If you have spent anytime at the gym you know that knee raises are a great exercise for strengthening your abs. What you may not know is that when done correctly knee raises not only work the majority of your abdominal muscles they also strengthen deep core muscles that stabilize your lower back and support good posture. These more subtle benefits are an important part of core strength that is often overlooked lift the bar .
Without even knowing it we often stretch our backs in one direction. Think of how you stretch in bed when you first wake up. You arch your back and shoulders and let out a big yawn and it feels good. It is also important to extend these muscles in the other direction especially those of your lower back. Experiencing this other end of your range of motion often happens only in yoga class during an exercise known as a pelvic tilt. While the pelvic tilt is done lying on the floor, you can also accomplish the same movement from a hanging position during knee raises. You do this by rotating your pelvis forward at the top of the exercise and gently squeezing your knees up and to your chest.
The knee raise exercise can be performed at home using a dip machine like the Ultimate Body Press. Grasp the handles and straighten your arms. With your back straight, lift your feet of the ground by slowly bending your knees and pulling them up to your chest. As discussed earlier, when your knees reach their highest point rotate your pelvis forward and up and gently squeeze your knee up to your chest. At this point you will look like a diver in the tuck position. Then in a controlled motion lower your legs back down to the start position. Remember to keep your back straight at the bottom of the exercise. Begin the next repetition without letting your feet touch the ground. Do as many as you can without losing proper form. The number of repetition you perform could range between five and fifteen depending on your strength.
It is important to note that as with all exercises, the benefits of knee raises can be reversed by using poor form. That is why you should always perform this exercise in a controlled motion. You are not on a swing set at the playground. Avoid swinging your legs back to far behind you at the bottom of the exercise. Doing this may make the exercise seem easier by giving you extra momentum, but it also creates an arch in your lower back and excess tension which can lead to lower back pain. If your knees are bent at the bottom of the exercise your feet may extend slightly behind you and that is alright as long as your back remains straight.
Now that you know that the benefits of knee raises are more than you expected it is time for you to give this exercise a try. Not only will knee raises help you in your quest for flat abs, they will also go a long way towards improving your posture and strengthen deep core muscles that do not get the attention they deserve.