Abs are your body’s center of power and provide core strength. Strong abs aid balance, help prevent lower back injuries and promote good posture. Consistent abdominal workouts (10-15 min, 4-5x per week) performed correctly are not just for physical well being, but for aesthetics too. The secret to developing great abs lies in treating your body as a complete unit. Don’t make the mistake doing hundreds of repetitions of abdominal exercises in the hope of getting a flat abdominal region.
A recent study showed that the classic sit-up is not the best exercise for stronger, flatter abdominals. This exercise generally involves the hip muscles instead of the abdominals, and in most cases, places an unnecessary amount of strain on the lower back. Instead, the ‘crunch’ is the best option. The top abdominal exercises are:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Place your fingers on the side of your head just behind your ears.
- Push your lower back into the floor flattening the arch and hold.
- Bring your knees up to about a 45-degree angle and slowly go through a bicycle pedal motion.
- Touch your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee in a slow and controlled manner and with full extension of each leg on every repetition.
- Breath evenly throughout the exercise.
- Perform 20-30 repetitions (up to three sets).
The Captain’s Chair is the second most effective move for the rectus abdominis as well as the obliques and can be found in most health clubs and gyms. To do it right:
- Stand on the chair and grip handholds to stabilize your upper body.
- Press your back against the pad and contract the abs to raise the legs and lift knees towards yourchest.
- Don’t arch the back and remember to breathe smoothly.
- Slowly lower back down and repeat for 12-16 reps.
Rope Climbing: This is quite a tough exercise for the abdominal muscles.
- Start by lying on your back on the floor.
- Contract your stomach muscles so that you start to roll up until you are about halfway to a sitting position, knees bent, arms outstretched in front of you.
- Loosely clench you fists, then raise one arm above your head. Lower this arm again and, as you do so, raise the other one. This movement looks as if you are pulling on a rope.
- If the stomach muscles start to bulge out or quiver, stop. Repeat for 8 pulls.
- Stand up straight with a dumbbell in your right hand and your left hand placed on your hip.
- Bend to your right slowly, lowering the dumbbell until you feel the muscle in your side (oblique) contracting. Pause, and then slowly rise to your starting position.
- Switch the dumbbell to the other hand and repeat.
- In a seated position on the floor, knees bent and feet flat, hold a medicine ball or weight plate and extend it out in front of you. Then lean back, putting tension on your abs.
- Twist your torso to the left as you lower the ball down to your hip, then extend the ball out and in front of you.
- Rotate back to the right, bringing the ball up and over your legs, then down to your hip, extending the ball out and in front of you.
- Keep alternating sides.
Air Pumps with a cross:
- Lie flat on your back with your hands behind your ears and your legs extended, knees over your hips, and your lower legs slightly bent.
- As you curl your torso up, simultaneously bring your left shoulder and right knee toward each other.
- Then extend your right leg. Repeat the movement to the opposite side. It’s as if you were pedaling a bicycle in the air.
- To improve your strength more quickly, lift weights more slowly. This allows your muscles to rely more on strength than momentum.
- Get adequate rest: Take one to two rest days a week.
- Eat a low-fat diet.
- For the best and safest results, supplement your abdominal exercises with lower back exercises to strengthen your entire midsection and avoid possible injury.
- Perform jackknives and crunches on a padded surface or exercise mat to prevent pain and cushion your back.
- Once you have strengthened your abdominal, add ankle weights to your legs during your routine to increase resistance and build definition.