Arm Circles – to Strengthen the Upper Abs

Portions of the abdomen are often under utilized. Strengthening the upper abs, those tucked right underneath the bottom ribs, can reduce mid-back pain and improve overall posture.

The essence of this exercise is to continually engage the high abs which stabilize the rib cage in spite of the movement of your arms. Rib cage placement is a core Pilates concept and this beginner exercise builds strength that provides a foundation for more complex exercises.

Consider a typical crunch. Strength in the upper abs is needed to draw the shoulder blades off of the floor and relieve the neck of effort. When coming out of the crunch, the upper back returns to the mat but often without consideration of the lower part of the rib cage. Practicing upper ab engagement with this exercise relieves the mid back of effort and arching by keeping the front of the lowermost ribcage pulling downward toward the spine.

Remember these tips to get the most out of this exercise:

  • Begin by drawing the belly button down toward spine and using obliques to tip pelvis so that the low back flattens along the mat.
  • Maintain this imprinted spine position throughout the exercise.
  • Engage the upper abs by ‘knitting’ the lowest ribs together and drawing them inward toward your spine.
  • Anytime the arms are close to your head, draw the upper abs in more to avoid them disengaging and popping up toward the ceiling.
  • Reduce the range of motion of the arms if you cannot maintain low and mid back connection with the mat or inward engagement of the upper abs.
  • To reduce the range of motion, arms will stay more in line with your face rather than reaching fully overhead, close to the mat.

Want help discovering how to access and strengthen the sections of abs that are correlated with your back pain? Schedule a free consultation or call 651-895-0774.

Addie Kelzer is a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. She believes that by making fitness and good food practical, her clients will hold the power to positively change their health and the health of those closest to them.