You probably know the rectus abdominis muscle by it's slang "six pack." The RA can be seen on the front of your torso if you have low body fat and a strong core. It is one long muscle separated by sheaths, which gives it the appearance of many muscles. The RA connects your pelvis to your rib cage and contracts when you bring the two closer together. A strong RA also controls the tilt of your pelvis and therefore the curve of your spine, which benefit your posture. (REf. 1 and 2)
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Warm up prior to training your RA with five to 10 minutes of full-body activities such as walking, dancing, marching in place or cycling.
Select five to 10 abdominal exercises that target the RA. Include exercises such as crunches, reverse crunches, hanging knee raises, stability ball crunches, stability ball knee tucks, planks, bridges and bicycle crunches.
Use a variety of RA-strengthening exercises that target the RA from different angles. For example, include crunches that raise your shoulder blades off the floor, reverse crunches which raise your hips off the floor and hanging knee raises that strengthen the RA in a static position.
Complete eight repetitions of each exercise and then repeat your sequence for another set of eight repetitions. As your body adapts to these exercises, consider increasing the number of repetitions.
Exhale as you contract and shorten the RA, or when you bring your ribs and hips closer together. Inhale as you relax the RA, or when you create distance between your ribs and hips. Do the exercises in a slow, controlled manner. For example, contract the RA for two seconds and relax for three seconds. In other words, during a crunch, take two seconds to raise your shoulder blades from the floor and three seconds to lower them.
Perform your abdominal exercises three to five days a week. Perform them daily if your abdominals are not sore or fatigued.
Vary your RA exercises every two to three weeks to provide a new stimulus.