Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tips and Tricks - Getting the Most Out of P90X Ab Ripper X - Part 1

Ab Ripper X consists of 11 moves. All but two are one set of 25 reps. Being able to do all the reps, including the 10 bonus reps on the last move, is quite an accomplishment. Here are some things I have learned about Ab Ripper X that I hope will help you get the most out of it and complete all those reps! While this is the shortest workout of the the P90X program I found a lot to say about it. So, I've divided the information into two parts.

If completing all the reps seems like a daunting or even impossible task you can break it down to get there in stages. The first time you do Ab Ripper X, just do it and see how far you get. This establishes your baseline. Based on that first run through choose a starting number of reps you will complete for each exercise. Maybe you decide you will do 10 reps of each move. Stick to that number for the week. The next week up the number by 1, 2 maybe even 5. Adjust as needed until you're doing all the reps. The reason I recommend doing it this way rather than just doing all the reps you can in order until you can't do any more is that each exercise focuses on a different part of the abdominal muscles. So, rather than burning out on the first three or four sets, back off and save enough energy to do some reps of each exercise and you'll get a much more complete ab workout.

The first four exercises are intensive on the lower abs and hip flexors. Because of the way the hip flexors connect to the pelvic bone they are activated whenever you do an exercise for the abs that involves movement of the legs. During the first four exercises you will learn just how weak your hip flexors are. The key to this set of moves is to focus on keeping your back straight. Consciously engage the ab muscles to stabilize the spine and push your rib cage up and out and don't let the back round. Also, try to consciously engage the lower abdominal muscles to take more of the work. You can do this by very slightly rolling the hips as you pull the legs in. Because hip flexors tend to be a weak area for many people you will probably not finish all the reps at first. You may find that the incremental strategy described above works especially well for this group.

There are three exercises for which it is really easy to fall into the trap of using your arms and upper torso to sort of throw yourself up off the floor. These exercises are the cross leg or straight leg sit up and cross, the v-up roll-up and leg climbs. It's important to focus on using the abdominals to lift yourself. You can do this by letting the arms and shoulders relax slightly. Focus on beginning the move from a contraction of the abdominal muscles. When the abs can't lift you anymore your done.

One quick tip on the exercise called scissors. Contract the glute on the lower leg. This will help you get through the set and help keep your low back protected from strain.

Hip Rock and Raise is a great variation on the typical lower ab reverse crunch type exercise. Watch yourself at the point where the toes are pointed at the ceiling and you are about to lift your hips off the floor. There should be a very brief pause that keeps you from using momentum to swing the hips up rather than using the abs to lift.

The rest of Ab Ripper X is covered in part two...

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