The captain's chair ab exercise is one of the best and most effective methods for strengthening your abdominals. The captain's chair ab exercise is performed on a standard piece of equipment found in most gyms. Using it to strengthen your abdominals is easy.
The Anatomy of Your Abdomen
Your abdominal muscle group is made up of a set of six muscles extending from your ribs to your pelvis. The six muscles of your abdomen are:
- Rectus abdominus - This is the muscle that is often referred to as a "six pack". It extends from the front of the pelvis to the front of the ribs. The rectus abdominus is used for spinal flexion.
- Transverse abdominal - This muscle is deep inside of the abdomen, extending between the ribs and the hips. It supports and contains your organs. It also provides trunk stability in lateral flexion (bending to the side) and supports breathing by forcing air out of the lungs during exhalation.
- Internal obliques - These muscles are a pair of muscles deep inside of your abdomen that run along your sides. They connect from the front of the hip to the rectus abdomnius. Internal obliques support the spine, pelvis and ribs. They also support the contents of your abdomen. The muscles are used in spinal flexion, rotation and lateral flexion.
- External obliques - This pair of muscles lies above (closer to the surface than) the internal obliques. They reach from the bottom of the ribs to the front of your pelvis in a "V" shape. Your external obliques help in trunk flexion and trunk rotation. They also support the contents of your abdomen and support exhalation.
Why Strong Abdominal Muscles Are Important
Your abdominal muscles provide support to your trunk and are an important part of your body's core. Core strength is necessary for good posture and is essential in the prevention of back pain. Core muscles stabilize your spine and pelvis. Your core muscles are also instrumental in healthy breathing function and organ support. Other muscles of the core include your lower back muscles, hip muscles (flexors, adductors), erector spinae and gluteus muscles.
The Captain's Chair Ab Exercise
Performing the captain's chair ab exercise is easy to perform and extremely effective. According to a 2001 American Council of Exercise (ACE) study, the captain's chair is one of the most effective abdominal exercises. It strengthens the rectus abdominus as well as the internal and external obliques.
- To use the captain's chair, step up to the chair with your back firmly against the back support. Hold the rails. With a controlled motion, raise your knees to your chest and then lower them slowly. Do this for about 10-15 reps in one to three sets.
- The most important part of using the captain's chair is that all movement must be controlled. Swinging your legs or relying on momentum significantly decreases the effectiveness of the exercise and can lead to injury.
- Keep your knees bent. Straight legs focus more on hip flexors than abdominals. Since your hip flexors tend to be one of the strongest muscle groups in the body, performing hip flexor strengthening exercises without paying attention to balance throughout the entire core can lead to back pain. One of the leading causes of back pain is an imbalance between hip flexor strength and the strength of the remaining core muscles.
- Support proper posture and form by keeping your back flat against the pad. Don't arch your back.
Other Effective Abdominal Exercise
According to ACE, there are several other exercises that are highly effective for abdominal strengthening.
- Bicycle exercise
- Crunches on an exercise ball
- Vertical leg crunch
- Reverse crunch
- Torso Track
- Long arm crunch
- Full vertical crunch
- Ab Rocker
Whether you are going for a six pack, or merely seeking strong, healthy abdominals, the captain's chair exercise and the other effective abdominal exercises listed above can help to give you great abs and a healthy, strong core.