If you started the New Year with a resolution for a better body, you probably have done a few abdominal exercises. And, if it’s not a usual routine, your body has reminded you that those muscles are really there. This pain is often mild and does not limit daily activity. However, it can be a strain that limits twisting motions or, in severe cases, causes muscle spasm or even bruising.
Abdominal muscle strain occurs when the muscle is stretched too far causing muscle fibers to be torn. Most of the time crunches and other abdominal exercises can cause microscopic tears within the muscle. This is why your body is reminded of your exercising efforts when you crawl out of bed in the morning.
The rectus abdominis is the muscle that wraps over the front on the belly. People wanting that ‘six pack’ target this area of the abdomen for development. For a smaller waist, it’s the obliques on our sides that need the workout. The internal and external obliques wrap around the side of the body forming that silhouette figure.
Effective exercises strengthen the abdominal muscle groups without injury. Hollowing is pulling your navel back to the spine so that the abdomen hollows under the ribcage. Bracing is flattening and flaring your abdomen. To brace, push your navel as far away from your spine as you can, then tuck your navel back to your spine. Research shows that performing abdominal exercises slowly uses the stabilizing muscles most effectively. One repetition per two or three seconds, versus one repetition per second, is an effective rate and achieves a more superior result.
So, let’s say that you were doing sit ups or those crunches on the floor and now you’re feeling the pain. What can you do? As you can imagine, treatment for a severe strain is difficult. You cannot splint the abdomen and it’s almost impossible to completely relax these muscles. The most important step after straining the abs is to allow the muscle to cool down and allow the inflammation to subside. Apply ice to the injured area within the first 48 hours after a severe injury.
In moderate and severe cases, avoid exercising to allow the muscle to heal. Activities causing pain or spasm should be postponed until there is substantial healing. For mildly or moderately pulled muscles, gentle stretching is helpful but should not be painful. Overstretching can increase harm and actually slow the healing process. Gentle heat can help loosen the muscles before resuming activities.
If it has not already, that 2010 sculpted, toned body will reflect in your mirror if you keep eating lean and green and safely exercise those core muscles.