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The Right Moves

Reverse Crunches for More Solid Abs

August 07, 2000|KAREN VOIGHT

Go ahead, admit it. You'd love to have a more muscular and well-defined middle.

If only you had more time for exercise, you'd do it, right? Well, do you have five or 10 spare minutes a day? Access to a chair, sofa or bed to put your feet on? If so, you can be on your way to having your very own "six-pack" without a big commitment of time.

You can do this exercise, called the "reverse crunch," during TV commercials, right after brushing your teeth or just before you go to bed at night. It is a tried-and-true move that tightens and tones your abdominals.

Some of you may already do traditional crunches, in which you lie on your back, feet flat on the floor and curl your chest toward your hips. A reverse crunch uses the opposite action, in which you curl your hips toward your chest. Both exercises are useful.

Variety is the spice of life when it comes to abdominal training. Using different positions and angles will yield faster results and help you avoid plateaus. Reverse crunches isolate the lower section of your abdominals, helping you stabilize your pelvis whenever you walk, sit or stand.

If you are bothered by a tight or stiff lower back, performing this move correctly can provide immediate relief, by helping your lower back muscles to relax and loosen up. When you tighten and curl the front of your torso, you are simultaneously stretching and lengthening your back. This can be important for parents who carry babies or toddlers around, for students who haul heavy backpacks, or for anyone who tends to overarch their lower back.

It's easy to do reverse crunches incorrectly. If you quickly swing your legs forward to help you roll your hips off the floor, you'll end up using momentum and not strength. Besides being a waste of time, it may cause back pain.

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To ensure a correct reverse curl, slow down and perform the move smoothly. The quality of your movement is more important than the number of repetitions you do.

* To begin, lie on your back and rest your feet on a chair with your knees bent.

* Place your hands on a pillow beneath your head. Keep your neck long and your chin slightly tucked in. Now inhale.

* As you exhale, press your lower back to the floor and tighten your abdominal muscles. You should feel most of the contraction in the lower part of your abs.

* Keep your head and upper body on the floor as you begin to roll your tailbone and hips slightly off the floor.

* Try not to tense your buttock muscles to raise your hips. Focus on moving your hip bones toward your rib cage by squeezing only your abdominal muscles.

* Hold this contracted position for 2 to 3 seconds, then slowly relax your abdominals and roll your hips down to the floor. Continue this exercise until you have done it 25 to 50 times.

Remember to use a fluid motion and to coordinate it with your breath. Add this reverse crunch to your daily routine or use it as a 5-minute stress-reliever whenever you can. Over time, these small and easy curls can help you replace a soft and bulging belly with a flat and firm midsection.

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Karen Voight is a Los Angeles-based fitness expert whose column runs the first and third Mondays of each month. Her latest video is "Core Essentials." She can be reached by e-mail at kvoightla@aol.com.

* Joan Voight, a San Francisco-based journalist, contributed to this column.

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