A classic exercise that should strengthen the lower abs and teach them to stabilise the back whilst the legs are moving.
What I like about this video is that Joel Schneider keeps his back flat on the floor, his head on the floor, he is not lying on an exercise mat and his legs are moving at a good, controlled speed.
Back flat on the floor.
Since the exercise teaches a stable back whilst legs are in motion, if the low back moves up when the leg goes down, then down when the leg goes back up, it makes a mockery of the point of the exercise.
Head on the floor.
This exercise is much easier to do with the head lifted off the floor. On youtube, there are several versions of the double leg lowering exercise with the head raised. Raising the head engages the six-pack muscle, the rectus abdominis. It isn’t necessarily a wrong thing to do. But keeping the head down ensures a greater workout for the lower abdominals.
Lying on a hard floor.
Usually this type of exercise is done on a mat. This makes it hard to feel exactly what the back is doing. But on a hard floor, we can more easily feel how our knobbly backs are moving about. So if this exercise feels like it is causing bruising, then the back is moving about too much and the abs are either not strong enough for the exercise or they are just being lazy.
Speed of movement.
Starting slow and controlled is essential.
Joel is lying arms out stretched, palms up. This has the advantage of opening out the chest and encouraging the shoulders back. All good stuff. Try to stretch the spine, so as much of it as possible, except the back of the neck, is in contact with the floor. If it is very hard to get the lower back on the floor, then work needs to be done on the upper back to reduce the curve and the hip flexors need stretching so the low back can also be straightened. It will help to rest the head on a folded up towel.
- Gurning. Joel’s face is very relaxed. This matters. Signs of stress are pinching the lips, blinking, frowning. Well working abs should not result in a facial workout.
- Breath holding: if the breathing gets stressed – this is usually accompanied by a degree of gurning – its a sign that all is not well. The exercise is too hard and/or the abs are not working properly, with the outer abs, the 6-pack and obliques doing all the work and the inner unit, the corset-like TVA, having a wee snooze in there. So the exercise will feel hard – and we may think we are well on the way to gaining a 6-pack, which indeed we are. But we are also heading for injury. And a tummy that sticks out rather than flattens.
- Aching legs: Sometimes when this exercise is done, the legs ache. This is a sign that the hip flexors are doing all the work and the abs are not stabilising properly. When all is good, we are not aware of our legs.
Eating a diet that does not suit us makes exercises like this hard, hard work. Wheat, the true story tells more of why wheat in particular does ab strength no favours. But it also applies to all foods that do not suit us.