Moving Beyond Conventional Crunches
For women, the problem of bulging and flabby tummy muscles is often different from that of men. The uterus lies in front of the digestive system. Normally relatively small, it increases in size during the menstrual cycle and, of course, in pregnancy. The increase is so great in pregnancy that the linea alba, the narrow gap that runs between the two vertical columns of the rectus abdominus, separates, creating a space between the two ridges of the muscle.
The transverse abdominus, the abdominal muscle that acts as a corset to hold the internal organs back, also loosens during pregnancy. Firming this muscle puts the body’s natural corset back into place. Sadly, the muscle is neglected in conventional body crunches…
In response to this problem, I have developed two exercises, which I call the transverse and reverse abdominal squeezes. I place great emphasis on breathing with the diaphragm to work these muscles; this is because the transverse abdominal muscle, interdigitates with the diaphragm, and assists in expelling air out of the lungs.
Transverse Abdominal Squeeze
- Lie on your back, with the feet firmly placed hip distance apart.
- Take a deep breath and exhale fully, letting the navel sink towards the spine and letting the small of the back sink toward the floor. Your transverse abdominus should now be engaged.
- In the next out breath, raise both shoulders off the floor while supporting the head with hands on either side of it.
- Breathing normally, while keeping the transverse abdominal muscles engaged, lift one foot turning the knee outward and then lift the other foot also turning the knee outward. Bring the heels together…like a frog.
- With the heels together squeeze the knees in to touch each other. As you squeeze the knees together, breathe out and tuck in the navel further. You will feel a tightening or contraction of the lower abdominal muscles – ‘your corset’.
- Breathing in, release and let the knees fall apart; the heel should remain together.