Welcome friend! In this article, you will learn about the best ab exercises for seniors. You can build strong abs as a senior with these tips.
Strong abdominals are very important for posture and the well-being of your back. And they also help to keep your waistline in check.
While visible abs are mainly a concern for bodybuilders, strong abs are very important for your physical performance.
The problem with many ab exercises and ab gym devices is that they can be painful for seniors with back problems.
Most people know one or maybe two basic ab exercises. Typically people think of sit-ups when talking about ab training.
But with a bit of imagination and knowledge, it’s possible to train the abs in many ways.
The biggest issue with most ab exercises is that you have to get into awkward positions, they are too hard or they twist your spine. If you suffer from back pain, it can really make your symptoms worse.
That’s why I recommend you check out these ab exercises for more effective and pain-free ab training.
A word of warning though. If you have significant back pain or arthritis in your back, it’s important you design your ab training routine with a physical therapist. Doing the wrong kind of exercise could make your condition worse.
So always trust medical professionals instead of information online.
Before we talk about the exercises a quick word about the muscles we are trying to make stronger.
When you talk about “the Abs” most people will think about rectus abdominis. It’s the strong, large, and outermost abdominal muscle that forms the “six-pack”.
While it’s an important muscle for athletic performance and aesthetics, it’s only one of several abdominal muscles. I talked more about this in the article Six Pack Abs After 50.
But the abdominals actually consist of several muscles that are responsible for protecting the vital organs in your abdominal cavity. And of course, for flexing, rotating, and tilting your upper body.
The abdominals are part of your “core”. The core is a group of muscles that support the spine, allowing you to move freely and transfer force effectively from your legs.
You can learn more about the core and abdominals in the article Core Strength Exercises For Seniors.
So the abdominals help keep your body functional, protect your organs and help to prevent postural issues and back pain.
Considerations For Ab Training For Seniors
Now you know how important the abdominals are for your health. But you are probably wondering how hard it is to make them stronger. Especially if you have back problems.
The good news is that making the abs stronger doesn’t have to be hard or take much of your time. With strength training, it’s much more important to do it often and consistently.
So a five-minute session several times a week is better than a grueling hour-long workout once a week. It takes time and consistency to see results. Several weeks or months typically.
The biggest problem with ab exercises for seniors is typical that many of them require you to flex or twist your spine.
This can be painful if you have back problems. It can also cause back pain through irritation, especially if you have fused discs in your lower back.
That’s why it’s usually better to focus on ab exercises that don’t require much spine movement. Fortunately, that’s completely possible as you will soon learn.
Best Ab Exercises For Seniors
So as you learned, the best ab exercises for most seniors are ones that don’t involve much spine movement.
Before the exercises, I want to point out that you might not need dedicated ab exercises if you do other forms of strength training or are very active.
Your abs are engaged any time you lift something heavy. This is called bracing. You automatically brace when lifting a suitcase, doing construction work, pushing a heavy wheelbarrow, etc.
For example, many powerlifters don’t do independent ab exercises. The heavy squats and deadlifts build extremely strong abdominals and core over time.
Also if you do yoga or pilates, your abs are likely already in very good shape.
But for most regular folks, a bit of ab training is probably beneficial, don’t you think?
Exercise 1: Planks
The most simple and effective ab and core exercise for seniors is likely the plank. The plank is a bodyweight exercise that is often used in calisthenics to build ab strength and stamina.
The plank involves flexing your whole body against gravity. You can learn how to perform the exercise in the article Planks For Seniors.
What’s great about the plank is that it activates all the abdominal muscles very well. It also requires no special equipment. And you can do them anywhere.
More importantly, your spine remained completely still when you perform a plank correctly. So it shouldn’t irritate your back.
This is also one of the problems of the plank. It looks simple enough, but there are many common errors people make with them.
You should keep your hips fully extended, i.e. your butt down close to the ground. You should also keep your upper back supported. Don’t slouch between your shoulder blades.
One of the other problems with planks is that it can be impossible to perform them if you have shoulder, elbow, foot, or knee problems. You use these to get in position and support your whole weight after all.
Exercise 2: Crunches
Another great option for seniors is crunches. Crunches are a variation of the situp that require much less spine movement. The lower back stays virtually still. Unlike in a regular sit-up.
You can learn how to perform this exercise in the article Sit-Ups For Seniors.
In a crunch, you only focus on flexing your abdominals enough to lift your shoulders from the floor. Then you can really squeeze and hold your abs for a couple of seconds. After a few reps you will see how effective this is.
Crunches are a good option for the planks if you can’t support your weight on your toes and elbows. It’s also a good addition to the plank.
The plank is an isometric hold while the crunch is a flexing movement. This gives a bit of a different signal to the abdominal muscles.
The downside to crunches is that it does require some spine movement, especially of the upper back. It also targets mainly the middle abdominals.
Exercise 3: Leg Raises
Another great option for ab training is leg raises. Leg raises do require a bit of flexion on the spine. But the weight is less on your lower back than on a sit-up,
Leg raises can be performed lying on your back or hanging from arm straps (usually in the gym). There are also special leg raise stations in some gyms.
The leg raise will also target your hip flexors but it’s a very effective abdominal exercise. I would consider it more advanced than the plank or crunch though.
Just like with the planks they require you to be able to support your body weight on your arms if you do them from a hanging position. This can be too demanding for many seniors.
Lying leg raise can also cause a torque on your pelvis and lower back if your abdominals are not strong enough to hold your pelvis in position. So I recommend you try leg raises only once you have mastered planks and crunches.
Here’s a great explanation of the exercise by RedDeltaProject with tips on how to avoid back pain (YouTube embed. Content not created or owned by ElderStrength.com):
I hope you found these tips for best ab exercises for seniors useful. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.
As a recap, ab exercises are an effective form of strength training for making your abs stronger. The abdominals are very important for posture and the functioning of your body.
So it really pays to train the abdominals. It’s important to keep in mind that in strength training consistency is the most important factor. A little bit often is always better than doing a lot every now and then.
Start light, listen to your body and if you feel like the exercises are too hard or are not hitting the right muscles it’s always a good idea to consult a professional trainer.
Once again, if you have medical conditions that affect your spine or joints, it’s important you talk to a medical professional before trying ab exercises on your own.
Thanks for reading and see you next time!