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The Abs... More Important Than You Think

What comes to your mind when I say the word "abs"? Do you think of the infomercials advertising "6 second abs" or the latest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue? Most people focus on training their abs to look thinner or sexier. But, do you realize the importance of your abs in everyday activities? Most yoga instructors do. And that's why one of the focuses of yoga is to build your core abdominal strength.

Important for posture

Your abs attach to your spine and pelvis, helping balance your back in good posture. Often times, when your back is not supported in the correct posture by your abdominals and back muscles, back pain occurs. Did you know that back pain accounts for approximately 50 billion dollars in health care costs each year. This is not something to be taken lightly -- so remember -- one of the best ways to prevent back pain is to strengthen your abs.

It often takes a conscious effort to sit in good posture. But, even if you get into a good sitting posture, you will need the abdominal and back endurance to maintain it! How are you sitting at your computer right now? I would bet most of you are sitting in a slumped posture?.some more than others. To sit in good posture, you should have a slight inward curve in your back with your ears directly over your shoulders.

One way to strengthen your abs while working on your computer is to use an exercise ball as your chair. Yes, you heard me right! In fact, I am sitting on my exercise ball as I write this article.

Important for balance

Without abdominal strength, you will have difficulty sitting, standing and walking. Your center of gravity is located at your sacrum or roughly just below your belly button. Therefore, your abs play an important part in keeping you balanced at your center of gravity.

Think about someone who is a quadriplegic or paralyzed from the neck down. They are not able to sit by themselves because their back and abdominal muscles are paralyzed. In other words, they are no longer able to balance themselves. In contrast, a paraplegic, someone paralyzed from the waist down, is able to balance and sit by themselves because only their legs are paralyzed leaving their abdominal and back muscles intact. This proves that our abdominals are important for our balance.

If you are now sitting on your exercise ball, you can practice some balance exercises and strengthen your abs simply by rolling your hips forward, backward and side to side. Make sure to pull your stomach inward during these motions.

Exercise your abs

Now that you know the importance of your abs, you need to integrate abdominal strengthening into your regular strength training. Abs should be trained like any other muscle - 8 to 12 repetitions, 3 times per week.

I have several suggestions for where you can start.

1. The Two Best Abs Exercises:
2. Lower Abdominal Exercises:
3. Abdominal Ball Exercises:

Remember the abs! They are more important that you think!

Written by Shelley Hitz, Licensed Physical Therapist and Certified NASM Personal Trainer.
Sign up for her free Exercise Advice journal at or read more of her articles at Get your free unbelievable abs ball workout here!


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