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The Best Abdominal Exercises

Sandra Prior
Jul 30, 2008
You're not greedy. You're not asking for a six pack. You'd settle for a slightly flatter look and a bit more tone. But no matter how many crunches you do, it seems impossible to firm and define those elusive abdominal muscles.

Given our obsession with abs, you'd think we'd have figured it out by now. But many of us are still frustrated by a lack of results. What are we doing wrong? Should we be doing different exercises?

To clear the air, here is an abdominal program touted as the best six abdominal busters by bodybuilders, athletes and many week-end athletes.

Do this workout 3 times a week, with a day off between sessions. Begin all workouts with moves 1 and 2, then choose 2 of the remaining 4 moves. Vary the moves throughout the week to keep your abdominals challenged.

Whatever your fitness level, begin with 1 set of each move, resting 45 - 60 seconds after each set. For best results, pay special attention to your form so that you fatigue your target muscles by the end of each workout. When this is no longer challenging, add a second set of each move, or don't rest between exercises.

Roll Up

Lie face up on the floor with your legs extended, feet together. Extend arms above your chest, palms facing forward, fingers pointing towards the ceiling. Drop shoulder blades down away from your ears. Inhale, tucking your chin to look at your navel as you begin to roll your upper body up, keeping your spine rounded. Exhale, pulling your navel towards your spine as you continue rolling up, slowly raising your upper body to a full seated position. Slowly roll back down to starting position, keeping your arms raised, and repeat for all reps. Begin with 4 roll ups, gradually building to 6. Targets rectus abdominis.

Forearm Plank

Begin on your knees and forearms, elbows aligned with shoulders, fingers interlaced. Draw shoulder blades down and contract abs to stabilize your torso. Extend your right leg behind you, toes turned under, weight on ball of foot, keeping hips square and pelvis stable. Extend left leg, feet together, so you're supported on forearms and balls of feet. Hold for 20 seconds; relax. Do 3 reps. Begin with a 20 second hold; gradually build to 30 seconds, then 1 minute. Targets obliques.

Bridge with Leg Extension

Lie face up with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor; hip width apart. Relax arms by your sides, palm facing down. Contract abdominals, pulling your naval towards your spine. Inhale; then exhale as you lift your tailbone. Lift your back until only your shoulder blades touch the floor, your body forming a straight line from shoulders to knees. Hold for 30 seconds. Maintaining the bridge position, extend your left leg in front of you at hip height. Hold. Return foot to floor; then repeat with your right leg, keeping hips elevated throughout. Continue alternating legs for all reps without letting your hips or torso drop. Do 8 alternating leg extensions (4, with each leg); gradually build to 16 (8 with each leg). Targets rectus abdominis; obliques and erector spinae (lower back muscles).

Ball Oblique Twist

Sit on stability ball, knees bent, feet on floor. Walk your feet out and lie back; put right hand on ball, left hand behind head. Use glutes to tilt pelvis up. Maintain this position throughout. Contract abs (pull naval towards spine) as you roll your torso up, bringing ribs towards hips; then rotate left elbow towards right knee. Keeping hips square and lifted, slowly lower. Do reps on the left side, then right. Begin with 8 -12 reps per side; gradually build to 16. Targets rectus abdominis and obliques.

Bent Knee Crunch

Lie face up on the floor; knees bent and in line with hips, calves parallel to floor; feet together. Rest unclasped fingertips behind head, elbows pointing out to the sides. Contract abs, pulling your naval in towards your spine. Maintain leg position as you use abs to pull ribs in towards hips, lifting head, neck, then shoulder blades off the floor. Begin with 8 - 12 reps, gradually build to 16 - 20 reps. Targets rectus abdominis and obliques.

Reverse Curl

Lie face up, knees bent, heels close to your buttocks and fingertips behind head. Without changing knee angle, contract abs to curl your tailbone a few centimeters off the floor, knees rolling towards chest. Avoid moving thighs to lift higher; keep heels towards buttocks. Slowly lower to floor; repeat for all reps. Begin with 8 - 12 reps; gradually build to 16 - 20 reps. Targets rectus abdominis and obliques.
About the Author
Sandra Prior runs her own bodybuilding website at http://bodybuild.rr.nu.
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