Column 17 - The Midsection

Original publication date: December 28, 1983

Christmas dinner is now digested and has settled nicely just where you don't need it - that disaster area known as the midsection. Disastrous if you are male, nearing or over 30 years old, out of shape, beginnings of a potbelly or a sparetire, as it is often called. Nine out of 10 men who are out of shape, are out of shape where it shows the most, around the middle. (Women have to watch the potbelly syndrome all their llves, not just after mid-twenties.)

When a man gives up his active single life (this applies to a woman as well) to assume the responsibilities of family life, like mortgage payments, car payments, and the pressure of having to support wife and children, his lack of activity can be measured from front to back.

The midsection is the key to a man's physique. A man who has a trim waistline will almost always have firm muscle tone everywhere else. Simple and quick exercises can deflate that sparetire if done on a day to day routine.

The first exercise hits below the belt. The leg raise. Pick a soft spot to lie down. There's not much sense grinding your backbone into a hard floor. Put your hands down by your sides, keeping your feet and legs together. Raise your legs about 18-24 inches from the floor. (Any higher and you'll reach a resting zone.) Now lower your legs to a height of about three inches from the floor. Hold for about six seconds, rest, and then repeat.

A variation of the leg raise, the knee-out, will complete your attack on the lower abdominals. Assume the same starting position as the leg raise and lift your legs 18-24 inches from the floor. Now draw your knees into your chest as far as you can. Straighten the legs, without touching the floor, and hold for about six seconds. Rest and repeat. Start with repetitions of five working to 25 when the stomach and back muscles are stronger. Although the exercise seems relatively easy, too many on an unfit stomach and back will cause the lower abdominals to be sore for a few days.

Now we hit above the belt, where most of the problem lies. The most dreaded exercise of all, the sit up. Most dreaded because it is probably the most misunderstood exercise of all. At one time the sit up was done with straight legs and hands clasped behind the neck. When the torso was lifted up the strain created serious problems to unfit backs. The exercise is now done with the delicacy of the back in mind. Lie down in a soft spot with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Stretch your arms up over your head. This will give you added leverage to boost yourself up. Anchor your feet or have someone sit on them. Now slowly roll forward lifting first your head, then shoulders, then upper back, then lower back. Reach as far forward toward your feet with your fingers as you can. Now slowly roll back easing yourself vertebrae by vertebrae to a lying down position. This rolling effect eases wear on the back. Concentrate on using stomach muscles so the back will not do all the work. When your stomach and back muscles get stronger you can put your hands behind your head. When they are even stronger you will not need to anchor your feet.

To test the strength of your back try to do a sit up with hands behind your head, knees bent, and nobody holding your feet down. If you can get all the way to a sitting position without your feet lifting off the floor you have good stomach and back strength. Anything less than this performance means you need to improve the strength and flexibility of the stomach and back muscles.

Copyright 2021 K.L. McCluskey, all rights reserved.