As part of my recovery from an injury several years ago, I began a journey of physical healing that involved many different kinds of exercise, movement, and physical therapies. My journey was re-started a number of times as I grew frustrated with renewed pain and injury from trying various activities. Finally, I came to understand that my original injury had arisen from an abundance of strength in my limbs, and terrible weakness in my core. Moving into Pilates was a revelation and the beginning of my healing.

While Pilates relies specifically on building the core, including the abdomen, I learned that all mat based workouts were opportunities for injury for me. With that I learned that 'ab work' was an area that is difficult to find good protocols for their training.

No-Risk Abs is truly a safe program for building your core without going to (expensive) exercise classes. Most of us are 'trained' to think of exercise as a matter of working hard, sweating, and even a bit of pain as we strengthen our muscles. This program is basically the opposite of that as you learn to stretch and contract the muscles alternately in appropriate patterns.

If I were to offer a criticism, it would be that the first two-thirds or so go into way more detail as to how and why your abdomen is what it is and why these exercises will work. Then again, there are people who really need to knwo exactly how and why, and that level of detail will reassure them. On a more practical level, the exercises themselves can be difficult to review while doing them as the book does not lay flat -- a video or set of flashcards might be more practical, but only until one gets used to the practice.

Calais-Germaine is a physical therapist and her deep knowledge shines through as she provides illustrations and photos to show you how to do a variety of exercises safely and effectively. Her system focuses specifically on the abdominal proximity to the vertebral column, the spinal cord; the abdominal cavity and perineum; the organs of respiration, circulation and digestion. Pointing out that ab exercises are not without risk, the author explains how to avoid injury to the neck, lower back, pelvic floor, diaphragm, prostate, and internal organs as well as how to protect these vital structures with appropriate abdominal work.


~review by Lisa Mc Sherry

Author: Blandine Calais-Germain
Healing Arts Press, 2011
pp. 176, $19.95