Oh the good old abdominals. They can be tricky to activate and tricky to see, but with the right workouts and a strong diet, you'll be very satisfied.
Training the core involves conditioning and weight training. Finding a nice blend between the two will get you abs that not only look good but are also strong. It is so crucial to have a strong core, even if you are not an athlete. Your core makes up a large part of your body, and works directly with the muscle groups around it.
I'd say one in every three people I meet deals with lower back pain. They usually tell me their doctor sent them to a physical therapist to strengthen their core. This is a very common issue for people who don't regularly workout or train their core.
When it comes to conditioning and weight training the core, there are ways to ease into it without tweaking the lower back. Remember, your body will always take the path of least resistance, meaning, if your lower back is stronger, it will take on the burden of the workout instead of allowing your abdominal muscles to activate. Lets get more specific:
Before we add external weight, let's focus on some basic movements to fire up that core.
Some safe movements are regular crunches, bicycle crunches, and toe touches. I name these because they force the lower back to touch the floor. I always tell my clients to tuck their belly buttons in, creating a C shape with their spine (the opposite of arching the back).
Your lower back must be flat to the floor, otherwise it will try to extend and take on the force of the exercise, instead of your core.
To ease into it, find core workouts that allow you to keep your lower back flat on the floor. Do these exercises multiple times a week until you can move into more advanced movements without your lower back arching.
I'm a big fan of adding weights to your core exercises. You weight train other parts of your body, so why not your abs too? I don't go too heavy but I will certainly add a 15lb dumbbell to my crunches and sit ups.
Again, if your lower back is trying to take on your workout, stick to those safe movements mentioned above and trying adding some weight. Mix weighted exercises in with your conditioning to both condition and strengthen your core.
I have taken on clients with little to no core strength. They attempt their first exercise and I can see their lower back immediately arching underneath them.
Usually within just two weeks of practicing safe core workouts, they will build up enough strength to move into more advanced movements such as v-ups and scissor kicks.
Your core is very adaptive and responds well to continuous movement. Don't be discouraged if you are limited in your exercises as this is extremely temporarily.
Anything worth having takes time- and we all want that 6-pack!