I don’t just want you to know how to do ab curls, I want you to master them!
First off, what’s an ab curl?
It’s a small, controlled roll up into flexion that works your abs and the muscles in the front of your neck. It articulates the movement of your head relative to your neck and the movement of your spine. For bonus points, it also gives you the chance to play with how to keep your pelvis stable while you roll up.
If you prefer your instructions in words, let’s break it down.
How to do ab curls AND avoid neck pain Part 1
Begin with your eyes
Wait, what? My spine is in my neck?
How to do ab curls without neck pain Part 2
How to do ab curls with your brain
Let’s do an experiment. Get yourself all set up, and think about how to do the ab curl with your stomach muscles. Your abs connect to your ribs and your pelvis, and as they contract, they’re going to roll you up (with the assistance of your neck muscles to move your head, of course). Don’t forget to breathe, but don’t fuss too much at this point about how you breathe.
Scan your eyes down the ceiling and let your head start to curl around while still on the floor. Float your head up and use your stomach muscles to roll up to the base of your shoulder blades (or maybe the bottoms of your ribs).
How does that feel? And what did your pelvis do?
If you’re anything like me, your pelvis tipped up so your pubic bones are closer to the ceiling. That totally makes sense, because as your abs contract, they shorten and pull both the parts they attach to (ribs and pelvis) closer together.
But what if you want to keep your pelvis still? So you can move it later? Or have it as a stable base for moving your legs? Or because you’re working on individuating your body parts for a more refined movement experience? Or so you can work your abs in a new and different way becuase variety, diversity and novelty are amazing for your brain and your body?
Ok, so here’s how to do ab curls that challenge not only your muscles but your brain and your sense of how your parts relate to each other.
This time, think about your spine. From the base of your skull down to the base of your ribs.
Scan your eyes down the ceiling and let your head start to curl around while still on the floor. Curve your neck spine around, starting right up at the base of your skull and travelling down to the bottom of your neck. Curve each vertebra of your upper spine off the mat until you get to the bottom of your shoulder blades or maybe the bottom of your ribs.
I’m the owner of Boomerang Pilates and creator of the Move SMART program. I teach teachers how to incorporate sustainable movement and authentic teaching in their classes.