I think that most people have enough issues in doing exercise with proper form, and this idea of " engaging your abs " is just making it more complicated than it is.
If I do deadlifts for example, my abs are going to be engaged, as with any compound exercise. You have to flex your torso, since almost any exercise uses it. You will find this out if you hurt your back, or have abdominal surgery, Unless you are doing something like " light " dumbbell curls, you will engage the abs. If you grab a barbell and start doing biceps curls with any decent amount of weight, you will need to engage the abs, or you will fall forward at the waist. You use your torso to remain erect. With proper form, this happens naturally, so I would just focus on proper form.
It's kind of like eating. Chewing the food is a good thing, but usually occurs naturally. If we tell you to chew each bite 5 times, now we have complicated a simple thing, that you may already be doing right.. eating. If it becomes too complicated, it becomes a chore. Exercise should be fun. If I have to think.. breathe in and out at certain times of the lift, and remember to engage the abs, push my tongue to the roof of my mouth it becomes a very complicated process when all I really need to do, is move the weight, with proper form. We try to complicate something that is very simple. What these things are aiming for is proper form. You "engage the abs ", so you use proper form, keeping the back straight when deadlifting, for example. The opposite is also true. If you use proper form, the abs will need to be engaged.
Fitness Minutes: (1,919)
4/3/14 11:33 P
I think I saw it on Ladies Journal to push you tongue up against the roof of your mouth when doing ab work outs on machines so you don't use your neck muscles as much and are just using your abs. I tried it and it seems to work that way but then you have to breathe through your nose while doing those core strength exercises for your stomach.
Edited by: ZURICHMAN at: 4/3/2014 (23:33)
Fitness Minutes: (197,425)
4/3/14 9:58 P
sucking in your stomach and engaging your abs are totally different things.
engaging your abs is like pushing outward, as opposed to sucking in. It's like bracing for a punch. It involves squeezing your glutes and your anal sphincter.
Edited by: ZORBS13 at: 4/3/2014 (21:59)
4/3/14 8:34 P
I think I don't know the difference between holding my stomach in and engaging abs, it seems. I so want to see a personal trainer!!!
Thank you, everyone!
Fitness Minutes: (74,876)
4,930 4/3/14 8:06 P
I try to remain aware of my abs all day long and work on keep them engaged during all activities. The problem may just be weak abs. It helps to work on that. Every time you think of it, tighten those abs and suck them in. You can do it!!
To engage your abs you don't have to be flexing really hard. If you're holding your breathe you're engaging them too much. If you are holding a dumb bell with hands down at your sides, keeping your elbow straight, raise the weight up to eye level. You should be "engaging" or using your abs just a little bit to keep yourself standing straight up...not bending backwards to counter balance the weight of the dumb bell. Does that make sense? Most of the time you won't notice if your abs are engaged, they just help your posture. Especially in things like push ups, so that your back/butt doesn't sag. If you feel like you're not doing it correctly get lighter weights. Hope that helps.
Fitness Minutes: (197,425)
4/3/14 10:20 A
you don't need to consciously engage your abs during cardio, although you should pay attention to your posture. Your abs will naturally engage to keep you upright.
Fitness Minutes: (6,555)
4/3/14 10:15 A
Obviously you want to keep your abs actively engaged during core workouts. But other than that, I think you need to focus more on proper form for strength training. For example, when you do deadlifts, the proper form is to keep your back flat and shoulders back throughout the rep. That's probably going to feel different than when you're doing a plank and have your abs tight, but that's ok. As you've figured out, form is really important in strength training so focus on having good form for the exercise first, and worry about other stuff later.
4/3/14 9:48 A
I am having some difficulty with keeping my abs engaged. Should we be doing this during all types of exercise? I am having a hard time keeping them engaged and I seem to hold my breath. I can do it on the elliptical and some cardio DVDS, but with strengthening workouts, it feels like I am not doing it correctly. I definitely need core strength, but if I am not in correct form, I worry I will hurt something.
Why is it so hard for me to get this movement correct? Any advice/pointers/tips?