Training Time: Better Abs


Training Time with Max Benton

Max Benton is the Cavaliers Athletic Trainer and tends to the immediate medical needs of the team’s players. Most of his duties center around preventative medicine, treatment, and rehabilitation.

This information should not be used as diagnosis of a particular condition and is intended only to be informative. If you are experiencing symptoms of any kind, please consult a doctor.

Better Abdominal Muscles:

In past columns, I’ve focused on ways to prevent and treat injuries as they occur. For a change, I’d like to talk about strengthening your abdominals, part of the core muscles in your body. Aside from the aesthetics of having a firm, shapely midsection, having a strong core can complement low back strength and can increase the “kick” for athletes in training and competition. Here are some suggestions on what you can do.



Doing ab exercises is just one step of the process, which I’ll discuss in a minute. Maintaining proper nutrition is key for losing body fat and gaining muscle. You want to have a diet that will burn slightly more calories than you consume. Smart dietary tips, such as eating the right combination of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, getting calcium, eating high fiber foods, and eating breakfast are good ideas. Make sure you also maintain good hydration by drinking water throughout the day.

Aerobic exercise:

Aerobic exercise is good for burning excess fat, as well as burning calories. Losing weight without exercise will lead you to plateau to a certain weight. Aerobic training will push you past those plateaus, lose excess fat, and will help build muscle.

Ab Exercises:

Eating right and exercising regularly work in conjunction with exercises that strengthen the abdominal muscles. There are a variety of ab exercises you can do, and here is a list of the following:

  • lying leg raises (lower abs)
  • reverse crunches (lower abs)
  • vertical lying leg thrusts (lower abs)
  • hanging knee raises (lower abs)
  • hanging leg raises (lower abs)
  • ab crunches (upper abs)
  • 1/4 crunches (upper abs)
  • cross-knee crunches (upper abs)

    Here are instructions for how to do each of the ab exercises, taken from


    Reverse Crunch

    This exercise can be done on the ground or on an incline sit-up board. All you need is something behind your head to hold. If you use the incline board, use it with your feet lower than your head.

    Lying on your back, hold a weight or a chair leg (if lying on the floor) or the foot bar (if using the sit-up board). Keep the knees slightly bent.

    Pull your pelvis and legs up so that your knees are above your chest and then return to beginning position. This exercise is very similar to a hanging knee raise, but a little less intense.

    Lying Leg Raises

    Lie on your back with your hands, palms down under your buttocks. Raise your legs about 30cm (12") off the floor and hold them there. Now trying to use just your lower abs, raise your legs by another 15cm (6"). Do this by tilting the pelvis instead of lifting the legs with the palms. Make sure your knees are slightly bent.

    If you're big or have long legs or both, you should probably avoid this exercise. For people with legs that are too heavy for their lower abs strength, this exercise pulls the lower back into an exaggerated arch which is bad (and painful). If you have this problem you can either try bending your knees slightly and making sure you keep your lower back fairly flat, or just try another exercise.


    Ab Crunches

    Lying on your back, put your knees up in the air so that your thighs are at a right angle to your torso, with your knees bent. If you like you can rest your feet on something, like a chair. Put your hands either behind your head or gently touching the sides of your head.

    Now, slowly raise your shoulders off the ground and try to touch your breastbone to your pelvis, breathing out as you go. If you succeed in touching your breastbone to your pelvis, see a doctor immediately.

    Although the actual movement will be very small (your upper torso should move through less than 30 degrees) you should try to go as high as possible. Only your spine should bend, your hips should not move. If the hips move, you are exercising the psoas.

    Do these fairly slowly to avoid using momentum to help. You can increase the difficulty of the exercise by extending your hands out behind your head instead of keeping them at the side. Make sure you don't jerk your hands forward to help with the crunch, keep them still.