The rectus abdominis, also referred to as the middle abs, is a band of muscle in the center of your abdomen. The muscle helps you to flex your spine, bend to the side and bring your pelvis and rib cage toward each other. Middle ab exercises help strengthen the rectus abdominis, as well as improve posture, enhance stability and help reduce lower back pain. Cycle through the exercises, aiming for at least 10 repetitions of each exercise. As always, get your doctor's approval before attempting any new workout, especially if you have an injury or chronic condition.
Super Static Moves
Static middle ab exercises, where you contract your abdominal muscles without moving them, are an intense form of exercise. Do the standing ab contraction by standing up straight, tightening your rectus abdominis muscles as hard as you can and pulling your bellybutton in toward your spine. Hold for two seconds and release. Repeat up to 10 times. Or, do hanging leg lifts by hanging from a chin-up bar with your arms straight. Lift your knees, tucking them up above your hips, and hold the contraction for as long as possible. Lower your legs back to the starting position and repeat until fatigued.
Compound Your Exercise
Compound ab exercises allow you to utilize more than just one joint or muscle group at a time while still targeting your middle abdominals. Do the V rock and roll exercise by lying on your back with your legs together flat on the floor and your arms extended up overhead by your ears. Tighten your middle abs and raise your legs and shoulders 6 inches from the floor. Rock back and forth a few times and release back to the starting position. Or, do the stand up exercise by standing up straight with your feet hip-width apart. Squat down and lower your buttocks to the floor. Tuck your knees into your chest and roll back onto your shoulder blades. Roll forward and stand up to return to the stating position.
Just Roll With It
Do stability ball exercises to force your middle abdominal muscles to work harder as you struggle to remain balanced on the ball. For example, perform the crunch on an exercise ball by lying back so that your tailbone and back are resting on the ball. Keep your feet flat on the ground with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Position your hands behind your head and curl your torso up until your upper back is off the ball. Hold for a few seconds and then return to the starting position. Or, do stability ball knee tucks by lying on the stability ball so that your stomach is on the ball and your hands and feet are on the floor. Walk your hands forward until the front of your knees are resting on top of the ball. Slowly bend your knees upward into your chest, allowing the ball to roll forward as you do. Straighten your legs and roll back to the starting position.
Do each exercise slowly and with control. Avoid yanking your shoulders, neck or head as you do middle ab exercises, which can lead to pain and injury. Keep your abdominal muscles tight and contracted throughout each exercise to help stabilize the spine and protect your lower back. For best results, train your middle abdominals every other day. Give your muscles at least one day to recover and grow in between workouts.
- ExRx.net: Hanging Leg Raise
- The University of New Mexico: SuperAbs Resource Manual
- The American Council on Exercise: Stability Ball Knee Tucks
- The American Council on Exercise: Stability Ball Sit-ups / Crunches
- Fitness: 4 Weeks to Gorgeous Abs Workout
- Rodale News: 7 Easy Ab Exercises You Can Do Just About Anywhere
- Core Strength For Dummies; LaReine Chabut
- Fitness For Dummies; Suzanne Schlosberg, Liz Neporent