Rectus Abdominis Exercises

It's not uncommon to hear people say your core is the foundation that holds your body together. That's why it's so important to include rectus abdominis exercises, oblique exercises and low back movements into your workouts. Because in a way, the muscles of your core, which include the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, erector spinae and obliques, act like a natural weight belt to protect your lower back from injury.

Planks are a great ab workout. (Image: Cecilie_Arcurs/E+/GettyImages)

Tip

Rectus abdominis exercises should be part of an overall fitness routine that also includes cardiovascular exercise, strength training and flexibility work.

Killer Lower Ab Workout

Your rectus abdominis makes up the top layer of your abs, which is why they are commonly referred to as your "six-pack." This set of muscles originates on the pubic crest and pubic symphysis. Keeping these muscles strong helps you properly perform daily activities that require you to flex the trunk.

To strengthen your rectus abdominis, you need to perform a variety of core exercises that include rectus abdominis exercises. The easiest way to accomplish this is to add a rectus abdominis workout to your overall fitness routine. According to the American Council on Exercise, you can perform abdominal exercises three times a week.

To fit your rectus abdominis workouts into your week, consider adding them to the end of a strength training session or cardiovascular workout. Additionally, you can incorporate rectus abdominis exercises into a resistance training workout by performing a move between strength training sets.

If you're ready to get your core in shape, give these four exercises a try. Do each of these exercises for the recommended reps or time. For a complete rectus abdominis workout, cycle through all of the exercises; then take a 30-second break. Repeat for two to three rounds.

1. Forearm Plank

The forearm plank is a staple in core workouts. Not only does it target the entire rectus abdominis, but it also challenges your entire core and several muscles in your upper body. Plus, according to the Cleveland Clinic, planks also help with back pain.

  1. Lie down with forearms on the floor, elbows beneath shoulders and legs extended behind you.
  2. Rise up on your toes so that only your forearms and toes touch the floor, your body will be in a straight line a few inches off the floor.
  3. Bring belly button to spine, by contracting your deep abdominal muscles and tighten your buttocks and upper body.
  4. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds before returning to the starting position.

2. Reverse Crunch

The reverse crunch is part of most killer lower ab workout programs. According to the American Council on Exercise, the emphasis of the reverse crunch should be on pulling your pelvis upwards towards your rib cage.

  1. Lie down on your back with knees bent and thighs perpendicular to the ground, hands at your sides, and feet on the floor.
  2. Contract your abdominal muscles and raise your hips toward your rib cage. This will lift your tailbone off the ground and bring knees towards your chest.
  3. Hold in this position for two counts. Slowly lower back to starting position.
  4. Do 10 to 15 repetitions.

3. Scissor Flutter Kicks

Scissor flutter kicks require you to engage your core muscles, including your rectus abdominis, so that you can flutter your legs up and down.

  1. Lie down on your back with your legs extended, arms by your sides. Using an exercise mat will help reduce the pressure on your lower back.
  2. Press your lower back into the mat and tuck your pelvis. This will help to engage your core.
  3. Lift both legs off the mat, about 6 inches to 10 inches from the floor. You should not feel pain in your lower back.
  4. Lower one leg toward the floor. As this leg gets close to the floor, lift the other leg up.
  5. Continue scissoring your legs by slowly switching them up and down.
  6. Do 15 to 20 repetitions.

4. Toe Taps

Toe taps are a Pilates-based move that makes a great addition to your rectus abdominis exercises. You may also see them referred to as heel taps.

  1. Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet lifted into a tabletop position.
  2. Press your lower back into the mat and engage your core.
  3. Slowly lower your right foot until your toe taps the floor. Your foot should be in a flexed position. Contract your abdominal muscles and raise your right foot back up to table top. Repeat on the left side.
  4. Do 10 repetitions per side.
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