Let’s Turn That Keg Into A Six Pack
By Ryan Unverzagt
Welcome back to another edition of From the Trainer. It’s that time of year when we need to start trimming down before swimsuit season hits and focus on transforming that keg into the six-pack we always dreamed of! This month’s exercise is a Sit-Up with a twist using a decline bench. It targets the abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis, internal/external obliques, and transverse abdominis) and also works the hip flexor muscles including the rectus femoris of the quadriceps. This is another great body-weight exercise that you can add to your abdominal repertoire. The advantages of using a bench is the ability to adjust the decline angle to your fitness level and securing your lower legs and feet for a more effective sit-up. A flat bench is for the beginners and an increased angle is for the seasoned vets.
Before you begin, adjust the bench to your comfort level. After that, climb on and secure your lower legs and feet into the position shown in figure 1. Notice how my hips and knees are bent while my feet are anchored behind the top pad. Ab benches will vary in design, but the better ones will allow you to secure the feet and lower legs and position the knees above hip level (as in these pictures). This position will help protect the lower back and spine from extreme shear forces during the sit-up. When the hips are flexed, the less your hip flexors are involved, which means the abs do the grunt work.
For the start, place your hands on the back of your head with the elbows bent, but avoid interlocking the fingers. You do not want to pull on the back of the head during this exercise because your neck will not appreciate the strain. Contract those abdominal muscles to initiate the sit-up and try to peel the shoulder blades off the bench. When you reach the halfway point, rotate your torso to bring the left elbow towards the right knee to the finish position (figure 2). If you’ve made it this far, congrats, but you’re not done!
Next, simultaneously lower and rotate the torso back to the center on the way down. This part of the exercise should be performed slowly (about 2 seconds) and under control until the shoulder blades are resting on the bench. Avoid relaxing the stomach and crashing back down to the bench as I’ve seen too many times! The only time this is allowed is on your last repetition…. Ha, not really. Ok, so you’ve sat up and to the right, now it’s time to sit up and twist your right elbow towards the left knee using the same technique. For the beginners, try two sets of five reps per side for a total of ten (per set) with the bench flat. For the more advanced, try three sets of 15 per side with a declined angle. Rest about one minute between sets.
Remember this exercise is not a race, so take your time. Most people think the faster, the better when it comes to the abs. Not true. Research articles that I’ve read about abdominal exercise suggest that strength gains come from the muscles “time under tension” and not how fast you can sit-up. This means that the longer the abdominals are working, the more strength and endurance is gained.
It’s never too early to start chiseling the mid-section. So enjoy this exercise and until next time, stay fit!
About the Author: Unverzagt holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Wellness Management from Black Hills State University. He is a certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength & Conditioning Association and a Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography.