Dr. Shirley Sahrmann, a physical therapist and associate professor at Washington University in St. Louis, created a sequence of abdominal exercises that are used in physical therapy and fitness programs. These stomach toning moves build strength below the belly button without placing stress on the abdomen or the lower back. Postpartum women and people attempting to rebuild abdominal strength may benefit from incorporating these exercises into their stomach routines.
The basic breath, a fundamental component of all of the Sahrmann exercises, requires practice. Mastery ensures pelvic support and stability during other abdominal exercises. Lie supine on a mat, bend your knees and rest your feet, hip-width apart, six inches in front of your glutes. Rest your arms by your sides and inhale deeply. As you exhale, tighten your abdominal muscles and pull your belly button toward your spine. Maintain a natural curve in your lower back as you do this; do not flatten your lower back against the mat. This is the starting position for each exercise. After you are able to breathe and contract your abs without arching or flattening your back, advance to the next exercise.
Sahrmann Exercise 1
The first exercise builds strength in the lower abdomen, specifically below the belly button. Go into the start position. Begin your basic breath. After three breaths, slide your right leg out in front of you, lift your foot off of the ground and lower your leg three inches away from the ground. Do not let your leg touch the ground while you extend it. Bend your knee and return your leg to the start position without touching your foot to the ground. Do as many repetitions as you can and then do the same with your left leg. After building enough strength to do 20 repetitions with each leg while doing the basic breathing, move on to the next exercise.
Sahrmann Exercise 2
The second exercise continues to build abdominal strength. Assume the start position. After establishing your basic breathing pattern, lift your right knee toward your chest, then straighten and lower it three inches above the floor. Bend your knee and return your foot to the start position before doing the same with your left leg. Build enough strengthen to complete 20 repetitions on each leg while performing basic breathing before moving on to the next exercise.
Sahrmann Exercise 3
Assume the start position. Lift your feet off of the ground and position your hips directly above your hips. Lower your right foot toward the floor, tap the ground with your toes and then bring your knee back over your hip. After performing as may repetitions as possible, do the same with your left leg. After mastering 20 repetitions on each side while performing basic breathing, advance to the next exercise.
Sahrmann Exercise 4
Lie in the start position, lift your feet off of the ground and position your knees directly above your hips. Extend your right leg and lower it toward the ground, stopping three inches above the floor. Bend your right leg and pull your right knee directly above your right hip. Do the same with your left leg. After mastering basic breathing and 20 continuous repetitions, move on to the final exercise.
Sahrmann Exercise 5
Assume the start position. Lift your feet off the ground, straighten your legs and extend them directly above your hips. From the side, your body forms a 90 degree angle. Lower both of your feet toward the ground. Lower as much as possible without arching your back. Lift your legs directly above your hips and repeat. Build strength to complete 20 repetitions.