May 30, 2020, by Kate Rothery

Inclusive workout series | Ab exercises

University of Nottingham Sport are proud to be a leading institution for inclusive sport in the HE sector. We have a full time Disability Sport Officer and a range of award winning inclusive sport programmes.

As part of our new online Health and Wellbeing Home, the University of Nottingham Sport fitness team have put together a series of inclusive workouts and exercises aimed at all abilities.

In the second of our Inclusive workout series, join Sue as she runs through a fun abs session. This workout is designed to be accessible to all levels of fitness and ability.

There are ten exercises in the main part of the workout. You can perform as many or as few as you feel able and Sue recommends resting for 30 – 40 seconds between sets. Take your time and try to control all movements focussing on using your abs and core.

Before you start just make sure you have something comfortable to lie on, like an exercise mat, and some space around you. You may also want to use a small weight, a bottle of water or a can of food is perfect. And don’t forget to have water within easy reach to stay hydrated.

Don’t forget to check out our huge range of online resources through the Health and Wellbeing Home. You can try weekly challenges, join a live class or watch a series back like this one.

Check out the abs exercises below or watch the whole series here – don’t forget to follow the warm up and cool down exercises recommended before and after your workout!


The workout

1. Seated rotation (Russian twist) – Beginner / Intermediate

The focus is on your obliques – the muscles down the sides of your abdomen.

Sit in a comfortable position with your knees bent and heels on floor. Keep your lower body as still as possible.

Hold a weight in two hands or use no weight at all. Lean back slightly to the point where you feel your abs engage. Keep your back straight, then using your abs, twist side to side taking both arms slightly down towards floor. Perform 3 sets of 12-20 repetitions.

To make easier – Don’t use a weight. Stick to a lower repetition range.

To make harder– Lift your heels off floor, crossing your feet for stability. Stick to the higher repetition range.

2. Reverse crunches – Intermediate / Advanced

The focus here is on your lower abs.

Lie down flat and if you can, lift both legs straight up and try to hold them there. Take your arms out to the side.

Keep your head and shoulders down and focus on pulling your tummy in – as if you’re pulling your belly button towards your spine. As you do this, try to lift your lower body just slightly off the floor to work the lower abs. Perform 3 sets of 6-12 repetitions.

To make easier – Try bending your knees 90 degrees and pull your knees towards your chest as you tighten your abs. Or you can try sitting on a chair and hold the sides as you extend your legs straight out.

To make harder – Stick to higher repetition range and focus on good form.

3. Leg lowering – Beginner/ Intermediate / Advanced

The focus here is on your central abs and core.

Lie down flat and lift your knees, bending to 90 degrees. Take your arms out to your sides and then tighten your abs as before. Ensure your lower back remains in contact with the floor as you slowly extend each leg in turn down towards floor.

Hold control and hover your legs just above the floor if you can whilst continuing the exercise. Return to the start and then repeat the other side. Perform 3 sets of 6 – 10 repetitions.

To make easier – Stick to the lower repetition range.

To make harder – Try lowering both legs together from a bent knee position. Try from a legs straight up position, ensuring that your lower back focus remains.

4. Supermans – Beginner/ Intermediate

This focuses on your central core.

Position yourself on all four, hands aligned directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Try to keep your core tight throughout this exercise.

Raise your right arm and left leg and hold for a slow count of 3. Slowly return to the start position and then raise your left arm and right leg. Your head and neck should remain neutral. Repeat this sequence in a slow and controlled manner for 3 sets of 6 – 10 repetitions.

To make easier – Stick to the lower repetition range.

To make harder – After each ‘hold for 3’ touch your elbow and knee 3 times maintaining a tight core. Follow higher repetition range.

5. Knee rolls – Beginner/ Intermediate

Focus is on your core and lower back.

Lie flat on your back with your arms out to your side, level with shoulders. Lift your legs and bend your knees to 90 degrees, keeping your knees together. Keeping your shoulders down, roll your knees together slowly across to your right side and then back to centre and across to left side.
Only roll as far as you feel comfortable – this can be good if you are suffering from lower back pain. Repeat slowly for 3 sets of 6 – 10 repetitions.

To make easier – Perform with your feet on floor and stick to lower repetition range.

To make harder – Try with legs straight up and higher repetition range.

6. Crunches – Beginner / Intermediate

The focus central core / abs.

Lie flat on your back. Keep your feet on floor, knees bent, or support your lower legs by placing them on a chair or sofa. You can choose to hold a small weight in 2 hands or no weight. Pull your tummy in as if pulling your belly button towards your spine. As you do, lift your head, shoulders and upper back off the floor.

You have 2 choices here with your hands/arms. Either place your hands to the sides of your head, taking care not to strain neck as you lift. Or reach your arms out towards your knees as you crunch up. Lower your back to start position. Perform 3 sets of 6 – 10 repetitions.

To make easier – Use no weights and stick to the lower repetition range.

To make harder – Reduce reliance on support for legs and perform more repetitions.

7. Starfish abs – Intermediate.

The focus on your obliques.

Lie flat on your back and stretch your arms and legs out to resemble a star. Keeping yoir left shoulder on the floor, raise your right arm and left leg extending your hand up and across towards your left foot. Repeat on the other side.

You should feel rotation through your core as you reach up and across.
Perform 3 sets of 10 – 20 repetitions.

To make easier – Stay within the lower repetition range and don’t worry if you can’t reach all the way to your toes.

To make harder – Work to the higher repetition range and focus on keeping your leg straight and reaching right up to your toes.

8. Dorsal raise – Intermediate / Advanced

Focus is on using your spine and lower back muscles to raise your upper body off floor.

Lie face down with your hands level with the sides of your head and slightly off the floor. Relax your shoulders. Take a deep breath in and lift your chest off the floor, holding briefly and then lowering as you exhale. Perform 3 sets of 6 – 10 repetitions.

To make easier – Stay within the lower repetition range. Keep your hands on the floor by your sides as you gently raise your chest.

To make harder – Perform more repetitions and hold for longer. Change your arm position with arms outstretched in ‘Y’ formation.

9. Bicycle Crunches – Intermediate

Focus is on your central core and obliques.

Lie on your back, knees bent and raised to 90 degrees with your lower back pushed into floor. Bend your elbows and take your fingers to the sides of your head. Lifting your right shoulder off floor, take your right elbow towards your left knee as it moves towards chest, extending your right leg out straight and just off floor. Take care not to pull on your head and neck.

Your knee and elbow do not need to touch – just get as close as you can. Your core should be doing the twisting. Perform 3 sets of 10-20 repetitions.

To make easier – Focus on the lower repetition range. Place your straightened leg in bent position and take your foot to floor instead.

To make harder – Focus on higher rep range.

10. Front plank – Beginner/ Intermediate/ Advanced

The focus on your core, lower back and entire body.

Lie on your front and take your feet hip width apart with your elbows bent. Raise your body resting on your elbows and ensuring they are directly under your shoulders. If this is comfortable, lift your knees off floor also, keeping your back flat and in line with hips.

Make sure your eyes are looking down and out in front. Focus on keeping your core tightened. Hold for 10 – 30 seconds at a time and repeat 3 times.

To make easier – Remain in the knees down position – everything else remains the same.

To make harder – Increase length of your holds and try one of these variations:

  • Alternate shoulder taps – choose high plank position on hands not elbows.
  • Alternate arm or leg raises.
  • Plank walks from elbows to hands and back.
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