.