Want to feel your abs? Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet planted. Roll up a small dish towel and place it under your lower back. Exhale and press your lower back into the towel as hard as you can, squeezing it into the floor.
You should feel your abs light up and even start shaking. Try it again, but this time do a crunch or sit-up after you squeeze the towel. Notice a difference? This is how you should be working your abs on every rep in the gym.
There are four abdominal muscles. They help you flex your spine (lean forwards) and rotate. To get all four abdominal muscles activated, you have to make some technique adjustments. For example, pressing your lower back into the ground as you crunch activates your obliques more (the muscles on the sides of your torso).
Proper breathing can help you feel your abs more. The abdominal muscles serve a secondary purpose: assisting your diaphragm in pressing the air out of the lungs. They normally don’t kick in when you’re breathing unless you do a forceful exhalation. When you do ab exercises, try breathing forcefully out through your mouth.
Some ab exercises need to be tweaked to get the most out of them. The plank is a classic ab exercise, but many people think it’s too easy or don’t feel their abs. A simple fix is to press your toes into the ground and up towards your shins. At the same time, dig your elbows into the ground and pull them down towards your feet. By creating tension, the abs are forced to work harder.
Protecting your lower back is important when you do abs. If you have lower back pain, avoid things like crunches, sit-ups and heavy rotational movements. Instead, stick to plank and anti-rotation exercises.
An anti-rotation exercise involves holding a band or some form of resistance as it pulls you from the side. By resisting the rotation from the band, you’re forced to use the same muscles you’d use to create rotation: the obliques. However, by avoiding rotational movement you save your back from extra stress.